Tulsa Looks for a 44-Year Reunion
By Paul Myerberg // Nov 25, 2011
Former Houston coach Bill Yeoman didn’t just invent the Veer: he perfected it. The impetus behind the offensive philosophy’s invention was a disappointing 1963 season, when Yeoman’s Cougars dropped from a 7-4 mark in his debut campaign to 2-8, beating only Detroit and Louisville. Changes needed to be made: Yeoman didn’t merely tinker with his team’s offense; he reinvented the wheel. Two years later, after a few growing pains, the Veer — the triple option, more or less — began hitting its stride. Houston scored a then-program record 335 points in 1966 en route to an 8-2 finish, with one of those wins, over Tulsa, coming by a 73-14 margin.
Tulsa returned the favor a year later — 44 years ago today — by beating Houston, 22-13, to end the then-No. 10 Cougars’ bowl hopes. For one day, the Veer’s ascension into college football lexicon took a backseat to defense: Tulsa took the nation’s best offense down a peg, forcing six fumbles and intercepting two passes to notch a significant upset.
Houston was supposed to win in a landslide. Instead, the Cougars wouldn’t win by a landslide until 1968, when Yeoman took out some frustration with a pretty questionable coaching decision: don’t stop scoring until the officials take the ball and go home. This mentality led to Houston’s 100-6 win, which in turn permanently altered the relationship between the two programs. There’s history here.
The similarities between 44 years ago and today aren’t precise, but one thing remains the same: Tulsa is the underdog, while Houston’s F.B.S.-best offense has encountered little difficulty in breaking into the national conversation. With a win, the Cougars land the Conference USA West title and a date with Southern Mississippi in the conference title game; win a win over the Golden Eagles, the Cougars land a B.C.S. bid.
Worst case at 13-0: the Sugar Bowl. Best case: still New Orleans, but on Jan. 9, not six days earlier. There’s a chance, albeit not a great chance, that Houston earns a date with L.S.U. — or Alabama, I guess — for the national championship. But it all depends on Tulsa’s ability to turn back the clock.
Don’t doubt the Golden Hurricanes. Respect this team, which has moved to 8-3 by winning seven straight, including only one win, U.C.F., by less than 17 points. Tulsa has rolled through Conference USA play with only slightly less ease than Houston has done the same. Despite not being a marquee hire, first-year coach Bill Blankenship has stepped into Todd Graham’s shoes and not missed a beat.
Houston should be a little concerned. Today’s game is in Tulsa, where the Cougars have tasted marginal success over the last decade. The Golden Hurricanes feature the sort of offense that has given U.H. trouble this fall: multidimensional, explosive and balanced, Tulsa is one of only two Conference USA teams with at least 20 touchdowns both rushing and passing. The other is Houston, of course.
Houston has won games before kickoff: opponents have been intimidated during pregame stretching, knowing that they need to score — and score and score — just to keep pace with the Cougars, let alone win. Tulsa won’t be intimidated. The Golden Hurricanes are the most battle-tested team on Houston’s schedule: September dates with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State will do that to a team.
Even with all that Tulsa brings to the table, a win this afternoon over Case Keenum and the Cougars would be on par with the program’s 1967 upset. Houston’s simply been a juggernaut, scoring with ease through the air, on the ground and on special teams, dispatching with its last six conference foes by an average of 42.7 points. Tulsa might be the best team Houston will face prior to bowl play, but are the Golden Hurricanes good enough?
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Tags: Bill Blankenship, Case Keenum, Houston, Tulsa
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