Reflections of a Houston Cougar

At UH, Case Keenum IS Captain America.

It never hurts to recap the national records that Case Keenum has compiled as a quarterback for the Houston Cougars during this golden year for our university’s NCAA football program, even if things don’t stay perfect the rest of the way. Things are what they are. All of us live on that axis. We live in the moment and we move on as the moment passes to the next. This just happens to be a sweet moment for some of us who haven’t seen this particular version as often as some of you may have witnessed it. We are simply content now to breathe in every honeysuckle fragrance of this hour for as long as they float through the air and waft their way into our red-blooded Cougar nostrils.

So, here are the Keenum codes that fuel much of our joy. Case now holds five national records and is tied for a sixth that he may easily break this coming Friday in the game against Tulsa.

Case Keenum National Records

(1) Touchdown Passes: 145

(2) Passing Yards: 17,855

(3) Total Offense Yards: 18,771

(4) Total Touchdowns Passed & Run: 168

(5) Pass Completions: 1,427

(6) Most 300 Yard Passing Games (Tied): 36

We could write all day about the next area so I will spare you. Here are some of the other team passing records established by Case Keenum and a few of his famous passing Cougar predecessors.

Other Notable Houston Cougar Passing Records

(1) Most Passing Yards in a Quarter: Andre Ware vs. SMU, 10/21/89 (2nd Qtr.): 340

(2) Most Passing Yards in a Half: Andre Ware vs. SMU, 10/21/89 (1st Half): 517

(3) Most Passing Yards in a Game: David Klingler vs. Arizona State, 12/01/90: 716

(4) Most Passing Yards in a Season: Case Keenum, 2009: 5,671 (Keenum has 4,269 yards for 2011 thru the SMU Game)

Speaking of the upcoming UH@Tulsa game that kicks off at 11:00 AM this coming Friday, Nov. 25th on FSN, memories rush back of one that people on both sides of the Houston-Tulsa line will never forget.

Most Notable Cougar Team Scoring Day: 11/23/1968, Houston Cougars 100 – Tulsa Golden Hurricane 6.

Wade Phillips, 1968 Houston Cougars. Sometimes the best defense is a killer offense playing against a weak team that also has the flu.

The Cougars enjoyed their greatest scoring feast day in the Astrodome against Tulsa on Saturday night, November 23, 1968. UH won the game against the Golden Hurricane when the boys from Oklahoma hobbled into Houston huffing and puffing on a flu bug that take all the force out of their wind.

Some interesting celebrities played football in that game. Current Houston Texan Defensive Coach Wade Phillips and Country and Western singer Larry Gatlin played for the Cougars. The famous TV psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw played for Tulsa. And, boy! Did the visiting Tulsans ever need someone like the full-blown and grown “Dr. Phil” by the time this game was done!

It was awful. As the game rolled on, it became obvious early that this was the contest that made the case for allowable TKO victories in college football, but none of the rule makers were either listening or in any position to administer a dose of administrative euthanasia in the heat of battle.

Cougar Head Coach Bill Yeoman did his part to stop the bleeding with early substitutions in the second half, but the second and third string kids who entered the game for rare opportunities to shine didn’t go into action to fake a block, miss a tackle, or take a knee. Neither did the speedy special return guys. In fact, the Cougars scored their final TD with seconds remaining, setting up a successful PAT attempt for the third digit in a final score of 100-6 that was about as sporting a proposition as those street crowds in Paris that came to watch the guillotine in action during the French Revolution.

It would have been a great time to have the kicker simply kick the ball aside, but it didn’t happen. That’s not what competitive sports are all about. The time to say you can’t play is over once the game starts.

Anyway, the Tulsa annihilation happened 43 years ago now – and the Golden Hurricane has reared up to ruin several UH seasons in acts of revenge several times since then. We Cougar fans just hope that the Oklahoma Dust Bowl Canes don’t have another payback punch left in their collective bloodstream of memories.

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14 Responses to “Reflections of a Houston Cougar”

  1. Earl Says:

    Bill, great piece; Your QB should be a “no brainer” to become the next Heisman trophy winner!!! What an injustice if he is not selected. Regards, Earl

  2. Bob Hulsey Says:

    I listened to that game on the radio as a boy. I seem to recall a big night for Warren McVae, a little scatback who went on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs. There was also a Paul Gipson from my memory bank but I don’t recall much else. They had quite a quarterback too but the name escapes me.

    These were heady times for the UH athletic program with the Elvin Hayes-led basketball team claiming national attention as well as Yeoman’s Cougars.

    Afterwards, I understand Yeoman got a lot of grief for “running up the score” on Tulsa and he vowed he’d never do it again but, as a boy, I was enthralled to see them shoot for 100 just as it would be fascinating to watch a baseball team score 30 runs or a basketball team score 175 points. It’s a great milestone despite the displeasure it caused Tulsa fans.

    As for Keenum, I understand he is a six-year senior due to injuries which makes me wonder if he’s played in more college games than your typical four-year letterman and that this might account for some of his record-setting. I don’t know how much he played early in his career but certainly he would have had to play behind Kevin Kolb as a freshman.

