The Bluebonnet Bowl used to be a thing, once upon a time, played in Houston. From its inception in 1959, it usually featured a team from the famed-Southwest Conference, up until 1987 when the game was canceled. The committee hoped it would continue on, but it didn’t, becoming obsolete a full decade before the closure of the SWC and a decade-and-a-half prior to the opening of NRG Stadium.
With a new venue in Houston, we now we have a different H-Town bowl game: the Academy Sports + Outdoor Texas Bowl. Funny how things work.
There have been some good Bluebonnet Bowl games; of course, this is The Worst, so we are not spotlighting those moments. Let’s go ahead and take a look back.
5. Houston easily defeats Tulane- 1973
Four decades prior to the two joining the American Athletic Conference, Houston and Tulane — then as an SWC member and independent, respectively — met in the Bluebonnet Bowl. Both were excellent in the 1973 campaign.
The Cougars had just one loss in 1973. They fell 7-0 to Auburn in early November. Meanwhile, Tulane had a terrific season, going 9-2. They knocked off LSU in their last regular season game. It’s the same LSU team that played in the Orange Bowl.
Houston came into the game as one of the top offenses in the country. Unfortunately for Tulane, the Cougars continued to pile up the yards. They had 655 total yards, of which 402 came on the ground.
The highlight for Houston came early when running back Marshall Johnson ran 75 yards for a touchdown. Both Leonard Parker and Donnie McGraw scored two touchdowns.
Houston won the game 47-7. They went on to finish ninth in the AP Poll. It’s the first time in school history that the Cougars finished the season in the top 10.
Of course, that was the second time Houston won the Bluebonnet Bowl. Their first win came a few years earlier.
4. Houston runs over Auburn- 1969
For many years, the Astrodome served as home for the Houston Cougars. Coincidentally, the Astrodome also served as the stadium for the Bluebonnet Bowl.
With the game and the team moving to the Astrodome, it seemed like the Astrodome would host Houston for a bowl game. That happened for the first time in 1969.
The Cougars found themselves in trouble early on in the season when they lost their first two games to Florida and Oklahoma State. Houston got back on track with a 74-0 win against Mississippi State, winning eight straight on their way to the Bluebonnet Bowl.
Auburn found themselves out of an SEC title shot with losses to Tennessee and LSU. They still put together an 8-win season that included a victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl. So that’s a pretty good season, right?
Unfortunately for Auburn, they didn’t get that ninth win.
Auburn Head Coach Shug Jordan joked leading up to the game that he’d be the little guy walking off the field if Auburn lost.
“I’ll be about six inches high,” Jordan joked.
I don’t know if he was actually six inches high as he walked off the Astrodome field, but Auburn did in fact lose 36-7. Houston’s offense generated 516 yards of total offense, 376 coming courtesy of the running game.
3. Tennessee scores 21 unanswered to defeat Tulsa- 1965
The ties to Auburn and Alabama, as well as a loss to Ole Miss, kept the Volunteers from winning the SEC. At 7-1-2, they still got a Bluebonnet Bowl berth. Tulsa, meanwhile, won the Missouri Valley Conference title. They lost two of their first three games but rebounded to win seven straight.
The match-up would be Tennessee’s defense versus Tulsa’s offense.
Would this be an epic clash of two teams? It would be that way for maybe a quarter. Tennessee and Tulsa were tied at 6 after one quarter. After that, it was all Tennessee.
With the game outside in rainy conditions at Rice Stadium, the Volunteers scored 21 unanswered points to defeat Tulsa 27-6. The Golden Hurricane’s passing attack, led by quarterback Bill Anderson, led to four interceptions. In total, Tulsa turned the ball over seven times.
2. Rice loses less than a year after Sugar Bowl appearance to Kansas- 1961
In early 1961, the Rice Owls made their first-ever trip to the Sugar Bowl, losing to Ole Miss. They would make another bowl game in late 1961, this time the Bluebonnet Bowl at Rice Stadium versus Kansas.
Rice kicked off the season with an upset win over fifth-ranked LSU. They stumbled the next week at Georgia Tech. Despite losses to Texas and Arkansas, Rice did enough to get the bowl berth at their home stadium. It probably saves a lot of money in travel expenses, anyway.
Kansas, meanwhile, went winless in its first three games (0-2-1). The Jayhawks recovered, however, winning six of its last seven, representing the Big 8 in the Bluebonnet Bowl.
Rice had the lead after one quarter, 7-6. The lead ended rather quickly as the Jayhawks scored 27 straight over the remaining three quarters to win 33-7.
Kenneth Coleman was a nightmare for the Owls. He rushed for 127 yards and had three rushing touchdowns.
This would be the last bowl game victory for Kansas until 1992. Meanwhile, Rice wouldn’t play in another bowl game until 2006.
1. Missed field goal leads to 3-3 tie between Alabama and Texas- 1960
The second-ever Bluebonnet Bowl featured two future Hall-of-Fame coaches. This match-up would’ve been incredible in a decade. Both Bear Bryant and Darrell Royal were still early in their tenures with their respective schools.
Bryant led Alabama to eight wins in 1960, the best thus far in his tenure.
Texas opened the season with a one-point loss to Nebraska. They’d win three in a row before losing to Arkansas and Rice. The Longhorns bounced back with four straight victories to close out the season. This would be the first time the two teams met since the 1948 Sugar Bowl.
In the end, it all came down to field goals. Tommy Booker gave Alabama the lead with a field goal in the third quarter.
Alabama finally had a chance to get a win against Texas. The Longhorns won the four prior meetings when the two faced off.
However, a Dan Petty 20-yard field goal kick with more than three minutes left in the game tied it at 3-all. Both teams got one more shot. However, Texas’ seemed like a good chance.
A pass interference call on Alabama set up an untimed down chance for Texas to win. Officials had to get fans off of the field, who ran on after the play. After a few minutes, Petty had his chance to win it for Texas.
Unfortunately, Petty’s kick went wide-left. The game ended in a 3-3 tie.
Alabama would not get a win against Texas until the BCS Championship game in 2010.