Maybe Houston should be nicknamed the Confounders instead of the Cougars. The only thing the team has done consistently—even before it joined the Southwest Conference—is fool everyone. Witness:
•In 1968 Houston put the kibosh on Tulsa 100-6 and then lost by 20 points the next week.
•The 1975 team was 2-8, so in 1976—after prognosticators gave the Cougars no chance—they went 9-2 and tied Texas Tech for the SWC title.
•Last year, coming off a dismal 6-5 season that no one had predicted, the Cougars kept everyone off balance by rolling to another SWC championship.
"There's nothing sinister about it," says Head Coach Bill Yeoman. "Sometimes a team rears back and attacks, and sometimes it doesn't."
Whether this season's Cougars rear back depends heavily on six new faces in the backfield. Gone are Quarterback Danny Davis and running backs Emmett King and Randy Love, who gave Houston the first pair in conference history to gain 1,000 yards apiece. Calling signals will be Delrick Brown, who is faster than Davis and has plenty of experience, having stepped in for Davis on the numerous occasions he was banged up. Terald Clark and John New-house, a cousin of Dallas Cowboy Robert Newhouse, are the best of the six running backs Yeoman expects to call on. Clark is stumpy (5'9", 196 pounds) but fleet, which he proved last year by gaining 222 yards in only 44 carries. Newhouse did even better, picking up 289 yards in 34 tries. That averages out to 8.5 yards a crack. And at 6'2", 220 pounds, reserve David Barrett is expected to be Houston's first bowl-'em-over back since, well, Robert Newhouse starred for the Cougars in 1971.
So Yeoman is optimistic, and rightfully so, because he probably could gain 1,000 yards behind Houston's offensive line, which enabled the backs to gain 3,306 yards, score 47 touchdowns and average 30 points a game last season. At 6'3", 268 pounds, Tackle Melvin Jones is testament to the line's bulk, and he best expresses its philosophy. "The idea is to be real Cougars," he says, lifting up his hands and forming them into claws. "Walk softly and take big bites."
With eight starters and 21 of 28 regulars back from a defense that allowed just nine touchdowns rushing, the Cougars know where their weakness lies. Opposing passers stung Houston by completing 51% of their tries last season. Yeoman, however, liked the improvement he saw in spring drills. Besides, the gargantuan front line that includes Leonard Mitchell (6'7", 270) and Hosea Taylor (6'5", 270) is capable of making up for almost all the mistakes the secondary may make.
It is tempting to say that one can rely on Houston to be the best team in the conference—or the worst. One thing indicating that the latter won't be the case is that in both of Houston's conference championship years it rained the day of the Cougars' spring intersquad game. On April 21 of this year, the date of the Red-and-White game, it was pouring.