One of the irritating refrains spat out by UH Cougar haters the entire season when they want to denigrate the sporting accomplishments of the third largest university in the state is that ‘UH doesn’t play anybody’.
It was a comment repeatedly regurgitated during this season on comment threads and one that got annoyingly louder as they opened up with 12 straight wins and came agonizingly close to becoming the first C-USA team to make it to a BCS bowl.
After the shocking loss to Southern Mississippi in the C-USA title game, we fans and the players heard the volume of that refrain turned up for the next month in the runup to the Ticket City Bowl in Dallas.
Cougar players were also angered by the perceived disrespect in their (and UH fans eyes) of being dropped from number 6 in the nation all the way to number 19 in the rankings and being dissed by ESPN and national media college football analysts.
They and coach Tony Levine who replaced Kevin Sumlin (who took the money and ran to College Station) were intent on proving that the Southern Miss game was a bad day of the office. 9-4 Penn State just happened to be in the way of a highly motivated UH Cougar team with a huge chip on its shoulder. They were also playing this game in a stadium that has historical significance for the UH program in terms of the four Cotton Bowl the Cougar program contested there while they were members of the old Southwest Conference.
UH opened the game with an aerial assault that stunned the number 5 ranked Penn State defense and led to a 17-0 lead the Cougars never relinquished as the Cougars rolled to a 30-14 victory over the number 24 Nittany Lions.
The underrated UH defense also stifled Penn State’s vaunted running attack and picked off three passes to close out the dominating win.
Case Keenum was 45 for 69 for 532 yards and three TD’s in his final game and finished his Cougar career with 20,114 yards passing while (ho hum) demolishing more NCAA records in his wake.
Keenum also became the first Cougar quarterback in the history of the program to have multiple bowl wins.
Coach Tony Levine also became the first UH head coach to open his career since Hal Lahar did so in 1957 by beating a ranked opponent in his inaugural game.
UH also became the first C-USA football squad to win 13 games and beat a ranked AQ conference team in a bowl game.
It’s just too bad that didn’t happen for the 13-1 Cougars in a BCS bowl.
This UH senior class of 17 players such as Keenum, Patrick Edwards, Tyron Carrier, Sammy Brown and Marcus McGraw just to name a few of them will leave Cullen Blvd with a lot of records and accomplishments in their wake. While they didn’t get the big prize of a C-USA title while they were there, they set the stage for something more important in terms of making UH football relevant again and getting us back into a major conference.
We Cougar fans and alums will always hold them in a special place in our hearts for what they accomplished, will love them for that and are looking forward to see what transpires in our last C-USA season in September as we prepare to move on to the Big East in July 2013.
Eat ’em up!