Cougar football, 1989: Beware of Andre Ware

D. Ryan Monceaux


Jack Pardee's football squads at UH were some of the best in the history of the school. The run-and-shoot bowled over most opponents, week in and week out. But the true reason Pardee was so successful was one player from Dickinson: Andre Ware.

Andre Ware played three seasons at UH before pursuing his dream of a career in the NFL. However, Ware would only need one season to make his mark on the college football world - 1989. In his junior season at Houston, Ware over-achieved all season long and ultimately won college football's greatest award, the Heisman Trophy.

There was not a lot of hype surrounding the 1989 Cougar football team prior to the season kickoff. After a disappointing loss in the 1988 Aloha Bowl on Christmas Day to Washington State, the team finished 18th in the season ending-rankings.

The Cougars would begin the season with two away games, at UNLV and Arizona State. UH blew out both schools by a combined score of 105-7. Ware passed for 503 yards against ASU, attempted 69 passes in the game and completed 41 of them, both school records at the time.

The Cougars returned home for one final non-conference game before facing the Baylor Bears in the Astrodome. Temple came into the Dome in front of 15,121, the lowest turnout for any Cougar game of the season, and was humiliated by a final count of 65-7. Andre Ware only played in the first half, as he gave the ball over to David Klingler in the second half.

The next week against Baylor, UH scored 66 points in a rout over the Bears, 66-10. Ware threw for 514 yards and six touchdowns. The SWC slaugther was on, and Andre Ware was leading the way for the Coogs.

On Oct. 14, the Cougars traveled to College Station to face the Aggies. Just as the national media started to turn its attention to Ware, the QB had his worst game of the season. UH stumbled through most of the game before losing 13-17.

The loss to Texas A&M would prove pivotal in the SWC race as the Aggies would win the conference and go to the Cotton Bowl thanks to the win over UH.

The week after the A&M setback, the Cougars and Ware were back on track. UH accrued the second-highest score in school history by edging SMU 95-21. Andre Ware and the offense racked up 59 points in the first half alone to ensure the victory as most of the starters sat during the second half.

The following week Houston traveled to Arkansas for a showdown with the Razorbacks in a battle of the two top-scoring teams in the SWC. And neither would disappoint. The Cougars scored 39 points in Fayetteville, but it wasn't enough as Arkansas scored 45 in a winning effort. The loss dropped UH to 2-2 in conference play with four games to go.

A game against TCU in Fort Worth was the last time the Cougars would leave Houston. In the same style with which they bounced back from the A&M loss, the Coogs demolished the Frogs 55-10. Ware threw six touchdown passes for a total of 477 yards in the first half. The win over Texas Christian put UH in line for a shot at UT in Houston.

The Longhorns had battled through several mediocre seasons entering 1989. They were 4-3 coming into the game against the Cougars. Ware did not have his best game statistically, but a win is a win, and a 47-9 thrashing of the Horns is welcome news any year. With only two games to prove his worth to the national media, Ware put on a show.

Texas Tech ventured into the Astrodome Nov. 25 and went away not the Red Raiders, but the black and blue ones as Ware passed for 475 yards in a 40-24 win over Tech. The win solidified Ware among the national contenders for the award, and the final game of the season clinched it for him.

UH had lost to Rice only once since 1980, but the Coogs prepared for the game with the Owls just as any other. The Bayou Bucket had been on Cullen for two years, and UH did not want to give it up. Andre Ware also had to give a great performance, and he did just that. In only one half of play, and still never in front of a national television audience, Ware completed 36 passes and threw for 430 yards as UH toppled Rice 64-0 in Rice Stadium. The win put UH 9-2 on the year in second place in the SWC. However, that record would not be good enough for a bowl berth. The postseason would not be measured in a win on the field, but in the Downtown Athletic Club.

He threw for almost 4,700 yards in 1989. He was named the Davey O'Brien Award winner, UPI Player of the Year, and also a Consensus All-American. Later he would be named the SWC Player of the Decade. However, after setting 26 NCAA records, Andre Ware would finally win the most coveted award in college sports, the Heisman.

Shortly after the 1989 season, Ware declared he would skip his senior season at Houston and enter the NFL Draft. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the first round.

Even though his stint in the NFL did not last long, Ware will always be remembered as the greatest college football player ever from UH.

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