On this day in 1951, the Houston Cougars overcame nine turnovers (six fumbles and 3 interceptions) and squeaked out a 6-0 win over eventual Border Conference champions Texas Tech. The UP wire service called the game a “Fumble Circus” as the teams combined for 13 turnovers.
When he was hired, head coach Clyde Lee wanted to beef up the UH schedule. Early in his tenure, he added home-and-homes with Baylor (who would go to the Orange Bowl in 1951) and Tech. Lee agreed to travel to Baylor in 1950 and Tech in 1952 but intentionally scheduled both at home in 1951 to give his senior-laden team their best chance.
In a scoreless tie in the 4th quarter, the Red Raiders fumbled in their own end and Cougar guard Frank James fell on it. On the next play, UH captain Gene Shannon went around the left, juked a Tech defender, and walked in for a 32-yard touchdown.
Texas Tech drove to the 11-yard line late in the game but the Cougar defense held for the shutout win.
Shannon ran for 126 yards on 15 carries in the game and was, at that point, second in the nation with 402 yards (on 41 carries). Officially, Shannon ended the year with 1,059 yards, good for fourth nationally. When adding bowl stats (bowl game stats were not official until 2003), Shannon ran for 1,234 yards.
In five games that season, Shannon gained more yardage alone than the opposing school. For his play, Shannon was named All-MVC and an Honorable Mention All-American.
Coach Lee’s Cougars finished the 1951 season beating Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) and North Texas State (UNT) to earn the school’s first-ever bowl invite. The Cougars edged the Dayton Flyers in the January 1, 1952, Salad Bowl.