Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune threw seven touchdowns and three interceptions in Saturday’s loss to SMU. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)
The Houston Cougars football team had an abysmal defensive performance against SMU as the Mustangs’ high-powered offense ran laps on the Cougars all evening long.
The Cougars (5-4, 3-2 American Athletic Conference) saw their three-game winning streak snap as the Mustangs (5-4, 3-2 AAC) defeated Houston 77-63.
UH defense has an atrocious night for the ages
SMU could do whatever it wanted to in the passing game against Houston. Big play after play, drive after drive saw the Mustangs finding success all evening long.
The Mustangs scored seven touchdowns in their first seven drives. Six of the seven were on passes thrown by SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai. The lone touchdown that did not came on a rush by Mordecai himself.
When it was all said and done, the Cougars allowed Mordecai and the Mustangs to end the game with multiple new records. Mordecai went 28-of-37 for 379 passing yards and nine touchdowns, which is one school record. Mordecai also rushed for a touchdown. The Cougars could not contain running back Tyler Lavine, who rushed for 146 yards and another touchdown.
SMU’s 77 points were also a new program record.
Fast & furious start
Both offenses initially came out with their fireworks locked and loaded in Saturday night’s contest. After just the first quarter, SMU led Houston 21-14 and the period ended with the Cougars marching down the field for a drive that opened the second quarter with another touchdown.
It was touchdown drive after touchdown drive for both teams in the first half. The first seven drives of the game all ended in touchdowns.
After the first quarter, Houston quarterback Clayton Tune was six-of-eight for 97 passing yards, one touchdown, and he added an additional touchdown and 89 yards on the ground. SMU quarterback Tanner Mordecai was nine-of-11 for 140 yards and three touchdowns.
Interceptions hurt Coogs
For a majority of the first half, the Houston offense was keeping pace with the SMU offense. With the score at 28-21, Tune threw an interception on a pass that was slightly overthrown to receiver KeSean Carter.
The ball popped up off Carter’s fingers and straight into the hands of SMU safety Nick Roberts, who returned it and set the Mustangs in great field positioning. SMU converted it to a touchdown.
Then on the following offensive possession for Houston, Tune once again threw an interception, and it was again Roberts, who picked the quarterback.
Once again, it came on a pass intended for Carter, however, this time it was Roberts, who made a perfect read and broke at the right time to intercept Tune. SMU drove down the short field and capped it off with a short touchdown reception by RJ Maryland.
Those two interceptions proved to be the difference in the wild shootout. Tune threw another pick late in the final two minutes of the game trying to force a ball to Carter once again. The pick sealed the win for the Mustangs.
Towards the latter part of the second quarter, Carter made a spectacular catch that kept the Cougars within striking distance of the Mustangs.
Tune threw a jump ball toward the end zone, and it looked like SMU defensive back Brandon Crossley was poised to intercept Tune for the third time on the night. Instead, Carter skied and snatched the ball from Crossley’s hands, which resulted in a 37-yard touchdown that cut Houston’s deficit to 42-28. Carter’s Randy Moss moment was a highlight for the Coogs on the night.
The receivers overall for Houston were the lone silver lining for the Cougars. Nathaniel Dell had 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Carter had 136 receiving yards and a touchdown. Matthew Golden, who returned from a rib injury, had 105 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Tougher path to AAC Championship
Houston’s chance to make the AAC Championship game is not over after Saturday night’s loss, but it did become extremely difficult.
Tulane remains undefeated at the top with a 5-0 record. Both Central Florida and Cincinnati won to improve to 4-1, and now Houston finds itself in a tie with East Carolina and SMU at 3-2.