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Friday, September 29, 2023


Cougars ram CSU

Houston’s 38-27 victory over Colorado State on Saturday at Robertson Stadium was definitely a total team win, thanks largely to the Cougars’ effort in the second half.

Play after play, the Houston defense forced Colorado State (0-3) into uncomfortable situations and mistakes.

Most importantly, the Cougars (2-1) allowed only 10 second-half points.

Junior nose tackle Tate Stewart produced one of the game’s biggest plays when he stripped the ball from Rams running back Kyle Bell late in the third quarter.

The fumble was recovered by junior safety Kenneth Fontenette, who returned it 37 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 24.

The Cougars offense was in good hands under the direction of redshirt freshman Case Keenum, who replaced redshirt sophomore Blake Joseph in the second quarter.

Keenum came into the game on fire, completing his first 11 passes. He finished 18-of-22 for 197 yards and two touchdowns. Keenum also rushed for 57 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries.

With a performance like this, Keenum may have ended the quarterback controversy between himself and redshirt sophomore Blake Joseph, who was only 4-of-8 passing for 50 yards and was sacked three times.

And after struggling in the first half, both sides of the ball found the energy in the second half needed to carry the Cougars to victory.

"We fought hard today," Keenum said. "When the offense was struggling the defense was there to hold us up. When the defense struggled, (the offense) was trying to get back in it. It’s one of those things where it’s a team effort."

Another great show of defense came late in the fourth quarter. The Cougars stopped Colorado State quarterback Caleb Hanie (16-of-26 passing, 227 yards, 3 TDs) on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-2 from the Houston 47-yard line with just under three minutes left in the game to seal the win.

"That’s what we’re all about – being a unit, stepping up, and rising to challenges," Stewart said. "Fourth and inches, fourth quarter, game on the line – that’s why you play football.

"We rose to the occasion, they didn’t, and we won the football game."

Senior running back Anthony Alridge didn’t have his best game (62 yards on 15 carries). Colorado State looked determined to contain the speedy back and, for the most part, did.

But Alridge couldn’t care less.

"Today is case and point. I don’t have to get in the end zone for us to win," Alridge said.

"We have weapons all over. You just can’t focus on one player. If I’m that one player they want to focus on, then bring it because I love it."

The first half against Colorado State is surely something the Cougars don’t want to remember.

The Cougars posted three points in that period, their lowest first-half point total at Robertson Stadium since Oct. 18, 2003 against Memphis when they were held scoreless in the first half.

"We were frustrated at halftime. We settled down, analyzed what had happened in the first half and tried to figure out a couple things they were doing to us with their defense," Cougars head coach Art Briles said.

The Cougars totaled 157 yards in the first half, but were only 1-of-7 on third-down attempts. The offense suffered from costly penalties, dropped passes and fumbled snaps.

"It wasn’t difficult to move the ball; we were just making mistakes. You can’t have penalties, like false starts and holding or clips, and fumble snaps against a good team," Alridge said. "Don’t let (Colorado State’s) record fool you; they have some players and they play physical and tough."

The difference between the first and second halves were night and day. The Houston team that exited the locker room in the second half pulled a 180-degree turn and gave the home crowd something to cheer about.

"We didn’t come out that fired up, but I think we came out in the second half ready to play," Alridge said. "We just came out in the second half and opened up a can."

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