Duke Catalon

Getty Images

Houston missing four starters for AAC matchup against UConn

Leave a comment

Houston is looking to avenge their only loss of the 2015 season on Thursday night against Connecticut but the Cougars will have to do so a little short-handed.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the team is down a whopping four starters and a key backup against the Huskies: starting linebackers Tyus Bowser (head injury) and Matthew Adams (coaches’ decision), running back Duke Catalon (head injury), cornerback Brandon Wilson (lower leg) plus backup tight end Alex Leslie (ankle injury).

Catalon has already missed a game this season and is arguably the biggest loss for the team as that will force them to rely on quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (who missed last year’s game) even more against UConn. The transfer from Texas is averaging 4.7 yards a carry on the year and had a big game against Oklahoma in the opener.

Coach Tom Herman and the sixth-ranked Cougars still should be able handle their business at home against a conference foe but the mounting injuries this early in the season are starting to get a little concerning if you’re a Houston fan.

Big (12) Statement: No. 15 Houston takes down No. 3 OU

Getty Images
9 Comments

They didn’t just win it, they ran away with it.

No. 15 Houston raced past No. 3 Oklahoma on the back of a 30-7 run to beat the Sooners 33-23 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Greg Ward, Jr., led the day for Houston, hitting 23-of-40 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns, while Texas transfer Duke Catalon pounded out 88 yards on 22 carries. After a rough start, Houston’s defense proved stronger than Oklahoma’s offense, especially up front. Houston limited OU’s powerful running game to just 70 yards on 2.7 yards per carry while holding Oklahoma to just six points in the second half.

The win gives Houston back-to-back wins over AP Top 10 teams for the first time in school history, and will send the Cougars into the Top 10 in the regular season for just the second time since 1991. For Oklahoma, it’s the third time in the past 12 seasons the Sooners have started the season in the AP Top 10 and lost their opener to a non-Power 5 opponent, mirroring opening day losses to TCU in 2005 and to BYU in 2009.

Oklahoma’s offense started roaring out of the gate. The Sooners marched 79 yards on eight plays for an opening drive touchdown, capped by a 30-yard Joe Mixon run, then hit a 60-yard connection to Mixon from Baker Mayfield on their next snap. That drive ended in a field goal, giving OU a 10-3 lead at the time. Houston rallied to take a 13-10 lead, but Oklahoma ripped it right back on a 64-yard pitch-and-catch to a wiiiiiiide open Mark Andrews.

But Houston proved to be the deeper, more physical, better coached team.

The Cougars used two Ty Cummings field goal to take a 19-17 lead at the half, then pushed the advantage to 26-17 on a 109-yard — and, really, 109.999-yard — kick six by Brandon Wilson.

After forcing a fumble on their next defensive possession, Houston marched 51 yards in 12 plays, culminating in a two-yard toss from Ward to Tyler McCloskey to push the lead to 33-17 with 2:15 to play in the third quarter.

While Houston’s special teams and offense grabbed the lead, the defense maintained it. After allowing Andrews the uncovered touchdown, Houston limited Oklahoma to three punts, the kick six, two fumbles and a Hail Mary of a turnover on downs, in which Oklahoma felt its best option, trailing 33-17 midway through the fourth quarter, was to go for a 4th-and-16 at its own 44. The play ended in Yakety Sax fashion, with Mixon picking up a Mayfield fumble and running himself into a seven-yard loss. Mayfield, by the way, hit all nine of his passes in the first half and ended the day with a worse-than-it-looked-on-the-field 24-of-33 for 323 yards and two touchdowns. Mixon led Oklahoma with 124 total yards on 11 touches, and Samaje Perine posted a quiet six carries for 31 yards after missing most of the game with a shoulder injury.

Houston committed its only mistake of the day on the ensuing possession as Ward fumbled a zone read exchange near the Oklahoma goal line, turning a potential 40-17 coffin nail score into a breath of life for Oklahoma. The Sooners responded by marching 80 yards in eight plays, but Mayfield’s two-point pass fell incomplete.

The Cougars recovered the ensuing onside kick and exhausted the 2:05 remaining on the clock.

 

For Houston (1-0), it’s arguably the biggest win in school history. The win keeps their — however faint — national title hopes alive while also proving the program can match and better the Big 12’s premier program on the field. This game was not an audition, win or lose, but it is an incredibly nice showing in front of expansion power brokers in OU president David Boren and Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

And for Oklahoma (0-1), it’s a scene from many recent horror movies. The 2005 and 2009 opening day upsets led to disappointing eight-win seasons for the Sooners. In fact, the last four seasons that opened with Oklahoma ranked in the AP’s top four, as they were today, ended in disappointment. This one appears headed that way as well, with a defense that couldn’t get Houston off the field, an offense that had no counter-punches to Houston’s defense and a schedule that sends Ohio State to Norman in two weeks.

 

OU-Houston a good old fashioned Texas shootout through one half

Getty Images
7 Comments

No. 15 Houston leads No. 3 Oklahoma 19-17 at the half in an up-and-down shootout at NRG Stadium in Houston, closing the half on a 16-7 run.

Oklahoma battered its way down the field on its first possession, mostly behind the tree trunk legs of running back Samaje Perine. The Sooners moved 79 yards in eight plays, capped by a 32-yard Joe Mixon dash.

Oklahoma seemed to have total control of the game on its next play, a 60-yard strike from Baker Mayfield to Mixon. But the Houston defense stiffened, an apparent 14-3 deficit was limited to 10-3. That stop, fueled by a stuffing of Mayfield on a third-down scramble, ignited the Cougars. After Ty Cummings‘ second field goal pulled the score to 10-6, Houston took its first lead when Greg Ward, Jr., found Duke Catalon wide open on a 15-yard wheel route score at the 10:12 mark of the second quarter.

Oklahoma answered, though, when Mayfield hit tight end Mark Andrews for the easiest 64-yard pitch-and-catch score possible. Mayfield hit halftime completing all nine of his passes for 162 yards and those two scores.

Houston added a third Cummings field goal, this time from 33 yards out, to pull within 17-16 with 4:33 to go before the break.

After forcing a punt, Houston converted a 3rd-and-10 with an acrobatic 16-yard sideline grab by Linell Johnson, keeping a drive alive that ended in Cummings’s fourth field goal of the half, a 47-yarder that snuck inside the left goal post as time expired.

Ward closed the half with 257 passing yards and a score on 15-of-28 passing. Houston has bombed downfield consistently on Oklahoma’s green and undersized secondary. Catalon carried the Coogs’ running game with 12 carries for 64 yards.

Nixon leads the Sooners with four carries for 36 yards, 30 of them coming on his touchdown run, plus a 60-yard reception. Perine closed the half with four carries for 33 yards; he spent most of the half nursing a left shoulder injury.

Overall, Houston holds a 19-8 edge in first downs and a 337-245 advantage in total yards. The Cougars have run 49 plays to OU’s 23.

Houston will receive to open the second half.