The Houston Cougars have played in 21 bowl games in the program's history; their 2011 TicketCity Bowl match-up against Penn State will be the Cougars' 22nd, and first against Penn State — or any Big Ten team, for that matter. But Houston has had mixed results in those bowl games, compiling an 8-11-1 bowl record.
The Cougars' bowl history began in 1952, when they beat the Dayton Flyers in the immortal Salad Bowl. Houston would not return to a bowl game until 1962, when coach Bill Yeoman's Cougars topped Miami of Ohio in the Tangerine Bowl. Yeoman's teams would make 11 bowls, and finished 6-4-1 in those games; Houston was 7-2-1 in its first 10 bowl appearances.
But between a victory in the 1980 Garden State Bowl and 2008's Armed Forces Bowl, the Cougars went winless in postseason play, dropping eight straight bowl appearances. That was an especially frustrating feature of Art Briles' tenure: he led Houston back to relevance in the mid-2000s, but his Cougars lost all three bowls they appeared in, with his defenses giving up 54, 42, and 44 points in those three games.
Kevin Sumlin went 1-1 in bowls before leaving to take the head coach position at Texas A&M, ending Houston's streak in 2008, but the Cougars reverted to old habits in the 2009 Armed Forces Bowl, falling 47-20 to Air Force. Interim head coach Tony Levine will try to avoid that in Saturday's meeting with Penn State.
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