Cougars upset No. 23 East Carolina
GREENVILLE, N.C. – It would be easy to focus on the huge games freshman running back Bryce Beall, sophomore quarterback Case Keenum and redshirt freshman wide receiver Patrick Edwards had in Houston’s 41-24 upset of the No. 23 Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in front of 43,641.
The Cougars (2-3, 1-0 Conference USA) put up 621 yards and five touchdowns against ECU (3-2, 1-1 C-USA), but anyone who watched the Saturday’s knows it was the team’s first complete game against a quality opponent this season. The defense stepped up to the challenge and matched the Cougars’ offensive production with big plays when they needed them most.
In the first half, the defense held ECU to 94 yards and bullied quarterback Patrick Pinkney into submission. The senior had completed 71 percent of his passes against team’s like West Virginia and Virginia Tech coming into the game, but hit receivers only four out of 10 times in two quarters against the Cougars.
It forced ECU head coach Skip Holtz to change QBs at the half. Junior Rob Kass started the third quarter for ECU, but he didn’t fare too well either. He ended his first drive going 1-for-3 for negative three yards. The Cougars held ECU to 275 total yards on the day and forced two fumbles on the way to victory. Houston’s defense made one of many huge stops of the day to close out the third quarter. On third and two on ECU’s 40 yard-line, junior linebacker Matt Nicholson hit ECU senior running back Brandon Simmons in the backfield to force a punt and put ECU’s tired defense back on the field. Keenum capitalized in the most demoralizing manner. On second and 14 from the 16 yard-line, the sophomore sensation eluded ECU defenders in the backfield before finding sophomore wide receiver Kierrie Johnson lounging at the 50 waiting for the ball to fall in his lap. Johnson skipped, untouched, into the endzone to give UH a 31-17 lead with 14:06 left in the game. That score was followed up with a sack and a forced fumble by senior defensive end Phillip Hunt on Pinkney, which led to a four-yard touchdown run for Beall with 12:04 remaining in the game, his second of the day. He finished with 135 yards. Keenum finished the game with 399 yards passing and three touchdowns despite turning the ball over three times. His target of choice was Edwards, who ended the night with 146 yards and a touchdown. Pinkney returned to the game to lead the Pirates on an 80-yard drive that ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass with just under 8:30 remaining in the game. Houston, however, continued its dominance on the offensive side of the ball and scored 17 points in the final quarter to cement the win over the Pirates.