Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Houston 45, #5 Oklahoma State 35

How big was last Saturday's 45-35 upset of 5th-ranked Oklahoma State in Stillwater last Saturday? Consider this:
  • The last time the Cougars beat a top ten team was November 12, 1988, when they beat #10 Wyoming 34-10 at the Astrodome. I was a sophomore in high school at the time, and I remember watching that game with my family and my friend Gwen.
  • The last time the Cougars beat a top ten team on the road was November 10, 1984, when the Coogs traveled to Austin and beat #3 Texas, 29-15.
  • The last time the Cougars beat a top ten team out of conference was Cotton Bowl against Nebraska on January 1, 1980, when they won 17-14. The Cougars ended the season with an 11-1 record and ranked #5.
  • And the last time the Cougars beat a top ten team, out of conference, on the road, outside of a bowl game: you'd have to go back to September 23, 1967, when the Cougars traveled to East Lansing, Michigan and manhandled the #3-ranked Michigan State Spartans, 37-7.
That is, until last Saturday.

Sure, you can argue that Oklahoma State was overrated at #5, and that might speak to the inanity of ranking teams so early in the season, before they've had a chance to really prove themselves on the field.

And sure, you can say that the Coogs got lucky when Case Keenum's pass into the endzone on fourth-and-goal was tipped by Oklahoma State defender and miraculously fell into the arms of Cougar running back Bryce Beall for a touchodwn. Take that amazing play away and the outcome of the game could have been very different. But hey, that's the way the ball (literally) bounces sometimes.

What cannot be argued or attributed to luck, however, is this: Oklahoma State had no real answer for the Cougar offense, which gained 512 total yards and found the endzone five times. Cougar quarterback Case Keenum was electric, completing 32 of 46 pass attempts for 366 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for another touchdown, was only intercepted once and was never sacked. The Cougars were also able to move the ball well on the ground, racking up 146 rushing yards on 36 carries.

Thanks to their explosive offense, the Coogs rushed out to a 24-7 halftime lead. Oklahoma State made a comeback in the 3rd quarter, however. I'll admit that, as a longtime (and, given the last couple of decades or so, fairly jaded) UH fan, I had pretty much given up hope late in the third after Oklahoma State star receiver Dez Bryant ran back a punt return 82 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Cougars' lead to three, and OSU running back Beau Johnson, with the help of some pretty pathetic tackling on the UH defense's part, followed with a score on a 37-yard touchdown run to give the Cowboys the lead. I thought that a repeat of last year's game, wherein the Coogs led at halftime in Stillwater but were manhandled by OSU in the second half and ended up losing 37-56, was in the works.

But the Cougars never accepted such a fate. They maintained their composure and fought back in the fourth, regaining the lead on Beall's 1-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-goal and, after Oklahoma State scored again, answering with Beall's highlight-reel catch of Keenum's tipped pass in the endzone. When UH defender Jamal Robinson tipped a Zac Robinson pass into his own hands and ran it back into the endzone to put the Coogs up by 10 with 3:14 remaining, the Coogs knew that the upset was theirs for the taking. All they had to do was keep OSU from staging a last-minute comeback. They did.

As a fellow Cougar fan wrote on his Facebook page right after the game ended: That. Just. Happened.

For long-time Coog fans such as myself who have suffered through so many years of why-am-I-even-watching-this-crap disappointment, and who have had to watch as the grossly unfair BCS system has continually widened the gap between "have" schools like OSU and "have-not" schools like Houston, Saturday's game was sweet vindication. At long last, the Coogs are back on the national stage, as their #21 ranking in this week's AP poll - their first appearance in the polls since 1991- will attest.

Now it's up to the Cougars to prove that last Saturday's upset wasn't a fluke. They'll get that chance in two weeks, when another Big XII team, Texas Tech, travels to Robertson Stadium for a nationally-televised showdown that will doubtlessly feature a lot of offense. In that regard, it's good that Houston has two weeks to refocus, to heal and to prepare for this crucial game.

As for me, I'll continue to bask in the warm afterglow of the Coogs' biggest win in a quarter-century for a few more days.

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