By Bo Carter
Army West Point and Houston…Houston and Army West Point…
There are so many ties between the two Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl opponents, and one of the most obvious is UH coaching legend Bill Yeoman.
Yeoman, a native of Elnora, Ind., starred at center at West Point from 1946-48 and was senior captain for the Black Knights in 1948. He played on teams that won or tied 24 of 28 games in the days when the service academies did not participate in bowls for academic reasons.
But Yeoman, who later was on active U.S. Army duty from 1950-53, began his coaching career as an assistant at Michigan State from 1954-61 when the Spartans downed UCLA, 17-14, in the 1956 Rose Bowl during a time when Big Ten Conference teams only played in the Pasadena, Calif., classic.
In 1962, he used his MSU savvy to earn a spot as Houston’s fourth head coach since the Cougars started varsity football in 1946, and guided UH to a 7-4 overall record and triumph in the ’62 Tangerine Bowl.
Just a few years later, Yeoman also made football history by experimenting with and implementing the popular Veer offense – one of the most widely used modes of attach by colleges throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The option offense allowed for big-yardage wide runs, quick “pops” up the middle and a controlled passing game with fast drops and a variety of slant and button hook routes.
The Yeoman Veer helped the Cougars roll to four additional bowl berths from 1969-74 and earn their way into the vaunted Southwest Conference in 1972 as the ninth and final member of the 1914-96 loop. UH began formal SWC activity in 1976 and proceeded to win three conference crowns over four seasons from 1976-79 and make its first Goodyear Cotton Bowl appearance in January of 1977. Included in that historic run was Notre Dame’s surreal comeback win on a frozen Cotton Bowl Stadium Field from a 34-12 deficit to a 35-34 win behind future All-Everything QB Joe Montana.
The Indiana native’s 25-season reign at UH and 160 coaching victories still rank at the top of the Cougars charts, and earned the veteran coach a place in the NFF College Hall of Fame in 2001. He also earned distinction in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 and as the 2002 Bear Bryant Coach of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
But the Cougars and Black Knights connections do not end there.
UH and Army West Point played for seven consecutive seasons from 1998-2004 when both schools were members of Conference USA, and the Cougars built a 5-2 series lead. The Cougars edged the Black Knights, 35-21, in their latest meeting in ’04 at Houston’s historic Robertson Stadium (now demolished to make room for the current TDECU Stadium at that site). This is the first postseason matchup of the bowl-playing crews.
Army West Point, like Houston, now has played in three Dallas-Fort Worth bowl venues: Cotton Bowl Stadium, TCU’s Amon Carter Stadium and SMU’s Ford Stadium, which happed when while Amon Carter was being renovated in 2010. The Black Knights are 3-0 in those DFW bowls after topping San Diego State, 42-35, in the 2017 LMAFB. And the Cougars borrowed a page from Notre Dame’s miracle comeback book in the 2015 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl with a fourth quarter surge to overcome a 34-10 Pittsburgh lead and down the Panthers, 35-34 – ironically the same score as the UH-Notre Dame 1979 Goodyear Cotton Bowl shootout.
The Black Knights enter the Dec. 22 joust with a 5-2 all-time bowl mark with three of the triumphs coming in the Metroplex. The Cougars are 5-2 in DFW area postseason contests and 2-2 in LMAFB appearances – the latest in that ’15 win over Pitt – plus, 11-14-1 in 26 previous bowl treks.
Yes, the Army West Point and Houston teams bring several common threads into the clash and appear set for one of the most well balanced meetings in post-2018.
Bo Carter, a member of the CoSIDA Hall of Fame, is a Dallas/Fort Worth college football historian who annually serves on the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl media staff.