“Long afternoon, wasn’t it?” Virginia Tech coach Jimmy Sharpe asked as he walked into the interview room. That day in 1974, the Houston Cougars throttled his Virginia Tech Gobblers, 49-12, at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg. The 49 points allowed, the seven TDs, and the margin of loss (37 points) remain Virginia Tech home records nearly 50 years later.
“Houston was bigger, stronger and better. The Cougars could move the ball on offense and stop Tech on defense.” – Dennis Latta, Roanoke Times
Donnie McGraw scored halfway through the first on a 21-yard run. Then, UH defensive back Mark Mohr recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a TD. QB David Husmann kept it for a four-yard score later in the second, and then fullback John Housman got in on the action, scoring on a 16-yard burst.
UH led 28-0 at the half, while Tech had only picked up three first downs. Housman ran for 117 yards and scored twice in the game.
“I think they intimidated us to some extent,” Sharpe said. “It was a long, hot afternoon.”
The local press agreed, noting UH’s incredible size for the time. “Houston…did nothing which would not be expected from a team with an offensive line which averages 260 pounds…”
UH running back Marshall Johnson threw a 64-yard touchdown to Frank Scalise in the third before Housman got his second TD. In the fourth quarter, Chuck Fairbanks threw a short pass to Don Bass, who took it 60 yards for the seventh touchdown of the day.
The Newport News (VA) Daily Press noted that the Cougars came at Virginia Tech from all angles:
“Houston scored about every way a team can score, ranging from the five-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense to Chuck Fairbanks’ 60-yard scoring bomb to third-string split end Don Bass, who wasn’t even on the (official) roster.”
Tech was led by senior QB Bruce Arians, who won a Super Bowl in 2020 as Tampa Bay’s head coach. Arians was just 3/17 passing that day against the Mad Dogs. “They had the best defense I’ve ever seen,” Arians admitted in the locker room afterward.
The Mad Dogs had not forgotten that in the 1972 game in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech QB Don Strock had embarrassed them, throwing for a school-record 527 yards (the game ended in a 27-27 tie). Despite blowing out VT in ’73 in the Astrodome, the Cougar defense still wanted payback at Lane Stadium. UH dominated the Gobblers and did not allow a score until the backups were in during the 4th quarter. UH led 35-0 at the time.
Receiver Ricky Scales said UH was not worried about the Gobbler running game, and the Mad Dogs shut down their passing game.
“They were just sitting on the pass,” Scales said. “It was hard to get the ball to me. A lot of times, Bruce didn’t have any protection. He often couldn’t even see me.”