Marquez Stevenson

Associated Press

No. 16 SMU remains perfect with win at Houston

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No. 16 SMU’s perfect season lives for another week, barely. Sonny Dykes‘s Mustangs never trailed Thursday night in Houston, but two touchdown catches by Marquez Stevenson totaling 171 yards put the Cougars’ offense on the field with a chance to win the game — twice — inside the final three minutes. SMU’s defense held both times, and the Mustangs escaped with a 34-31 win.

SMU led 21-7 late in the first half before surrendering two late field goals, but the Mustangs wasted no time opening up their largest lead of the night when Patrick Nelson sacked Clayton Tune and forced a fumble, which SMU’s Richard McBryde recovered at the Houston 2-yard line. Xavier Jones pushed the Ponies’ lead to 28-13 one play later, but the 15-point cushion did not last long.

One play, in fact, as Stevenson caught the first of his two long touchdown passes, this one a 5-yard hitch at his own 30 that he raced 70 yards untouched to pull Houston within 28-20 at the 14:01 mark of the third quarter, 59 game seconds after the teams played a 21-13 first half.

From there, SMU’s shaky — the Mustangs came into Thursday night with 14 missed kicks — field goal unit came through with two field goals of 23 and 33 yards to give SMU a 34-23 lead with 8:56 to play.

When Rodney Clemons intercepted Tune — SMU’s third plus-territory takeaway of the game — the Mustangs had a golden opportunity to deliver a knockout blow. However, SMU could not move the ball and a 4th-and-8 completion to James Proche was called back for offensive pass interference, forcing a Trevor Denbow punt that was downed at the 4.

And for the second time of the second half, Houston needed only one play, one completion to Stevenson, to make it a game again, as Stevenson hauled in another short pass and raced all 96 yards for the touchdown. Tune’s pass to Christian Trahan brought Houston within 34-31 with 4:47 remaining. (Tune finished the game with 407 yards and two scores, both of the scorers and 211 yards — on five completions — were to Stevenson.)

SMU, which began the drive 1-of-6 on third down in the second half, converted a 3rd-and-7 from its own 16 but could not pull off a 3rd-and-10 from its 24, and the Mustangs punted the ball back to Houston with 2:21 left. Taking over at its own 24, Houston moved 20 yards in its first two snaps but advanced no further, as Tune fired incomplete on three straight passes to end the comeback effort 55 yards short of pay dirt.

SMU could not expire both of Houston’s two remaining timeouts, and Houston took over at its own 15 with 18 seconds and no timeouts. Tune hit Tre’von Bradley for 22 yards on the first play, and Jeremy Singleton for 18 yards on the second, taking the ball to the SMU 45 with four seconds left. On the final play of the game, a defense that came into the game second in the nation with 29 sacks recorded its seventh of the night, stripping Tune as time expired to secure the win.

SMU (8-0, 4-0 American) continues its best start since 1982’s 11-0-1 campaign and, perhaps more relevant and more impressive, matched the program’s most wins post-death penalty, pulling even with the 2009 and 2011 teams, both of which went 8-5. The victory also means SMU secured wins over TCU and Houston (3-5, 1-3 American) in the same season for the first time since 2005, and the second time since 1992.

The Mustangs accepted the ball to open the game and breezed down to a 1st-and-goal in just seven snaps, but then stalled out. Shane Buechele (20-of-38 for 203 yards with two touchdowns and one interception) threw incomplete on first down, and Xavier Jones (22 carries for 133 yards and two touchdowns) was stuffed for a 1-yard gain on second down from the Houston 8-yard line. Buechele found Kylen Granson for six yards on third down, taking the ball to the 1, where Dykes elected to roll the dice. Buechele hit Reggie Roberson, Jr., on a pick play, but Roberson dropped the ball and SMU came up empty.

The teams traded punts on the next three possessions before SMU finally broke through, moving 85 yards in seven plays — aided by 30 yards of Houston penalties — setting up a 3rd-and-10 strike from Buechele to Proche for a 15-yard touchdown.

