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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Cougars trounce Tulane, earn first conference win of season

NEW ORLEANS ‘- The No. 23 Cougars came to the Big Easy looking for a big and easy victory over the perennially disappointing Green Wave.

UH accomplished the big part of the equation, winning 44-16, but it was far from easy in heading into halftime.

UH’s 9-6 halftime advantage marked the Cougars’ lowest first-half output since scoring’ 9 against UTEP in 2008.

Whatever hope Tulane had entering the second half was short lived, as quarterback Case Keenum led the Cougars on an eight-play, 60-yard scoring drive on their first possession, capped by Justin Johnson’s first career rushing touchdown from 3 yards out.

Jordan Mannisto, subbing for Ben Bell after he botched a first-half extra point and field goal, missed his first attempt at an extra point, but UH still held a 15-9 lead with 13:02 left in the third quarter.

Tulane’s first second-half possession stalled after consecutive penetrations by UH defenders to set up a third-and-13. After a failed scramble by Tulane quarterback Joe Kemp, UH’s Jeremy Smith blocked a punt on fourth down to give the Cougars a first-and-goal at Tulane’s 6-yard-line.

Two plays later, Keenum connected with wide receiver James Cleveland from 6 yards out to give UH a 22-6 lead with 9:32 remaining in the third quarter. Keenum (30-of-43, 334 yards, two touchdowns) overcame an inconsistent first half to pass for more 300 yards for the sixth time this season and the 19th time in his career.

The Cougars upped their lead to 29-6 when running back Bryce Beall, who rushed for 64 yards on 16 carries, strolled into the end zone for a 1-yard score with 3:19 left in the third quarter. The biggest play of the drive occurred when Keenum found a wide-open wide receiver Chaz Rodriguez, who had a game-high six receptions for 64 yards, for a 34-yard gain that pushed UH into the red zone.

On the last play of the third quarter, Green Wave running back Andre Anderson scampered 25 yards, giving his team a first-and-goal at the Cougars’ 5. Three plays later, quarterback Ryan Griffin hooked up with fullback Anthony Duplessis for the first touchdowns of each player’s career to cut Tulane’s deficit to 29-13 with 14:09 remaining in the game.

The Green Wave would not come any closer, as UH responded with an 11-play, 74-yard drive that ended in Johnson’s 6-yard rushing touchdown with 11:04 left to play. Johnson followed by catching a pass from Keenum for a 2-point conversion that gave the Cougars a 37-13 lead and crushed any chances of a miraculous comeback.

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