Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune during the team’s game against the Rice Owls on Sept. 24 at TDECU Stadium. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)
The Houston Cougars football team saw its two-game skid come to an end against Rice on Saturday behind a thrilling 34-27 win. Check out five observations on the win:
Sack Ave leaves the Owls grounded
Houston defensive lineman D’Anthony Jones made the plays of the game against Rice. With less than five minutes left in the game, Jones found himself in the Rice backfield sacking Owls quarterback TJ McMahon for a loss of 12. McMahon fumbled but the Owls managed to recover.
On the following play, Jones did it again. He pushed through Rice’s offensive linemen to get to McMahon for another sack. McMahon fumbled again, but this time, it was Houston defensive lineman Nelson Ceaser, who scooped up the ball and returned it for the go-ahead touchdown. Houston never relinquished its lead after the scoop and score.
First-half struggles continue
Houston stuck first against Rice, a 19-yard touchdown by freshman receiver Matthew Golden on a play that had some trickery to it. The Cougars faked a handoff and then quarterback Clayton Tune hit Golden in stride on the quick screen. The receiver then turned on the jets and found the end zone. It was the final play of the first quarter.
After that score, however, Rice put up 14 points and took the lead. The Owls’ first score was set up by an interception that occurred when Tune hit receiver Kesean Carter for a pass that he had in his grasp. A big hit by a Rice defender forced the ball in the air, and it was picked off by linebacker Myron Morrison. A Houston field goal made it 14-10 at halftime.
Defensive secondary struggles for Houston but make the play when it counts
The Cougars’ defense struggled giving up big plays against the Owls. A 30-yard pass by Rice quarterback TJ McMahon to receiver Bradley Rozner set up the first score for Rice. A 34-yard gain by Rice receiver Kobie Campbell set up the Owls’ second touchdown. A 52-yard bomb by McMahon to receiver Luke McCaffrey was the Owls’ third touchdown of the game.
After the third touchdown in the third quarter, Houston’s defense managed to stiffen up, holding the Owls to just six points. In the fourth quarter, the Cougars held Rice to only 30 total yards of offense until the final 24 seconds of the period, forcing two turnovers, including the fumble that gave UH the go-ahead lead, and the interception that sealed the game by cornerback Thabo Mwaniki.
On the final that almost forced overtime or saw Houston losing outright, the Cougars gave up 85 total yards.
Houston’s offense comes alive during second half
The Houston Cougars opened up the third quarter with a four-play, 75-yard drive that ended in seven points. A 16-yard run by running back Ta’Zhawn Henry set the tone of the drive. Three plays later, Houston was in the end zone following a 40-yard dart from Tune to receiver Nathaniel Dell.
UH’s second drive of the third quarter also ended in a touchdown. This time a six-play, 80-yard drive that was set up by a 36-yard catch by Dell. Unfortunately for Houston, Dell suffered a leg injury on the play. He limped straight to the tent after the play. Dell returned to the game.
After a penalty, Houston found itself on a 2nd-and-29 but Henry rushed for 28 yards to make it a 3rd-and-1, and he capped the drive off with a four-yard rushing score.
Matthew Golden, ‘Tank’ Dell and Ta’Zhawn Henry shine on offense
Golden scored Houston’s first touchdown of the game, and overall, he had a strong outing for Houston. The 6-foot receiver finished with 49 yards on four catches during Saturday’s contest against Rice.
“Tank” Dell starred in Houston’s offense with a 134-yard performance on seven catches and a touchdown.
Henry ran for 112 yards and a touchdown. It was the running back’s third time in his career exceeding 100 yards in a game, according to Houston Athletics.