December 1st is a day of firsts for the University of Houston – first-place finishes, that is. On four separate occasions, UH has won a conference championship on this day. It happened in the 50s, 70s, 80s, and 2000s (UH was not in a conference in the 1960s).
The Cougars also won its 10th game of the year on this date in 1973, 1979, 1990, and 2006.
Houston 39, Detroit 7 – Rice Stadium
UH capped off a 7-2-1 season with a 39-7 thrashing of Detroit. Fullback Donnie Caraway scored twice and QB Don Flynn ran for a TD and threw another and the Cougars finished 4-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference. It was UH’s second of four MVC titles before exiting the league in 1959.
The Detroit game was also Bill Meek’s last as UH head coach. Meek went 13-6-1 at UH but left for SMU in early January of 1957. Meek was so beloved that the 1957 Houstonian was dedicated to him five months after he left for Dallas.
#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.
Houston 38, Rice 26 – Houston Astrodome
When the Cougars lost to TCU on November 3, they dropped to 3-2 in the Southwest Conference standings. Everyone knew that was the end of the line – no team had ever represented the SWC in the Cotton Bowl with two losses.
But the wildest November in SWC history had just begun. The Cougars had already beaten #6 SMU at Texas Stadium and after the TCU letdown, faced the 3rd-ranked Longhorns in Austin. UH took the fight to Texas and won the game 29-15, UT’s first regular-season loss in over two years. After the Horns beat TCU the next week, Texas lost to Baylor setting up a crazy final Saturday.
On December 1, SMU had finished the SWC portion of their schedule at 6-2 and went to Vegas to face UNLV. Texas and UH were both 5-2 and played games in the afternoon: Texas faced the Aggies at home while UH hosted Rice.
A&M jumped out to a 20-0 lead at Memorial Stadium before cruising to 37-12 win. Meanwhile, the Cougars struggled with Rice and led just 28-23 going to the 4th quarter. Raymond Tate broke off a 72-yard TD run with under 5 minutes left to put the Cougars up by 12. Thanks to the tiebreaker win over SMU, Houston was heading to the Cotton Bowl for the fourth time in nine years.
Houston 34, Southern Miss 20 – Robertson Stadium
Art Briles and the Cougars hosted Southern Miss in the 2006 C-USA Championship Game. Down 17-13 at the break, the Cougars outscored USM 20-3 in the second half and won going away.
Vincent Marshall did a little bit of everything that night: he finished with over 100 yards receiving and in return yards, ran for a 22-yard TD, and threw an 18-yard pass. It was the 49th-straight game that Marshall had caught a pass. Kevin Kolb threw two TD passes and had a 46-yard touchdown run of his own.
“That 6.40 (in the 40-yard dash) really paid off,” Kevin deadpanned after the game.
In addition to the four conference titles, the 1973 Cougars won their 10th game of the season on December 1st, a 35-16 thrashing of Tulsa. It was the first UH team to ever win 10 games. After a win in the Bluebonnet Bowl over Tulane, the Coogs 9th in the AP.
On 12/1/1990, Houston traveled to Tokyo and spanked the Sun Devils of Arizona State, 62-45. It was also UH’s 10th win and the team finished 10-1 and 10th in the AP.