In 1999, Houston throttles LSU in Death Valley

On November 13, 1999, Kim Helton and the Houston Cougars beat LSU at Tiger Stadium, 20-7. The win assured UH of their second winning season in Helton’s seven years.

The game did not start well for the Cougars. LSU drove 84 yards for a touchdown on their opening possession. Rondell Mealey finished it off with a 34-yard TD run. It was 7-0 Tigers, and the sleepy, sparse crowd started to wake up.

But that would be all of LSU’s excitement for the night: for the rest of the game, the Cougars kept the LSU rushing attack in check: after the first series, LSU ran for -12 yards total. UH dared LSU starting QB Josh Booty to throw it while keeping everything in front of them.

Micah Malone tackles Jerel Myers

Jason McKinley led the Cougar offense on three-straight scoring drives in the first half – the best sequence of the ’99 season (and the entire Helton regime). McKinley went 9/11 for 117 yards and a score in those three drives.

Quarterback Jason McKinley

Perhaps as importantly, the three scoring drives took 14:32 off the clock and gave the Cougars a 17-7 halftime lead. And it made LSU head coach Gerry DiNardo panic: the Tigers threw it almost nonstop in the second half with very little success thanks to Dick Bumpas’ 4-2-5 defense.

The Cougar defense dominated that second half, starting with Adriano Belli forcing a Booty fumble on the opening drive. LSU went 3-and-out on the following three drives for a total of -6 yards. The stadium emptied out as the game flipped to the 4th quarter.

LSU managed a four-and-out to start the 4th, then threw three-straight interceptions. Booty committed the first (his 3rd turnover) before DiNardo pulled him for sophomore Rohan Davey. The Coogs teed off on Davey – in his 13 snaps, Davey was sacked 4 times and intercepted twice.

In the second half, Helton and OC Les Koenning were content to sit on their lead and run clock. Ketric Sanford finished the game with 105 yards and a score, while “Big Back” Mike Green added 64 yards. Sanford converted seven crucial first downs as UH managed to control the clock for over 37 minutes in the game.

In the locker room after the game, Gerry DiNardo was fired by LSU as the Tigers turned their sights to Nick Saban. Kim Helton would last eight more days as the UH head coach before being dismissed by Chet Gladchuk.

“Big Back” Mike Green tackled by Ryan Clark, who now works for ESPN / Shreveport Times photo
Rondell Mealey and Micah Malone // The Shreveport Times
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