On this day in 1999, the Houston Cougars opened a newly renovated John O’Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium with a 28-3 win over Rice. It was the first Bayou Bucket game in the post-SWC era.
“Bringing back this rivalry between Houston and Rice is very important to us,” UH AD Chet Gladchuk said at the time. “It’s important to the fans and to the city of Houston.”
Thanks to lawyer John O’Quinn’s $6 million gift, the school removed the track, lowered the field, and built a seating ring around it. In addition, new concession stands and restrooms were constructed in the corner of each end zone and a scoreboard was also installed. UH added 18 suites at the top of each grandstand a year earlier and replaced the press box and elevators.
The stadium’s official capacity was 33,000, but the 31,784 in attendance was called a sellout.
The Cougars also used the day to unveil a new, Nike-inspired, fatter UH logo on the helmets. It was the first time UH had gone away from the “skinny UH” that had been on the helmets since Coach Yeoman’s first season in 1962.
The only thing to go wrong all day: a stadium-wide power failure caused a 20-minute delay at the beginning of the second half.
New DC Dick Bumpas implemented his 4-2-5 defense, resulting in eight forced fumbles and six turnovers for the Owls. An early Rice field goal was the only time they scored all day.
“Any time an option team goes into its first ball game, they’re really not going to be greased up, and we’ve had lots of time to prepare for them,” Bumpas said.
It was the first change from the “skinny UH” that had been on the helmets since Coach Yeoman’s first season in 1962.
UH only had 203 yards of offense in the game. QB Jason McKinley managed the game well and was 10-of-13 in the air for 107 yards and a TD. That scoring pass went to Orlando Iglesias. Iglesias caught seven of McKinley’s ten completions for 82 yards.
UH scored all four touchdowns as a result of Rice’s turnovers.
“I thought we dominated the game defensively, and the kicking game was great,” UH coach Kim Helton said. “We played real well offensively. We didn’t turn the ball over, and that’s what we want to do against the wishbone. It was a good win, a very good win.”
The 1999 season was the first since 1949 when UH played its entire home schedule on campus. At that time, the stadium was called Houston Public School Stadium.