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Friday, September 22, 2023


Cougars drill Miners through team effort

Bend but not break: that’s the slogan for the Houston Cougar’s defense this season.

Another defensive hold by Houston (5-3, 4-1 Conference USA) in the fourth quarter against Texas-El Paso kept the Cougars at first place in C-USA West with a 34-31 win.

The win moved Houston one game ahead of Tulsa and dropped UTEP (4-4, 2-2 C-USA) into third place in C-USA West.

Sophomore safety Brandon Brinkley should receive a lot of the credit for the victory.

Brinkley made a critical fourth-and-1 play when he broke up a potential first down pass from UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe to backup quarterback/wide receiver Lorne Sam.

"At first I thought about coming up (on the quarterback) but I get in trouble for that," Brinkley said. "(Head coach Art Briles) always says to play your man when the quarterback scrambles. I turned around – we do this drill where you read hands and eyes, and I read his hands – and when he went up I knocked it out."

Senior running back Anthony Alridge had another great performance as he rushed for 204 yards on a career-high 27 carries.

"Quick-6" reached the 200-yard mark for the third time this season and fourth in his career.

Alridge seemed to be trading blows with Miners running back Marcus Thomas.

Thomas finished with 28 carries and 178 yards. But both outstanding backs failed to reach the end zone.

"I don’t care (about not scoring): we came out with a victory," Alridge said. "It’s not about the touchdowns, it’s about the wins and that’s what we came out and did."

Alridge may have had the big game, but freshman Terrance Ganaway had the game-winning touchdown from a yard out with 7:01 left in the game.

Ganaway carried the rock 10 times for 15 yards, but saved his best for last.

"That was great. That was big," Alridge said. "That’s a confidence booster for him and I hope he continues to succeed."

Ganaway also broke free in the fourth quarter to drain the clock down to less than three minutes, and Briles said that’s one of the biggest plays Ganaway has had this season.

"We’ll take it," Briles said. "What I remember is the first down play he got for us (in the fourth quarter), then we took the sack and that hurt. The touchdown and (the first down) were the biggest plays he’s had."

Sophomore quarterback Blake Joseph (10-of-14 for 98 yards) may have started the game, but it was redshirt quarterback Case Keenum’s game.

By no stretch of the imagination did Joseph have a bad game, but Keenum accounted for three touchdowns – two rushing and one passing.

Keenum credits a total team effort and took nothing away from UTEP.

"We fought hard. This is not an easy place to play. Their fans were really into it and they came out hard. They did a good job moving the ball when they needed to and their defense played tough too," Keenum said. "We fought on all aspects of the game: offense, defense, special teams and the offensive line played well. We got one of those last drives. Fourth quarter came down to the offensive line and they played great today."

UTEP couldn’t seem to contain Keenum through the air or on the ground, compiling a nice game going 13-of-20 for 116 yards and rushing for 88 yards on 10 carries.

Keenum’s lone five-yard touchdown pass may have been the toughest of the year.

Keenum avoided a couple of sacks and scrambled out and found senior wide receiver Perry McDaniel in the deep in the end zone.

"Their guy tripped up two of their other guys and I got lucky there," Keenum said. "Perry did a good job of getting open… he made a great play."

One persistent problem for the Cougars seems to be fixed. After giving up 21 turnovers over the first six games, the Cougars have not turned the ball over in the past two games.

"We been through a few wins here in the past three or four years, but that’s as good a win that we’ve ever had and I include all the games from last year because of how we had to do it, where we had to do it and how our guys rose up to overcome something," Briles said. "So from that standpoint it was a total team effort.

"Defense makes fourth down stops, special teams does a great job, offense does a great job and doesn’t have a turnover and that’s as complete a game we’ve played in a long time."

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