Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune scans the field and looks to make a play against South Florida during UH’s game on Oct. 29 at TDECU Stadium. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)
The Houston Cougars football team has now won three games in a row. UH’s offense was too much for South Florida to keep up with, and the defense buckled down following a shaky start.
Houston (5-3, 3-1 American Athletic Conference) defeated USF (1-7, 0-4 AAC) 42-27 on Saturday afternoon at TDECU Stadium. Check out five observations from the big win.
Houston’s offense opens strong, again
For the second straight week, the Cougars offense scored a touchdown in its opening drive of the game. Prior to the last two weeks, UH had only scored a touchdown on its first drive once, which came against Kansas.
On his birthday, receiver Nathaniel ‘Tank’ Dell starred. He scored the first touchdown of the game, which came on a slant route at the one-yard line.
While the Bulls’ offense got off to a strong start as well, Houston managed to score another touchdown in the opening period.
The second drive received a huge boost when Houston quarterback Clayton Tune hit receiver Sam Brown for a gain of 32 yards that put the ball at its 18-yard line. A few plays later, running back Stacy Sneed rushed for eight yards to punch the other touchdown. The game was tied at 14 after one.
Defense struggles with the Bulls early
South Florida’s offense could do no wrong in the first quarter after its first drive. While Houston forced the Bulls to punt on their opening drive, USF still managed to put up 14 points in the period.
In their second drive of the game, USF ran the ball at will against Houston. Led by running back Brian Battie, the Bulls marched down the field in just five plays. USF covered 85 yards, all on rushing plays, and the drive was capped off with a 13-yard rushing touchdown by Battie.
USF’s next offensive drive actually bested the previous one. It took the Bulls only four plays to move 76 yards. This time, the Bulls moved through the air.
A 30-yard connection from quarterback Katravis Marsh and receiver Xavier Weaver, a 10-yard pass to Battie and a holding penalty against Art Green led to the drive ending in a six-yard rushing touchdown for Battie that gave USF a 14-7 lead.
For the rest of the game, however, the defense was able to atone for the sluggish first quarter. Houston allowed USF to score only 13 points the rest of the way.
Birthday Boy shines
Dell was an all-star for the Cougars against South Florida. He finished the game with nine catches for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
Arguably the best play of the game for Dell and Tune was a bomb thrown by the quarterback in the middle of the second quarter. The dynamic duo connected on a 52-yard pass that gave Houston a 21-14 lead it never relinquished.
Dell was even involved in the passing game a bit. The Cougars called a flea-flicker early in the fourth quarter that involved Tune getting the ball to Dell, who threw it back to Tune, who then found receiver KeSean Carter for the 28-yard touchdown that was the coup de grâce for USF.
Houston QB continues red-hot stretch
Tune has been on another level since the fourth quarter against Memphis. Going back to the final period against the Tigers, Tune has thrown 788 passing yards and 12 touchdowns with no interceptions.
The Carrollton native continued his stellar play against South Florida. He ended the game with 380 passing yards and four touchdowns against the Bulls. For the first time in his career, Tune has thrown three or more touchdowns in three straight games.
Tune also made history against USF. Before the end of the first half, the quarterback surpassed 10,000 career passing yards, making him just the third person in program history to do that. Only Kevin Kolb and Case Keenum have thrown for more career yards than Tune in Houston Cougars history.
New faces keep making plays for UH
For the second straight week, Houston running back Stacy Sneed excelled in the backfield for the Cougars. Against South Florida, the redshirt freshman accumulated 60 yards and scored two touchdowns. His first score, an eight-yard rush, was the first touchdown of his collegiate career.
Junior receiver Peyton Sawyer accumulated three receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown.