Glory Days: Coogs Go 11-1 in 1979

1979 Team – 40th Anniversary Celebration / UHCougars Facebook

The 2019 season will be the 40-year anniversary of one of UH’s most interesting teams. During the 1979 season, the Cougars played 8 one-score games yet managed to win seven of those. UH beat the #4 and #7-ranked teams (Arkansas and Nebraska, respectively) to finish 11-1 and 5th in the AP Poll.

Enjoy this look back and the photo gallery at the end.

#16 Houston 24, UCLA 16 – Los Angeles
UH opened the season in the LA Coliseum against the Bruins. UH needed a late comeback – 17 points in the fourth quarter – capped by an 18-play, 89-yard TD drive to win it. The win was UH’s first-ever game in California.

One day before the game, ESPN made its first-ever broadcast – September 7, 1979.

#13 Houston 14, Florida 10 – Astrodome
The Coogs came home to face the Florida Gators. Once again, UH used a late-game rally to win. QB Terry Elston came in during the 3rd quarter and eventually ignited an 8-play, 65-yard drive for the go-ahead TD late in the 4th.

#8 Houston 49, West Texas State 10 – Astrodome
The Cougars were too much for I-AA West Texas State. David “Big Back” Barrett scored 3 second-quarter touchdowns and the Cougars had no trouble dispatching the Buffs.

#6 Houston 13, Baylor 10 – Astrodome
For the fourth-straight time, UH won its SWC opener. UH had to come from behind for the victory again. Kenny Hatfield kicked two FGs in the 4th quarter to pull it out.

David Hodge finished the game with 15 solo tackles, assisted on four others, had an interception and caused a fumble. Incredibly, six of Hodge’s solo tackles came on third down. He won AP National Defender of the Week.

Defensive coordinator Don Todd said that David Hodge’s performance was “the greatest game a human being could possibly play.” Baylor finished #14 in the AP.

#7 Houston 17, Texas A&M 14 – College Station
With under a minute to play, and up 14-10, the Aggies drove to the UH 32-yard line. On 4th & 1, the Aggies went for the knockout punch. But Cougar defenders Sam Proctor, Grady Turner, and Terry Monroe combined to sack A&M QB Mike Mosley back at the 41.

Starting with 50 seconds to play, Cougar QB Terry Elston hit two big passes to get the Cougars down to the 5-yard line. On 1st and goal, Elston ran to the corner to score with under 20 seconds left to win it for the Coogs!

Elston scores from 5 yards out for the game-winner
Elston scores the game winner.

#5 Houston 37, SMU 10 – Astrodome
The Cougars scored 20 points in the first quarter and went on to trounce SMU. It was UH’s first win over SMU in the Dome. The Ponies finished with just 169 yards of offense.

SMU was the Homecoming game: Wayne Grimes and Kaye Seynaeve were named Mr. and Ms. UH.

#6 Houston 13, #4 Arkansas 10 – Fayetteville
In a nationally televised game, UH overcame another late deficit with a thrilling come-from-behind win over #4 Arkansas. Terald Clark finished with 135 yards and scored UH’s only TD. For the effort, ABC named him Offensive Player of the Game.

Kenny Hatfield kicked two FGs into the wind in the 4th quarter to put the Cougars ahead, his second coming with just 1:12 left. Arkansas attempted a FG with 4 seconds left to tie but the kick hit All-American DT Hosea Taylor in the head.

Mitchell reaches high to deflect the Hog pass
Leonard Mitchell reaches high to deflect the Hog pass.

#4 Houston 21, TCU 10 – Fort Worth
The Cougars won their eighth-straight game to start the year, a school record, in the win at Amon G. Carter. Delrick Brown completed 9 of 10 passes for 112 yards and a TD.

TCU became the first SWC team to score a TD in the 4th quarter on the Cougar defense although UH had their back-ups in the game at that point.

#8 Texas 21, #5 Houston 13 – Astrodome
55,155 fans jammed into the Astrodome for the game of the year in the SWC. But everything went wrong for the Coogs: two blocked punts, a lost fumble, and two passes intercepted. Still, UH trailed only 14-13 in the 4th quarter.

After holding Houston on downs, UT marched down the field and into the red zone. On 4th down of their own, QB Donnie Little broke through and scored.

The UT game stands as the largest UH crowd in Astrodome history.

#9 Houston 14, Texas Tech 10 – Astrodome
Terry Elston relieved starter Delrick Brown as the UH offense sputtered once again. The change worked: early in the 4th quarter, Elston swept around the right end then cut back across the field and went 72 yards for the go-ahead score. Elston finished with 102 yards on the ground.

Terald Clark rushed for a career-high 167 yards and a TD.

#10 Houston 63, Rice 0 – Rice Stadium
After losing to Texas, the Coogs needed a win over the Owls and for the Aggies to upset the Horns in College Station in order to go to the Cotton Bowl.

The first part was easy: UH beat Rice by the largest margin in Bayou Bucket history to that point (in 1989, the Cougars beat the Owls 64-0). Terald Clark went over 1,000 yards in a season – just the second UH junior to ever accomplish the feat.

Almost all Cougar fans had their radios in the stands and large cheers went up every time the Aggies scored. For their part, the Cougar marching band played the Aggie War Hymn after A&M scores. The Aggies beat Texas, 13-7, putting the Cougars in the Cotton Bowl for the third time in four years.

UH ended the regular season 10-1 and SWC champions.

Tom Wilson carried off after the Rice win
Tom Wilson carried off after the Rice win

#8 Houston 17, #7 Nebraska 14 – Cotton Bowl
The January 1, 1980, Cotton Bowl is, perhaps, the greatest bowl win in school history and certainly the best-ever ending.

Trailing 14-10 with 3:49 on the clock, Elston engineered an incredible 66-yard touchdown drive. On 4th and goal, Elston threw into double-coverage across the middle and behind WR Eric Herring. The receiver was running a slant route from the right side and was bumped by Husker DB Ric Lindquist before the ball got to him.

Lindquist deflected the ball but it went right towards the hands of Herring. Touchdown, Cougars! Hatfield added the extra point for a 17-14 score.

Nebraska attempted to lateral the ensuing kickoff but the Cougar kick team batted it away and recovered it. The Cardiac Coogs did it one more time.

The video below is a clinic from Yeoman on how to remain calm and communicate with your quarterback.

UH atoned for the Cotton Bowl loss the year before and finished the 1979 season 11-1. Coach Yeoman and his team finished 5th in the AP and the UPI polls.

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