We're dredging up the kind of history no one wants to remember. We owe it you, our valued readers, to give a thorough and complete accounting of such history, the good, the bad, and most certainly the ugly. Welcome to our new series, Bad Beats, the epic beatdowns in the history of Texas College football. Relax, everyone gets a turn.
The John Jenkins' Houston Cougars were bold. If ESPN wants to credit Miami for bringing hip-hop culture to mainstream college football, the Houston Cougars of the late 80s and early 90s gave that movement some Gulf Coast lean. The Cougars played fast, aggressive, and without concern for the well being of their opponents. In the good old boy SWC, the Cougars played by their own rules won a lot of games and pissed a lot of people off.
Running and Shooting
1990 became the high point of Cougar Mania. Houston's no holds barred run-n-shoot offense set the league on its ear. Jenkins had Houston playing a sport very different than the I-formation, option-centric football landscape.
Houston didn't care what you tried to stop; they had bullets to beat you. David Klingler put up massive numbers from the pocket, picking defenses apart with the help of Manny Hazard and Tracy Good running through secondaries unimpeded.
Houston also possessed the perfect run and shoot running back in Chuck Weatherspoon.
At 5-7, 230 pounds the La Habra, California native averaged seven yards a carry and caught 49 passes out of the backfield. His seven-yard average was a dip from his previous two seasons when he rushed for over a thousand yards, averaging 8.5 yards a carry in 1988 and 9.6 yards a carry in 1989. You couldn't stop Chuch Weatherspoon; you couldn't hope to contain him. Your best bet was to stay out of his way.
Weatherspoon and the run and shoot, or as Jenkins preferred to call it, the Multiple Adjusted Passing Offense, ran up eighteen wins compared to just five losses in 1988 and 1989 and opened 1990 8-0 and turned the SWC upside down.
Houston's average margin of victory was almost twenty points. They'd beaten nemesis Texas A&M earlier in 1990 and annihilated defending conference champ Arkansas 62-28.
The Cougars ascended to elite status among the college football community thanks to their secret sauce offense. Bluebloods like Texas were trying to figure out a way to slow down the Houston offensive machine. The Cougars climbed into the top 10 of AP Poll and John Jenkins had his sights on a "national title," not unprecedented as 1957 Auburn and 1974 Oklahoma both won AP Titles while on NCAA probation.
Jenkins was campaigning in the press, but he planned on making a statement in Austin on Saturday night.
Shock the Nation
Three hours west of the offensive revolution, Texas was putting together its best season in almost a decade. Behind Peter Gardere, a bevy of backs, Johnny Walker, and the Cash brothers - Keith and Kerry, the Longhorns stumbled in their second game against eventual National Champion Colorado, but wouldn't lose again until that dreaded New Year's bludgeoning at the hands of the U.
If Klingler was the leading man, Gardere blended into the scenery. If Klingler beat you with big plays, Gardere finished you with death by a thousand cuts and avoiding the big mistake. Texas' running backs were not so much a committee but a burnt orange wave that just kept coming at you time after time. Phil Brown, Butch Hadnot, Adrian Walker, and Chris Samuels each carried the ball 60 times or more, with Brown, Hadnot, and Walker carrying over 90 times. None was particularly explosive, but they churned up yardage like the Union Pacific Railroad.
The Cash brothers and Walker played on the same San Antonio Holmes team and competed against Chris Samuels and his 1986 Judson team in one of the most storied playoff games in Texas schoolboy history. Now the four helped form one of the most efficient offenses in the country.
By week 8, the two schools were squaring off in Austin in front of a sold-out Memorial Stadium. Houston ranked 3rd in the AP Poll and Texas 14th. The game wasn't for the SWC crown; the NCAA saw to it that Jenkins' team wasn't eligible. Texas was on a mission, a mission they'd rallied around as they tried to "Shock the Nation."
On November 10th, they'd settle for shocking their new-found rival from H-town. In their previous three meetings, Houston boat raced the Longhorns by a combined 173-46, putting 60 or more on Texas twice. That sort of thing didn't happen to Texas. Texas players were vocal that it wouldn't happen again, and they were fed up with Houston. Safety Lance Gunn summed up the Longhorns attitude "I never like to say we owe a team anything, but Houston has beaten the dog out of us."
A fourth straight loss would derail Texas' Cotton Bowl aspirations and put a damper on those "Shock the Nation" t-shirt sales.
"Get That Idiot Off the Goalposts"
An ESPN television crowd and 82,457 fans settled in to watch the game, and for a while, neither team seemed interested in showing up. In the first four minutes, each squad had the ball twice, and each turned the ball over twice. For Klingler his first quarter interception was a sign of things to come, for Gardere, his interception and fumble in the first two series quickly got out of his system.
Gardere completed 12 of his 16 passes in the first half as Texas fought back from a 7-0 deficit to take a 28-10 halftime lead. He ended Saturday night throwing for 323 yards as Texas amassed 626 yards of total offense. Klingler completed 22 of 52 passes for just 299 yards.
Texas' defense bottled up Weatherspoon as well, holding him to just 50 yards on fifteen carries. Texas' defense, led by Oscar Giles, Shane Dronett, Mark Berry and Brian Jones frustrated Houston's offense. The officials helped as well, calling back a first-half touchdown by Hazard even though replay showed he got a foot down. The Texas secondary took advantage of officials "letting them play" by using a physical man to man strategy that bordered on illegality.
The Texas pass rush harassed Klingler who threw four interceptions for the second time in as many games. After Roman Anderson's field goal in the second quarter, Houston's high powered offense mustered just twelve yards on their next six possessions. The victory was complete for the Horns.
Texas' fans, caught up in the moment, rushed the field early and caused a delay as Longhorn fans, high on life and drunk on spirits, they made a mad dash onto the playing service and then a confused dash off it as officials cleared the grounds.
Memorial Stadium PA Announcer Wally Pryor used his microphone to try and help remedy the situation, at one point commentating "get that idiot off the goal posts." We assume that idiot was having the time of his life, but it's Texas damn it, have some dignity.
We can only imagine how he felt two weeks later as Texas beat A&M in Austin to send the Longhorns back to the Cotton Bowl for the first time since the 1982 season. Miami was, of course, waiting in Dallas, bringing Texas' dream season to a nightmare conclusion.
For Houston, Jenkins' dream of number one ranking faded, the Cougars resumed the pain train a week later, beating Eastern Washington 84 to 21 before wrapping up their season in Tokyo with a 62-45 record-setting win over Arizona State.
10-1 should be considered an enormous success for Houston, but that one loss, that one still stings.