Houston Cougars football quarterback Clayton Tune during Saturday afternoon’s game against Temple at TDECU Stadium. (Courtesy Houston Athletics).
The Houston Cougars football team avoided back-to-back losses behind late heroics from quarterback Clayton Tune.
Houston (6-4, 4-2 American Athletic Conference) defeated Temple (3-7, 1-5 AAC) 43-36. With the win, the Cougars are now bowl-eligible.
Clayton Tune keeps shining
The Houston quarterback continued his offensive onslaught on Saturday afternoon against Temple. The Carrollton native finished with 289 passing yards and three touchdowns, and he added 29 yards and one touchdown on the ground. He also had a key two-point conversion at the end of the game to extend Houston’s lead to a full seven points.
Tune marched the Cougars down the field following a late score by Temple that put the Owls ahead 36-35. Tune found receiver Matthew Golden, who was streaking down the middle of the field, for the final go-ahead touchdown.
Tune also became the second quarterback in AAC history to pass for over 10,782 career yards.
Defense still shaky
Houston’s defense played better than it did against SMU last Saturday, but it still struggled to contain Temple’s offense throughout the game. The Owls had drives where it could march down the field at will, including the first one of the game, which was 10 plays for 79 yards that ended in a 13-yard touchdown by receiver David Martin-Robinson.
To the Cougars’ credit, they did manage to force two turnovers on downs by the Owls, including one that did not allow Temple to score any points following an interception. However, the defense also allowed five touchdown drives, including a go-ahead score with less than 90 seconds left in the game.
Temple went on a 12-play, 73-yard drive to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, forcing Houston to match the score on its final drive. However, UH stopped Temple from scoring a touchdown on the game’s final drive. The Owls had 40 seconds to attempt a last comeback.
Offense has inconsistent start, turns it up late
The Houston offense managed to put 43 points on the board, which is now five straight games in which UH has scored 33 or more points. It is also the third consecutive game Houston has scored 42 or more points. However, not everything was smooth sailing for the Cougars, particularly in the first half.
Houston had an interception on the first drive of the game. On what looked like was going to be a walk-in touchdown for receiver KeSean Carter, a well-placed ball by Tune bounced off Carter’s hands and straight into those of Temple defensive back Muheem McCargo. The Owls were unable to convert the turnover into points.
UH had its bright moments on offense. To no surprise, the Tune-to-Nathaniel Dell connection was strong again versus the Owls. Dell had 12 catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Special teams giveth and taketh
Houston’s special teams had some good moments but also some bad ones. The positive came in the second quarter when Temple safety Corey Cuascut-Palmer fumbled the ball on a kickoff return, which was recovered by junior defensive back Noah Guzman.
The turnover set the Cougars up at the Owls’ 33-yard line. UH was able to take the turnover and convert it into a 16-yard rushing touchdown by Tune.
In that same quarter, Houston’s defense allowed Temple to march down the field and get a goal-to-go situation. The Cougars stopped the Owls from scoring a touchdown, and on fourth-and-goal from the 10-yard line, Temple ran a fake field goal that allowed punter Mackenzie Morgan to run it in for the score that made it a 14-13 game.
Stacy Sneed continues strong play, has costly mistake
The Arlington native running back has been sensational for the Cougars since the team’s game against Navy, and his stellar play continued against the Owls.
Sneed’s best runs of the afternoon came on back-to-back rushes early in the third quarter. He gashed the Temple defense for 32 yards, and on the next play, he delivered another blow with a 23-yard touchdown run that helped put Houston ahead 21-19.
He finished the afternoon with 143 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, he also had a costly fumble toward the end of the fourth quarter that led to a go-ahead touchdown by Temple that forced UH have to march down the field in the fourth quarter to regain the lead.