A Look Back: The Bayou Bucket In The Post-SWC Era


In a time when traditional games die because of realignment, bad blood, or inferiority complexes, UH has managed to build “rivalries” with several C-USA and AAC programs. For example, in the 26 years since the SWC disbanded, UH has played Rice 18 times, Tulane 23 times, and Memphis 16 times.

So there is the tiniest bit of nostalgia that two of those series are definitely coming to an end. And even after UH leaders praised the Bayou Bucket tradition this week, there may not be room on the schedule every year for the Owls. UH will only have three non-conference games in the Big 12 and the league has an agreement that each team plays a P5, a G5, and an FCS team each year (UH is seeking a waiver for the P5 game in 2023). The G5 spot on the schedule could go to Rice, UTSA, SMU, UNT, or Texas State in any given year.

The 2022 schedule worked out where the Cougars play Rice, Tulane, and Memphis back-to-back-to-back in 13 days. While UH is locked into the game at Rice on 9/9/23, there are currently no other future games scheduled vs. the Owls. With that in mind, we look back at the defining moments of each of the three series over the last 25 years. Today, it’s the Rice Owls.

The Institute left for the WAC after the Southwest Conference broke up, and the teams didn’t play for three years. But Rice was the opponent for the debut of the renovated Robertson Stadium in 1999, along with the first non-skinny interlocking UH logo on a helmet in 37 years.

Ketric Sanford sporting the fat Adidas UH logo

UH won the game 28-3 in Kim Helton’s final season.

The Dana Dimel era was a dark time in the series: UH lost in OT in 2000 after a Bachie McGruder muffed punt and then lost in the opener in 2001 – the first loss of the 0-fer season. In 2002, the MOB paid tribute to UH’s 0-11 season with their “Salute to Zero” halftime show.

UH beat the Owls, 24-10, to snap the nation’s longest losing streak.

Art Briles and Kevin Kolb destroyed Rice in 2003 but then lost at NRG the next year, 10-7 (the only Cougar score coming with just over a minute to play). A tipped ball on a PAT allowed UH to escape in 2006, 31-30, on their way to a C-USA title. In Briles’ last year (2007) and Kevin Sumlin’s first (2008), the teams traded scoring 56 points; Rice’s 2008 win killed UH’s chances of going to the C-USA Championship game.

That 2008 Rice/UH game was a Futures Game for the Coogs. The Rice staff included Tom Herman, Craig Naivar, Yancy McKnight, and Dan Hammerschmidt, who would coach on Cullen in the next decade. Herman replaced Rice’s previous offensive coordinator, Major Applewhite.

Meanwhile, there were three Cougar head coaches on its 2008 staff: Sumlin, Tony Levine, and Dana Holgorsen.

Post-SWC Records In Bayou Bucket Games

Kim Helton1-0*
Dana Dimel1-2
Art Briles4-1
Kevin Sumlin2-2
Tony Levine2-0
Tom Herman0-0
Major Applewhite2-0
Dana Holgorsen1-0

*Kim Helton went 2-2 overall vs. Rice
In 2009, the Cougars scored 73 on the Owls at Robertson in an old-fashioned revenge game ass-kicking. Tyrone Carrier took the opening kick 95 yards for a TD, Brandon Brinkley had a pick-six, Case scored on a sneak, and UH legend (and GoCoogs.com contributor) Matt Hogan hit a 22-yard field goal – all in the first quarter.

Charles Sims, Patrick Edwards, Carrier, Sims again, and LJ Castile scored TDs in the 2nd quarter. It was 59-0 at intermission and ended 73-14. Hogan was replaced on the last PAT but still nearly beat Rice by himself (14-12).

Rice won again at home in 2010 before hooting their way to a 17-7 lead in the rain and wind in 2011. Tyron Carrier had gone 100 yards on the opening kickoff for a touchdown, but the Cougar offense sputtered. Perhaps trying too hard? The first four offensive possessions resulted in a fumble, punt, INT, and another fumble.

But then Case went to work: UH scored on 10 of the next 11 drives; at one point, Houston scored 49 points on 28 snaps. Keenum threw TD passes to Patrick Edwards, Carrier, Edwards, Justin Johnson, Charles Sims, Sims again, and then Edwards, Edwards, and more Edwards.

Keenum ended the night with 534 yards, nine touchdowns, and the all-time NCAA record for touchdown passes in a career. Edwards had seven catches, five that went for touchdowns, and 318 yards.

That 2011 game was the start of six-straight wins over the Owls by an average score of 44-19. In the last five games, the Owls have not scored more than 26.

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