We think nothing today of the offensive explosions that occur every college football Saturday.
In this day of spread offenses and quarterbacks who are being trained out of the womb, passing and scoring have soared to levels in the 21st century that would make Knute Rockne and Bear Bryant twist in their graves.
There is no greater example of this than the epic confrontation that took place on Oct. 22, 2016, when Baker Mayfield’s Oklahoma Sooners outlasted Patrick Mahomes’ Texas Tech Red Raiders 66-59 in a game that left the statisticians every bit as exhausted as the players.
This game has come to the forefront this week because Sunday in Cleveland, the two players will be meeting for the first time since they engineered the greatest shootout in college football history as Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs take on Mayfield and his Browns.
That night in Lubbock, Texas, the Sooners and Red Raiders combined for an FBS-record 1,708 yards of total offense, including 819 by Mahomes which is the all-time single-game individual record. He also threw for 734 yards which tied the single-game record set by Connor Halliday of Washington State in 2014.
Mayfield threw for 545 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns, and the combined passing yardage of the two quarterbacks totaled 1,279 yards, also a new FBS record.
“That night, those two did it as good as you could ever do it in college,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. “I’ve never seen two guys do it better on the same field. They were both on fire.”
No doubt, but again, these days, we’ve come to expect games like that. Not to that level, of course, but no one blinks when two teams spend an entire day marching up and down the field and piling up points.
And that’s why what happened on Nov. 3, 1990, holds such a unique spot in college football lore.
Sixth-ranked Houston, running the famed run-and-shoot offense that helped Andre Ware win the 1989 Heisman Trophy, played host to TCU at the Astrodome in a Southwest Conference shootout for the ages.
That year, Houston quarterback David Klingler was somehow making everyone forget Ware even existed as he would go on to pass for a then-record 5,140 yards and 54 touchdowns for a Cougars team that scored 511 points and posted a 10-1 record.
Houston was 8-0 and ranked sixth in the country, while TCU came in 5-2 and was trying to figure out how it would compete in this game without starting quarterback Leon Clay who had suffered a broken thumb two weeks earlier.
Enter unheralded backup quarterback Matt Vogler, a junior who had transferred to TCU from Auburn and would be making just the second start of his career. While Klingler was doing his thing, finishing 36 of 53 for 563 yards and seven touchdown passes in Houston’s 56-35 victory, Vogler outgunned him by setting a then-NCAA record with 690 yards.
Vogler also set a record by attempting 79 passes, breaking the mark of 76 which had been set by Klingler only two weeks earlier against SMU in a game where Klingler set the then-NCAA completion record with 48. Among Vogler’s 44 completions were five touchdown passes.
In all, the teams combined for 1,563 yards, prompting Houston defensive tackle Tray Hooper to say, “It was hell for the defenses out there.”
It is a game lost to history, especially now that the Mahomes-Mayfield game dwarfed it with the new record of 1,708 yards of total offense, but Houston-TCU in 1990 was a college football spectacle that was clearly ahead of its time.