Today, in 1946, the University of Houston played its first-ever football game. At Public School Stadium near the UH campus, the Cougars lost to Southwest Louisiana Institute (now Louisiana-Lafayette), 13-7. UH held SLI scoreless until the last 11 minutes.
UH received the opening kickoff on their 31-yard line and marched 69 yards for a touchdown on the program’s first-ever drive. Running Jewell Wallace’s standard T-formation, Charlie Manichia went around the end on a bootleg and scored from 32 yards out. Ken Hawkins kicked the PAT, and the Cougars led 7-0.
Athletics director Harry Fouke missed UH’s first-ever score. Fouke says he was underneath the stands helping out. “I heard the commotion and thought, ‘My gosh, have they scored on us already?’ I went up and looked at the scoreboard, and we had scored first!”
Due to rain earlier in the day, both teams struggled to hang onto the ball. SLI scored early in the fourth quarter to tie the game. After a few punts, the Bulldogs (later to be changed to Ragin Cajuns) drove down the field and scored the winning TD with 17 seconds left.
“Houston has nothing to be ashamed of about its newest collegiate football team as the Cougars played their hearts out,” the Houston Chronicle reporter Jerry Ribneck wrote. The Houston Post’s Johnny Lyons said it was “one of the hardest and most interesting opening night college tussles ever staged here.”
The announced attendance was 14,000.
Gallery from UH/SLI 1946