The Time UTSA Ruined Houston's Grand Opening

Houston's journey to TDECU was long and at times problematic. When the program kicked off in 1946 the Cougars played in HISD's generically named Public School Stadium. In 1951 the Cougars moved to sparkling new facility...on the campus of Rice University. Known then as Houston Stadium, the Cougars shared their home with the Owls until 1965 when the eighth Wonder of the World opened up on the South 610 loop. The Cougars benefited from the state of the art facility, even when the real grass died and they replaced it with astroturf. By 1998 the dome was aging poorly and the Oilers had left town. The Astros moved into a posh new downtown ballpark and the Cougars moved back to Public School Stadium, now known as Robertson Stadium.

In 2001 the Cougars were set to welcome Texas to Robertson and constructed two sets of end zone bleachers in the north end zone designed to hold 4,000 plus additional fans. The temporary seats however didn't pass city inspection and the Cougars had to put up yellow caution tape around them for the game. Houston President Arthur Smith said; ""After I inspected the structure yesterday and climbed to its very top row, I asked myself if I would feel comfortable sitting there with my wife and daughter and granddaughter. The answer was no." Texas, who were promised 10,000 tickets for the game, were justifiably upset and demanded the game move to a bigger venue at either Reliant or Rice Stadium. Houston officials stood firm, but "Bleacher Gate" left some hard feelings between the two schools. 

Houston new home, TDECU.

Eventually Robertson was renovated enough to meet the Cougars bare minimum needs, but it was never a showpiece. Enter then Houston AD Mack Rhodes and his vision for a top flight facility on the Houston campus. In 2012, Robertson was demolished and construction began on Houston's new stadium.  By the fall of 2014 the Cougars were ready to move into the newly minted TDECU Stadium, their first opponent was considered a bit of a cupcake. After all, UTSA had been playing football for all of four years. 

The year before, Houston had made themselves right at home in the Alamodome in a 59-28 win. On August 30, 2014, a sellout crowd gathered to enjoy the new stadium's offerings and to watch the Cougars dismantle UTSA. The game was broadcast on ESPNU. The Cougars were fresh off an eight win season in 2013 and the oddsmakers in Vegas had Houston as a twelve point favorite. What does Vegas know after all?

The two teams would play a fairly sloppy first quarter, exchanging fumbles with neither gaining much momentum until Houston punter Dylan Seibert bobbled a snap and negative minus 42 yards later the Roadrunners recovered the ball at the Cougar three. On the next play David Glasco broke the plastic wrap on Houston's new endzones with a three yard score. 

Jason Neill and crew harassed O'Korn all night. 

Houston was facilitating a lot of the Roadrunner success. After the Glasco score the Cougars drove down to the UTSA 24 and went for it on 4th and 10 only to turn the ball over on downs. After a UTSA punt, the Cougars drove down inside the UTSA twenty only to have quarterback John O'Korn picked off by Tristen Wade at the three yard line. After another punt, O'Korn threw a second pick on first down, this time to Crosby Adams. 

The punters got a nice workout in the first half until first year starter Tucker Carter completed three straight passes for 54 yards, including a 34 yarder to Seth Grubb that got the ball down to the Houston two. Glasco scored on the successive play and a stunned TDECU crowd was dazed and confused, down 14. Houston mustered all of two yards in the second quarter on sixteen plays. As the bands took the field for halftime, Houston was searching for answers. Seven minutes into the third they realized they had none. 

Jarveon Williams

There are defining drives, drives that press your foot down on your opponent's neck and push. Drives that make your opponent want to quit. Such was the drive UTSA put together to start the 3rd. UTSA went 60 yards in thirteen plays with 51 of those yards coming on the ground as Glasco and Jarveon Williams asserted themselves. UTSA converted two third downs and fourth and one at the Houston 24. Seven minutes of game time elapsed when Williams broke free from eleven yards out to put the Roadrunners up by three scores. 

Houston's answer? An O'Korn pick, this time into the arms of Bennett Okotcha. UTSA would drive 36 yards, 25 of which came on the ground to set up a field goal and a 24-0 lead. TDECU started to look like someone pulled the fire alarm. 

O'Korn and the Cougars once again drove down into Roadrunner territory and once again he threw the ball to a white jersey. This time Mauricio Sanchez made the interception. After a UTSA punt, the Cougars put the ball on the ground where UTSA safety Chase Dahlquist fell on it and set up UTSA's final score, a 30 yard Sean Ianno field goal. 

Houston got to play its fight song a few plays later when Billy Cosh, in for O'Korn, led the Coogs on a 70 yard drive with Ryan Jackson scoring from two yards out to make the final a definitive 27-7. 

Most folks will tell you that the UTSA loss was the first visible unravelling of Tony Levine's tenure at Houston. Levine won seven ballgames and got Houston to its second straight bowl game, but after the UTSA game, cracks had become evident. Unfortunately for UTSA, the opening night win didn't kick start their season, a brutal two game stretch vs. Arizona and Oklahoma State propelled the Roadrunners to a 1-4 start. They would finish 4-8. 

Some numbers jump out at you from UTSA's upset, the first is Houston's rushing total, minus 26 yards. Minus 42 yards are credited to Seibert's botched snap, but even setting that aside Houston managed just 21 rushing yards. No Cougar back averaged more than 3 yards a carry. Houston's six turnovers killed any hope Houston had of a grand opening win. UTSA also ground out almost twice as much time of possession 40 to 22 minutes over Houston. 

UTSA head coach Larry Coker called the win the biggest in his program's young history. For his part Levine told his team that most of those in attendance were walking down Cullen Blvd. wonder "what just happened?" He was right. 

The Roundup

Posted on May 15, 2017 and filed under Houston, UTSA, Southwest Round-Up.