The Houston Astrodome was declared the “8th Wonder of the World” when it was built in the 1960s. In 1989, it was home to the Houston Cougars football team and a high-powered offense created by Offensive Coordinator John Jenkins. Jenkins was Dr. Frankenstein, and his monster was the “Run and Shoot” offense. The spark that brought this offensive monster to life was QB Andre Ware.
Scoring Touchdowns Early and Often
The Cougars, coached by Jack Pardee, scored 53 points (#1 in the NCAA) per game in 1989 and averaged 624 yards of total offense per game. Houston scored 60+ points four times and scored a whopping 95 points in a win over SMU.
The Cougars finished 9–2 in that historic season. They lost only twice, to Texas A&M and Arkansas, by a combined 10 points.
Ware passed for 4699 yards, 46 touchdowns, and 15 INTs (on 578 attempts). He completed 63% of his passes.
The Cougars were the first team to have a 4,000-yard passer, a 1000-yard rusher, and a 1000-yard receiver. WR Manny Hazard set an NCAA record as he caught 142 of Ware’s passes (for 1689 yards and 22 TDs).
Andre Ware-The Right QB at the Right Time to Direct The “Run and Shoot”
Jenkins’ offensive scheme used four receivers lined up in a spread formation. The Cougars ran no-huddle and pressured the defense by not allowing them time to substitute fresh players into the game.
Houston’s receivers adjusted their routes based on the defensive coverage and created separation to make plays in space.
Ware was recruited out of Dickinson High School in Texas by former head coach Bill Yeoman to quarterback his vaunted veer offense. He chose Houston over the University of Texas because the Longhorns wanted to switch Ware to the defensive side of the ball.
But Yeoman was fired after Ware’s freshman season, giving way to Pardee and Jenkins.
Once a quarterback, always a quarterback. Ware was the right guy at the right time in college football to run such a prolific offense.
“Just Another Day at the Office”-Andre Ware
During that historic season, some of the big yardage games for Ware included:
- 390, 5 TDs vs UNLV
- 503 yards against Arizona State
- 413, 7 TDs vs Temple
- 514, 6 TDs against Baylor
- 400, 2 TDs vs Rice
- Ware led the NCAA in passing yards, yards per attempt, passing touchdowns, and pass attempts.
October 21, 1989
In late October of that year, the Cougars faced off against the SMU Mustangs. The Mustangs were fresh off the NCAA-imposed “Death Penalty” for recruiting violations earlier in the decade.
As a result, they fielded a team consisting mostly of freshmen. And it showed.
The Mustangs were put out to pasture in a 95–21 rout. Ware passed for 340 yards in the 2nd quarter, 517 yards in a half, and passed for 5 touchdowns in the second quarter (all NCAA records).
The Cougars racked up 1021 yards of total offense against SMU, an NCAA record that remains unbroken.
And the winner is…Andre Ware
With just 70 points separating the top two vote-getters, Ware won the Heisman Trophy.
Also, It’s significant when you consider that the Cougars did not play on television or in a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions.
And, even more, significant is that Ware was the first African American quarterback to win the Heisman.
Ironically, he missed the Heisman Award Ceremony as he directed a 64–0 demolishing of the Rice Owls.
Ware skipped his senior season and declared for the NFL Draft, selected by the Detroit Lions in the first round with the 7th overall pick. He played four seasons with the Lions and also played in the Canadian Football League.
Thanks for reading.
Material for this article was sourced from Heisman.com; profootballhistory.com, “What Happened to Andre Ware? Complete Story”, by Jimmy Swartz; “How Andre Ware Changed the Game,” by Sam Khan, Jr., ESPN Staff Writer, August 6, 2014; A Look Back: Run and Shoot and The 1989 Houston Cougars — (thegridironnews.com).