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Monday, September 25, 2023


Cougars steamroll TSU in regular season finale

It took the Houston Cougars three plays, 57 yards and one minute, 30 seconds to put their regular season finale against Texas Southern out of reach.

The Cougars defeated Texas Southern 59-6 on Saturday before a weather-thinned crowd of 12,139 at Robertson Stadium.

But other than being the first-ever meeting between the two teams, Saturday’s game was largely meaningless.

A more significant battle was waged across town at Rice Stadium. The Cougars (8-4, 6-2 Conference USA) needed Rice to beat Tulsa in order to win the C-USA West Division title.

However, Tulsa (9-3, 6-2) pulled out a tight 48-43 win and claimed its second C-USA West crown in the last three years. Tulsa and Houston finished tied atop the West standings, but the Golden Hurricane will face Central Florida in Saturday’s C-USA Championship Game by virtue of its 56-7 victory over Houston on Nov. 10.

The Cougars won’t have a chance to repeat as C-USA champions, but they will go to their third straight bowl game and fourth in the last five years under head coach Art Briles.

The most likely scenario for Houston will be an appearance in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 28 at Reliant Stadium. The Cougars’ opponent could be a Big 12 team, but only if enough teams from that conference become bowl eligible. If the latter does not happen, Houston would probably face an opponent from an at-large conference.

The bowl scenarios will be sorted out on Monday. Until then, the Cougars can reflect on the dominance they showcased in Saturday’s season finale.

The Cougars’ opening drive against TSU (0-11) was a good indication of how the game would go. Senior running back Anthony Alridge scored on a 52-yard touchdown run on the game’s third play from scrimmage.

Houston scored on seven of its eight possessions in the first half. The Cougars’ only other drive of the second quarter ended with a missed 45-yard field goal by senior kicker T.J. Lawrence.

The Cougars compiled 457 of their 664 total yards in the first half. Houston converted on all four of its red-zone chances and went into the locker room at halftime with a 47-0 lead.

Most of the Cougars’ starters were out of the game by halftime.

Alridge put together an impressive first half, rushing for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Senior wide receiver Donnie Avery racked up 143 receiving yards and a touchdown on six catches.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Case Keenum only played one quarter. He completed eight of nine passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.

Houston got a chance to play some its young talent and senior reserves in the second half. Freshman running back Terrance Ganaway rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.

Redshirt freshman wide receiver/quarterback L.J. Castile got his second chance to play at quarterback. His first opportunity came when in the Cougars’ 49-10 victory over Alabama-Birmingham on Oct. 20.

Senior wide receiver Matthew Stolt, who doubles as the team’s mascot, Shasta, snagged his first career reception in the fourth quarter.

TSU had no such luck on offense.

The Tigers did not cross midfield until eight seconds into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for TSU, that drive stalled when Cougars sophomore linebacker Mamoom Barbandi intercepted a pass from TSU quarterback Cornelius Harmon and returned it 41 yards for his first career touchdown.

TSU’s lone score came when Harmon hit wide receiver William Osborne for a 49-yard touchdown pass with 9:58 left in the game.

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