5 observations from Houston’s loss to Tulsa

Houston Cougars receiver Nathaniel ‘Tank’ Dell had a strong performance in the Cougars’ regular-season finale against Tulsa on Saturday night inside of TDECU Stadium. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)

5 observations from Houston’s loss to Tulsa

The Houston Cougars football team had a disappointing end to the 2022 regular season as it dropped its final game of the year to Tulsa.

Houston (7-5, 5-3 American Athletic) saw its explosive offense cool down against the Golden Hurricane as Tulsa made just enough big plays to defeat the Cougars, 37-30.

Disappointing end to season

Houston entered Saturday’s matchup with a minimal shot at making the American Athletic Conference championship game. A Central Florida win over South Florida while UH’s game was ongoing put an end to the slim possibility.

However, Houston’s loss to Tulsa was a tough way to end a season that began with aspirations at winning the AAC title. The Cougars’ hot offense saw their 40-point scoring streak end on Saturday. The defense once again allowed an opponent to score more than 35 points.

Tune has strong first half, quiet second

Senior quarterback Clayton Tune put together a strong performance in the first half of his final home game as a member of the Houston Cougars football team.

Entering the halftime break, Tune had completed 15-of-25 passes for 256 passing yards and two touchdowns against Tulsa (5-7, 3-5 AAC). In the second half, Houston’s offense came to a screeching halt. It managed only six points against Tulsa.

As Tune began Houston’s final offensive drive of the game, he had only thrown 66 passing yards in the second half. He also threw a bad interception in the third quarter.

Tulsa’s defense did a great job at covering all of Houston’s receivers. With time running out, and Golden Hurricane defenders crashing down on Tune, he unloaded a pass into double coverage intended for tight end Christian Trahan that was picked off.

Tune was able to lead Houston down the field for a field on its final offensive possession. He ended the game 26-of-47 passing on the night for 386 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Tank takes it to the house, stars out on Saturday night

Dell had yet another strong outing against Tulsa. Dell’s statline has become automatic for him: over 100 receiving yards, multiple catches, at least one touchdown, and on Saturday night against the Golden Hurricane, he had a bonus — a punt return touchdown.

Early in the first quarter, Houston’s star receiver was back out to return the punt. He made the initial defender miss, then he made another one miss, and seconds later, he was zooming past the entire Tulsa unit and on a straight line toward the end zone.

Dell’s punt return touchdown was the first of the season for Houston. The last time the Cougars returned a punt for a score was Marcus Jones against Navy on Sept. 25, 2021. Dell ended the game with nine catches for 161 yards and one receiving touchdown, along with the punt return score.

Golden days ahead

One of the strong bright spots for the Houston Cougars football team this season, especially since his return from a rib injury in early November, has been receiver Matthew Golden.

The freshman receiver has separated himself as UH’s second-most consistent wideout behind only ‘Tank’ Dell. Going back to Houston’s game against SMU, which was Golden’s first after missing two outings, he caught at least one touchdown in each contest to end the regular season.

Golden ended the game with three catches for 42 yards and the lone touchdown.

Defensive struggles return

Like it has been for most of the season, Houston’s defense struggled to defend Tulsa’s offense and could not build from its impressive showing against East Carolina. The Golden Hurricane scored 37 points against UH.

Tulsa had multiple chunk plays, including a huge breakdown on the fourth down toward the end of the first half that allowed Golden Hurricane quarterback Braylon Braxton to sprint for a 37-yard rush that cut Houston’s 11-point lead to just four heading into halftime.

The Golden Hurricane hurt the Cougars with another big play on the first possession of the third quarter. It took Tulsa just two minutes to take the lead at the beginning of the third quarter. The Golden Hurricane scored on a 52-yard reception by receiver JuanCarlos Santana, who blew the top off the UH defense.

Santana scored another touchdown late in the fourth quarter to give Tulsa the go-ahead lead.

Houston did have three sacks and eight tackles for loss against Tulsa. Houston’s special teams unit was also on the struggle bus against Tulsa.

Houston missed a field-goal attempt by Kyle Ramsey. In the fourth quarter, punter Laine Wilkins whiffed on a punt that went just 12 yards and set up Tulsa on a scoring drive that iced the game for the Golden Hurricane.

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