Houston then raced down the field even faster than SMU, gaining 31-yards on a pop pass from  Tune to tight end Trahan on the final play of the first quarter and then a 44-yard run by Mulbah Car on the first snap of the second quarter. Car’s run was ruled a touchdown, but replay brought it out to the 1. Bryson Smith completed the 5-play, 88-yard drive with a zone read keeper one play later, tying the game at 7-7 at the 14:28 mark of the second quarter.

The teams exchanged three-and-outs before Jones zigged and zagged 62 yards for a touchdown, putting SMU up 14-7, and then the Ponies’ defense brought out the bottle service when they recovered a backward pass by Smith, which slipped out of his hands just behind the Houston 47 and was recovered at the Cougars’ 32. Buechele put SMU up 21-7 five plays later with an 11-yard scoring toss to Granson.

Just as it seemed SMU had control of the game, a long drive and a turnover put Houston back in the game.

The Cougars gobbled up 6:18 of the 8:14 remaining in the second quarter to set up a 25-yard Dalton Witherspoon field goal, pulling Houston within 21-10. Amaud Willis-Dalton picked Buechele at the SMU 46 on the next offensive snap, allowing the Houston offense to set up a 34-yard Witherspoon field goal as time expired in the half.

No. 20 Washington State overcomes Houston to win Leach-Holgorsen reunion

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Of course a game between Mike Leach and Dana Holgorsen would remain scoreless for the first 23 minutes. The all-Cougar reunion between Air Raid forefathers, who were together at Iowa Wesleyan when the Air Raid was born and popularized it together at Texas Tech, took a while to get going, but when it did Leach and No. 20 Washington zipped past Holgorsen and Houston, 31-24 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

After a scoreless first quarter, Houston started the second frame — literally, Washington State punted on the final play of the first quarter — and then took its time driving 82 yards, snapping the ball 15 times and eating 7:27 of clock, finally scoring on a 13-yard, third-and-goal strike from D’Eriq King to Marquez Stevenson.

The lid now sufficiently lifted, Washington State needed only five played and 117 seconds to answer, pulling even on a 39-yard strike from Anthony Gordon to Easop Winston, Jr.

Houston (1-2) then answered that answer with a 7-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Five of those seven plays were runs, including a 1-yard King sneak to put Houston back up with 2:27 left before halftime.

Washington State (3-0) threatened to pull even just before the break, but Gordon’s end zone toss was intercepted by Houston’s Gleson Sprewell with 24 seconds left in the first half.

That lead wouldn’t last long, though. A fumbled snap gave Washington State the ball at the Houston 44 to open to begin its second half offensively, and the Cougars quickly tied the game on a 1-yard Max Borghi run.

Washington State then took the lead for good on its next touch, racing 91 yards in only four plays, including a 39-yard scoring toss from Gordon to Dezmon Paton. After a Houston field goal, Washington State took control for good when Gordon found Travell Harris for a 7-yard score with 6:43 remaining.

Houston made it interesting again with a 12-yard King run with 2:21 to play, but its ensuing onside kick was recovered by Washington State.

Gordon completed 36-of-47 passes for 440 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, and in the process became just the third FBS quarterback in the past 15 years to throw for at least 400 yards and three touchdowns over the first three games of the season, joining familiar names Graham Harrell and Patrick Mahomes.

For Houston, King threw for 128 yards and a touchdown and rushed a game-high 17 times for 94 yards and two more scores.

The teams combined to commit 19 accepted penalties for 208 yards.

Houston leading Washington State at the half

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Houston has put No. 20 Washington State on upset watch, as the red-and-white Cougars hold a 14-7 lead over the red-and-gray Cougars at NRG Stadium in Houston.

After a scoreless first quarter, Houston started the second frame — literally, Washington State punted on the final play of the first quarter — and then took its time driving 82 yards, snapping the ball 15 times and eating 7:27 of clock, finally scoring on a 13-yard, third-and-goal strike from D’Eriq King to Marquez Stevenson.

The lid now sufficiently lifted, Washington State needed only five played and 117 seconds to answer, pulling even on a 39-yard strike from Anthony Gordon to Easop Winston, Jr.

Houston then answered that answer with a 7-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Five of those seven plays were runs, including a 1-yard King sneak to put Houston back up with 2:27 left before halftime.

