Mick Jagger was the first international act to play the Tokyo Dome in March of 1988. Bon Jovi has played the stadium nineteen times. Janet Jackson sold out four shows in seven minutes. Gun-n-Roses played six stops at the dome as part of their Use Your Illusions tour. Most recently something called "Babymetal" played two straight sold out shows becoming the youngest rock group to ever to perform in the Tokyo Dome.
In 1990 David Klingler and the Houston Cougars played the dome. It wasn't sold out but they put on a show.
The Coca Cola Bowl
Houston wasn't allowed to go to a bowl game in 1990. NCAA sanctions were the last remnants of the Bill Yoeman era. The violations dated back to the late 1970s as Yoeman and other coaches engaged in the Southwest Conference tradition of paying for players.
With no hope of a Cotton Bowl, all Houston had left was to ruin everyone else's good time. And they did by winning ten games and finishing the season ranked 10th in the AP poll after rising as high as 3rd.
What happened on December 2nd was peculiar as Houston traveled almost 7,000 miles to play PAC 10 opponent Arizona State in the shiny, relatively new Tokyo Dome in an event known as the Coca Cola Bowl. This was actually the second time the Coogs had played in Tokyo, they met SMU across the Pacific in 1983. That game was played in National Olympic Stadium.
Their opponent in '90, Arizona State, was 4-6 coming to Tokyo. They were well familiar with Houston's run and shoot having seen it first hand in 1989 when Houston pummeled the Sun Devils in Tempe 36-7. In 1990 John Jenkins was in charge of Houston's program and he showed no mercy. None.
Houston beat the defending SWC champ Arkansas 62-28. The Cougars beat 20th ranked Texas A&M and went on the road to knock off Baylor. They'd beaten TCU at home in a shoot-out that featured TCU quarterback Matt Vogler setting a new single game passing yardage mark with 690. The Cougars' lone blemish came in a top 15 showdown in Austin in game that cost Houston an undefeated season. A week later the Cougars took out their frustrations and destroyed poor Eastern Washington 84-21 a couple weeks before taking off to Tokyo. Klingler threw for eleven touchdowns in the bludgeoning, a number that eclipsed the previous NCAA record of nine which stood since 1969.
Cougar head coach John Jenkins had become enemy number one for college football pundits and coaches. Eastern Washington coach Dick Zornes said that what came around, went around and one day Jenkins would "find himself on the other end of the broom." Jenkins didn't care. He'd watched NCAA heavy weights beat up on opponents his whole career, now Houston was changing the paradigm and that was perfectly fine with him. Jenkins told reporters afterwards that much like Nolan Ryan, quarterback David Klingler had to get the requisite plays in week to week to avoid rust.
Several Heisman balloters promised to punish Jenkins by punishing his quarterback and leaving him off their ballots altogether. The Detroit Free Press actually lowered Klingler's Heisman chances after the eleven touchdown performance saying the "rub-it-in performance did more harm than good."
National columnists from around the country took their shots at Jenkins and Coogs calling them bullies and classless. A columnist in Pittsburgh even went so far as to question whether such a display was moral and compared the indiscretions of Jenkins' run and shoot with the class and dignity of Joe Paterno's Penn State program. If the world had only known.
The Klingler Effect
David Klingler shattered a linebacker's fingers with a pass as a scout team quarterback. The freshman from Stratford high school made an impression. A hard impression. "I was trying to throw everything as hard as I could," Klingler said of his younger days in the Houston program. He was making up for lost time. At Stratford Klingler was locked up in the run heavy veer offense. His best passing day in high school was seven completions in nine attempts. Klingler was a gifted athlete, he long jumped 24 feet and possessed a 38 inch vertical. He had a scholarship offer from Kansas, Pitt, and Stanford to play basketball. Klingler turned those down and a slew of football offers to stay home at UH.
John Jenkins had come to infiltrate Jack Pardee's program, finding a willing laboratory for his "multiple adjusting passing offense" a run and shoot derivative. Where most college coaches saw the pass as a risk, Jenkins saw it as a way to level the playing field. Once the field was level, Jenkins could deploy athletes all over the field to and bring to bear, on college football, an aerial assault that few could prepare for and even less could defend.
Andre Ware won the Heisman under Pardee and Jenkins' tutelage in 1989. In Klingler, Jenkins had another natural athlete with a cannon arm. An arm that not only broke fingers, but also opened up a world of possibility. In 1990 Pardee left for the local pro team and Jenkins was left alone with no governor on his offense.
Klingler hadn't exactly been in cold storage. As a backup in '89 he threw for almost 900 yards in mop up duty for Ware. He had studied the nuances of the offense that required him to have some 60 plus passing option in his head at the line of scrimmage dependent on what the defense did.
The Cougars threw the ball an unthinkable 91% of snaps in 1990. Klingler thew eleven touchdown passes in the Eastern Washington slaughter, the last of which was actually designed to be a short boundary throw, but the run and shoot can't couldn't be predicted or contained and when a receiver flashed open downfield, Klingler hit him.
Had he never gotten on the plane to Tokyo, his 1990 season was already good enough for the 2nd most passing yards in the NCAA, almost 600 ahead of the 3rd place finisher. In hindsight Arizona State would have put him on a no fly list had they known what he would do to their defense in the Tokyo Dome.
In the week leading up to the game, "Typhoon 28" was causing havoc with practice schedules in Japan. The Sun Devils and Cougars would play the game inside, but practiced outdoors in the downpour. Arizona State practiced on a turf baseball field that at its longest point was only 60 yards long. The Cougars complained of drenched balls and cold temperatures the week of the game.
