It was not shocking when the Houston Cougars were listed as 35-point favorites by sportsbooks in their 2012 season opener against the Texas State Bobcats.
The Cougars finished the 2011 season with a 13-1 season record and were ranked No. 18 in the final AP Poll. Meanwhile, Texas State had been a mediocre FCS program (6-6) in 2011 and was playing its first game as an FBS team.
However, Houston was not the same team as it was in 2011—and it showed in one of the biggest upsets in college football history. The Bobcats never trailed as they cruised to a 30-13 win as 35-point road underdogs.
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Houston a Big Favorite Despite Massive Personnel Losses
Heading into the 2012 season, the Cougars were a shell of the team that went 13-1 in 2011. Head coach Kevin Sumlin left for Texas A&M and took Kliff Kingsbury (offensive coordinator) with him. The new staff had to rebuild an offense that lost its quarterback, most of its receivers, and two of its top three running backs.
But the team did have seven starters returning on the defensive side of the ball, and the offense had five starters coming back. While new head coach Todd Levins had never been an HC before, he had been with the program since 2008.
However, quarterback Case Keenum had moved onto the NFL. Keenum was a record-setting quarterback and had thrown for 5,631 yards (his third with 5,000+) and 48 touchdowns in 2011. Production like that is hard to replace, especially with only one of the team’s top six receivers coming back.
Despite all the coaching changes and personnel losses, oddsmakers still felt the Cougars should be a heavy favorite at home against the Bobcats.
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Texas State Run Game Rules the Day
The Bobcats did not have much experience in the passing game that year, but they did have a promising tandem at running back in Terrence Franks and Marcus Curry. Curry got the team off to a good start with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Rutherford on Texas State’s opening drive.
After he ran for a 73-yard touchdown on the first play of the Bobcats’ second drive, it began to look like Houston might be in for more of a challenge than expected.
Houston closed the gap to 14-10 with a touchdown and field goal before the end of the first quarter. But then Curry capped off a ten-play, 75-yard drive with his third touchdown of the day, and the Bobcats never looked back.
Texas State finished the day with 248 yards on the ground. Curry accounted for 131 of them and all three Bobcats’ touchdowns in the 30-13 upset.
The Writing Was on the Wall for Houston
The fallout from the unexpected defeat was immediate for the Houston Cougars. Despite all of the personnel changes from the previous season, offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt took the blame for the loss. He resigned on the Monday following the loss.
Houston was a 3-point underdog at home the following week to Louisiana Tech, a game they lost 56-49. The Cougars went on to finish the season 5-7.
As for the Bobcats, they went on to have a 4-8 record, which was considered a success since it was their first season as an FBS team.
AP Photo/Eric Gay