    I say none of that to undermine his accomplishments. I’m just curious how much playing time he’s had in his career. Here’s to a perfect season and the hope of a BCS bowl appearance.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:


      Warren McVea was gone to the Cincinnati Bengals by 1968. His soph to senior years were 1965-67. Ken Bailey was the main UH QB in 1968. Terry Peel was his back up and the great stud RB Paul Gipson was the main ground attack, with Elmo Wright going All American crazy as the top UH receiver. This is the same Cougar team that went to Austin in 1968 and tied UT, 20-20, even though a late UH TD dive by Paul Gipson that clearly pushed the ball over the goal plane from where I was sitting on that same goal line was ruled short of being the ultimate tie-breaker by the referee. Word traveled fast after that call: It missed being a TD by the length of a “Hook ‘Em Horns” sign that jumped between the ref’s eyes and the actual play as it happened. No OT in those days. UH and UT, plus their fans, all went home unhappy that the issue could not have been settled by a pair of differing numbers on the scoreboard.

  3. Michael McCroskey Says:

    If memory serves me right, seem as if it was the diminutive, grammy award winning singer, Larry Gatlin who scored the fianl touchdown prior to the 100 point kick. This game score always makes me think of Wilt Chamberlain and his 100 point night.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Mike –

      Your memory serves you well. Poor Tulsa punted to UH with time almost gone from the clock. Larry Gatlin fielded the ball at about midfield and then wove his way through the staggering Tulsa defenders for the score that made it 99-6, Houston, with either no time or mere seconds left in the game. The crowd began to chant for “100…100…100” as the Cougars lined up and made the kick. I thought that would have been the perfect time for the holder to have simply placed the ball on the ground as the kicker then put his foot on the ball as a sign that the PAT would be foregone.

      Didn’t happen. Blood thirst for a three-digit football score was too strong.

  4. Anthony Cavender Says:

    Bill: Congratulations to the University of Houston–far and away the best team in Texas this year.

  5. Marlon Says:

    I came across your blog when googling that ’68 game. I was a junior at Westchester HS in Houston at the time, and the father of one of my football teammates treated the entire team w/dates to see that game from the Skyboxes. There must have been over a hundred of us there, and we talked about that night for years.
    The Cougars could really light up the scoreboard in those days, and I remember Paul Gipson as one of the most punishing running backs ever.(pre Earl Campbell) As I recall, Gipson had some personal problems that prevented him from extending his career.
    Anyway, great memories.

  6. Phil Woodring Says:

    Gatlin scored on a pass and Mike Simpson returned the punt for a TD.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      You are correct, Phil. Here’s a quote on the Gatlin TD after Yeoman moved him from defensive back to wide receiver for this play:

      “Also, that last touchdown pass? It was caught by a defensive back named Larry Gatlin, whom Yeoman had moved to wide receiver because that was what you did when you were winning by 80 points. In the late ’70s Larry Gatlin started a band with his brothers and wound up recording 33 Top 40 hits.11 This was that kind of game.”

      Excerpted from an article about “Dr. Phil’s” participation at

      – Bill McCurdy

  7. Phil Woodring Says:

    Bill pretty sure Larry never played DB at Houston.

  8. George Caraway Says:

    Wade Phillips and Mike Simpson are from the same High school, Port Neches Groves and their High school coach was Bum Phillips’

  9. Douglas Pitre Says:

    What a great reminisence.
    Doug Pitre: classof 1967

  10. Robert Danow Says:

    I attended UH in the late 60s, attending the Tulsa game as well the Coogs vs. UCLA BB game in 68 (still have my ticket stub!). Then I was back at UH in the 80s in time to watch phi slamma jamma as well the the fb game vs. SMU in which the Coogs rang up over 1,000 yards on offense. On the negative side I didn’t watch the Coogs beat Michigan State 37-7 ’cause that game was at State. I think State was ranked #1 at the time.

    Finally — and no big deal — I was sitting behind the end zone to watch the Coogs beat Ole Miss w/Archie Manning in the Dome. When Miss got down near our goal line I had a good view his passing skills and wasn’t impressed, given that he was a Heisman.

    Also: I liked to pass, so I watched Andre Ware pretty close. I thought that from his soph to junior seasons he improved his ball-handling skills significantly (fewer fumbles), but I wasn’t impressed by his passing. I thought the true heart of those teams was tailback(?) Chuck Higginbotham, who would take a swing pass from Andre and run 70 yards with it. Andre shoulda hung around for his senior year to work on his passing accuracy; much of his passing success was due to Manny Hazard getting wide open. Unfortunately, Andre’s pro-reputation was one you wouldn’t want to have.

    I enjoyed watching Cougar sports, and I played intramural football my 5 years in the 60s, starting a fb team for the Honors Program, and playing QB. One year we met the PE majors in the playoffs. Yeah! Honors Program vs. PE Majors: pretty funny, huh? We did pretty well, losing only 6-0, but they had Ollie Taylor and his 46-inch leap. Oh, well…..

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