Washington State threatened to pull even just before the break, but Gordon’s end zone toss was intercepted by Houston’s Gleson Sprewell with 24 seconds left in the first half.

King has carried Houston, hitting 10-of-14 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown while rushing a game-high nine times for 65 yards and another score. Gordon was 15-of-20 for 163 yards with a touchdown and a pick.

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy headlines 2019 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

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Media Day season is also Watch List season and the latest to surface for the 2019 campaign comes out of Tallahassee in the form of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and fellow semifinalist Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State, as well as a number of other talented pass-catchers from around the country.

Here’s the full list, which is a good general overview of the best wide receivers and tight ends for the upcoming season even if a few names can gripe about being left off:

Lynn Bowden, Jr. (Kentucky)

Rico Bussey, Jr. (North Texas)

Cedric Byrd (Hawaii)

Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)

Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

Gabriel Davis (UCF)

Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)

Aaron Fuller (Washington)

Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty)

KJ Hamler (Penn State)

Adrian Hardy (Louisiana Tech)

Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

Tee Higgins (Clemson)

K.J. Hill (Ohio State)

Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State)

Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)

Collin Johnson (Texas)

CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

Ty Lee (Middle Tennessee State)

Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt)

McLane Mannix (Texas Tech)

Kirk Merritt (Arkansas State)

Riley Miller (Ball State)

Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Darnell Mooney (Tulane)

Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)

K.J. Osborn (Miami)

Dezmon Patmon (Washington State)

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Michael Pittman, Jr. (USC)

James Proche (SMU)

Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jared Rice (Fresno State)

Sean Riley (Syracuse)

Reggie Roberson, Jr. (SMU)

Justyn Ross (Clemson)

Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado)

JD Spielman (Nebraska)

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC)

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Tamorrion Terry (Florida State)

Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)

Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

JoJo Ward (Hawaii)

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss)

King shines as Houston sends No. 21 South Florida tumbling from unbeaten ranks

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Houston did not have perhaps the best player in college football in uniform Saturday as All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver was held out with a knee contusion. The Cougars still had the best player on the field in quarterback D’Eriq King, and that was more than enough.

The junior quarterback accounted for seven of Houston’s eight touchdowns as the Coogs blasted previously unbeaten No. 21 South Florida, 57-36.

King posted a career day, hitting 28-of-40 throws for 419 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions (one of those being an end-of-half Hail Mary) while rushing 12 times for a game-high 132 yards and two touchdowns.

In all, the Cougars rolled up 678 yards of total offense, averaging 7.79 yards on their 87 snaps while obtaining 35 first downs and converting 13-of-17 third downs.

Houston jumped out to a 14-0 lead before South Florida forged ties of 14-14 and 21-21 in the second quarter. Each time the Bulls pulled close, however, King was there for an answer. After the 14-14 tie, King found Marquez Stevenson for a 38-yard touchdown, their second such connection of the first half. When USF pulled even at 21-21, King hit Courtney Lark for a 30-yard touchdown with a minute left in the first half.

After South Florida lodged a safety and a field goal to pull within 28-26 early in the third quarter, King led the Cougars on an 8-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a 36-yard scoring rush, his second of the day.

South Florida responded with a 25-yard field goal to make the score 35-29, but King hit Jeremy Stevenson for a 52-yard touchdown pass, and Stevenson then caught the ensuing 2-point conversion to push the lead to 14.

Blake Barnett (288 total yards, one touchdown) closed the third quarter with a 39-yard scoring strike to DeAngelo Antoine to pull South Florida back within 43-36 to close the third quarter, which is seemingly where the Bulls wanted the game. South Florida entered Saturday 4-0 under Charlie Strong when trailing entering the fourth quarter.

But King engineered another 75-yard touchdown drive, this time allowing running back Mulbah Car to cross the threshold on an 11-yard rush.

King then added the capper at the 8:05 mark of the third quarter, hitting Raelon Singleton for a 27-yard touchdown pass.

The win announces Houston (7-1, 4-0 AAC) as a legitimate contender with No. 10 UCF in the American, while USF (7-1, 3-1 AAC) suffers the first loss they’ve spent all season flirting with.