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Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Cougars tame Mustangs, 38-15

Just about everything went the Cougars’ way during the first 31 minutes of their 38-15 blowout of SMU on Saturday.

Every time the Mustangs put the ball on the Robertson Stadium turf, a UH player picked it up. Almost any play that went under official review went in favor of the Associated Press No. 17 Cougars (6-1, 2-1 Conference USA).

But it wasn’t just the big plays. Even the little things, including several dropped passes by the Mustangs’ receivers, seemed to swing in UH’s favor.

The remaining 29 minutes were not pretty, but good enough to send the majority of the announced homecoming crowd of 26,889 home happy.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin’ said some of his younger players still have to learn how to keep their intensity at a high level for the entire game.

‘We have to play with an edge,’ Sumlin said. ‘We have to develop some more leadership on the field to do that. When you have young guys out there, it’s hard to create energy when you’re not making big plays.’

The Cougars dominated just about every category of the stat sheet during the first half, leaping out to a 24-3 halftime lead. Despite losing starting quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell to a dislocated shoulder during the first quarter, SMU still had an outside shot at the upset.

Thirteen seconds into the second half, Tyron Carrier put SMU’s hopes to rest.

The sophomore wide receiver’s 92-yard touchdown return on the opening kickoff of the second half gave UH a commanding 31-3 lead, allowing the Cougars to turn on their cruise control.

SMU closed the gap to 31-9 on running back Shawnbrey McNeal’s 4-yard rushing touchdown with 14:21 left in the fourth quarter, but Matt Szymanski’s extra point attempt was blocked.

The Mustangs crept within 31-15 on quarterback Kyle Padron’s 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Aldrick Robinson with 9:48 left in the game. SMU’s 2-point conversion attempt failed, however, and that was as close it would get.

For good measure, running back Charles Sims gave the Cougars a 38-15 advantage when he powered into the end zone from 6 yards out with 5:44 remaining. The touchdown allowed UH’s offense to avoid a scoreless second half, something that rarely occurs at Robertson Stadium.

Despite Saturday’s success, Sumlin knows his team has room for improvement.

‘Are we there yet? No,’ Sumlin said. ‘With that said, we’re 6-1 and we can still play better.’

The Cougars’ offense was much more active during the first half. UH took a 7-0 lead on Sims’ 20-yard rushing touchdown with 8:10 left in the first quarter.

This’ marked the second of 20-plus yard gains during the drive, as quarterback Case Keenum connected with Carrier for a 21-yard reception on the previous play.

The Cougars’ defense set up UH’s second score when defensive end Tyrell Graham crushed Mitchell, forcing a fumble that was scooped up by linebacker C.J. Cavness at the Mustangs’ 1-yard-line. The hit left Mitchell on the ground for a few minutes and SMU without its starting quarterback for the rest of the game.

On the next play, running back Bryce Beall dove into the end zone to give UH a 14-0 lead with 1:58 remaining in the opening quarter.

On their next possession, the Cougars moved the ball to the SMU 4 before settling for Matt Hogan’s 22-yard field goal. The kick gave UH a 17-0 lead with 12:44 left before halftime, but SMU didn’t go down without a fight.

The Mustangs appeared to narrow the gap to 17-6 when quarterback Braden Smith, who shared snaps’ with Padron,’ hit wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders for a 9-yard touchdown strike on a third-and-5 attempt. But an official review overturned the call because Sanders never had complete control of the ball. This forced SMU to opt for a Szymanski 27-yard field goal that cut the Cougars’ lead to 17-3 with 8:05 remaining before the break.

UH quickly responded with an 8-play, 68-yard drive that was capped by Keenum’s 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Patrick Edwards. This gave the Cougars a comfortabe 24-3 advantage with 5:14 left in the second quarter.

UH’s defense stood tall once more in the first half, forcing a turnover on downs after an ugly 27-yard punt from Chase Turner gave the Mustangs possession at the Cougars’ 31.

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