Klingler played the role of Texas gunslinger - complete with cowboy boots, long black duster, and cowboy hat that he sported during his week in Japan. After what he'd done to poor Eastern Washington two week earlier, Klingler has also been cast as the villain, accused of running up the score and padding stats to sway Heisman voters. In his defense, Klingler let it be known that he had underperformed in the Cougar offense and could average ten touchdowns a game if he were sharper.
The Japanese media was enamored with Klingler, the tall Texan playing for the brash, unapologetic coach. Unlike the American reporters on sight, the local hacks weren't preoccupied with why Klingler had remained in the game two weeks before while the hapless Easter Washington squad was unable to stop the 3rd string quarterback, let alone Klingler.
On a day when Ty Detmer was announced as the Heisman winner, a vote that ended with Klingler inexplicably 5th in spite of throwing 22 more touchdowns that Detmer and just 47 less yards, Houston took the field vs. Arizona State. An anticipated sell-out never materialized and between 30,000 and 40,000 fans showed up at the Tokyo Dome. The game kicked off at 11 p.m. Texas time, 2:00 p.m. in Tokyo.
If there were any jet lag effects, they were short lived as Klingler wasted little time, on the Cougars' second play he found John Brown for 50 yards to the Sun Devil 10. ASU kept the Cougars out of the end zone as they settled for a Roman Anderson field goal. Future Dallas Cowboy great Darren Woodson helped thwart the Cougar drive with a ten yard sack of Klingler. On the next Cougar series however Klingler would hit on passes of 25 yards to Manny Hazard and 35 yards to Craig Alexander to set up a Chuck Weatherspoon touchdown run that gave the Cougars a 10-7 lead.
Early in the second, Klingler hit Brown once again, this time for a 27 yard TD. The first of seven on the day for the Houston quarterback. Jenkins was going for the jugular as the Cougars attempted an unsuccessful onside kick after Brown's first touchdown. The throw to Brown set the NCAA singled season touchdown pass record at 48. Klingler had surpassed Jim McMahon's record set in 1980. Klingler wasn't done. Not by a long shot.
ASU would use the good field position to narrow the lead to 17-13. With under three minutes to go in the half Klingler made ASU pay. He hit Weatherspoon on a 26 yard touchdown. After an Arizona State field goal, the Cougars took over at the 20 with 1:25 to play. 80 yards in 85 seconds proved too easy for Houston as Klingler found Brown for his second touchdown catch from 24 yards out.
In the second half, Houston continued to play their game. As Arizona State was forced out of its zone defense, the Cougars took advantage of man to man coverage. Early in the second half, on 3rd and 21, Klingler hit Verlond Brown for 51 yards and touchdown. With less than four minutes gone in the 3rd the Coogs led 38-16. Arizona State continued to combat Houston sevens with threes and another field goal by the Sun Devils led to another Cougar touchdown as Klingler once again went to Brown, this time for a 42 yard score.
A Cougar field goal was matched by a Sun Devil touchdowns and the lead was at 48-32. Klingler then hit Kody Smith for a seven yard score and a 55-32 lead. The Sun Devils scored on back to back possessions and drew within ten at 55-45.
Whatever comfort level the Cougars felt was quickly carved into by an ASU interception. The Sun Devils threatened once again but a Jerry Parks interception deep inside Cougar territory halted the drive. With under two minutes to play, Klingler put the cherry on top.
On 3rd and eight at their own five, Klingler and his favorite target Manny Hazard sealed the game. Klingler dropped back and saw Hazard flash over the middle of the field and the two connected. Hazard raced 95 yards for Klingler's seventh touchdown pass of the day. The gain also broke the NCAA record for passing yards in a game at 716. Jenkins said the throw was as good as any he'd seen, "as good as you'll see in the NFL."
On the day Klingler connected on 41 of his 70 passes. Houston's 62 points were the most scored on ASU since Hardin Simmons put 63 on the Sun Devils in 1948. Weatherspoon led all Cougars with twelve receptions for 94 yards. Hazard had eight catches for 201 yards at 25 yards a grab. John Brown averaged 29 yards a catch with six for 174. Craig Alexander contributed 6 catches for 100 yards.
Klinglers 716 yards set the NCAA single game record. That mark stood until 2014 when Connor Halliday from Washington State topped it by 18 yards. Patrick Mahomes tied Halliday's mark in 2016. They both played for coaches who can trace their lineage through Jenkins and onto his coaching influences.
Klingler's 54 touchdown passes in 1990 is still second most all-time was only surpassed by Colt Brennan and his 58 touchdowns as a run and shoot quarterback for June Jones in 2006.
Still, ASU head coach Larry Marmie didn't seem impressed. He claimed that while Klingler compared favorably to other PAC 10 quarterbacks, he wasn't superior to them. He said after the game that Houston took advantage of Arizona State coverage issues. Sort of like saying a tsunami took advantage of the beach chair arrangement. The Arizona Republic, in an article after the game, chalked up Klingler's performance to the system and not the talent of the signal caller or his receivers. Marmie agreed, stating "He (Klingler) understands and creates in the framework of that offense." On the record and for the record, Klingler claimed he didn't have any idea of his yardage total. Jenkins kept track however, and kept trying to add to the onslaught.
Klingler gave credit to his receivers and of course believed that the Cougars left some points and yards on the field.