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Thursday, September 28, 2023


FOOTBALL: Cougars use last-minute score to top Southern Miss

The Cougars’ defense can thank Case Keenum for Saturday’s 50-43 victory over Southern Miss.

After UH’s defense allowed an 18-point fourth-quarter lead to vanish, the junior quarterback led his team on the game-winning 77-yard drive. Keenum’s 28-yard toss to Patrick’ Edwards’ capped the drive and gave the No. 15 Cougars (7-1, 3-1 Conference USA) a 50-43 lead with 21 seconds left to play.

Keenum’ believes the offense also plays an integral part in limiting opponents’ offensive production, especially when the defense cannot finish the job.

‘When’ our offense is on the field, it’s our best defense,’ Keenum said.

Southern Miss (5-4, 3-2 C-USA) chucked two Hail Mary passes before time expired, but quarterback Martevious Young, who threw for’ 334 yards and three touchdowns,’ could not connect with any of his receivers.

Keenum was stellar throughout the game, completing 44 of his 54 pass attempts for five touchdowns and a career-high 559 yards. This was also another impressive performance for UH’s offense,’ which compiled a seson-high 715 total yards and converted six of 11 third-down attempts.

The defense was a different story.

After it was spotted a 40-22 lead with less than 13 minutes remaining, it fell apart in front of an underwhelming crowd of 20,105. The Golden Eagles scored touchdowns on its next three possessions to tie the game at 43 with 57 seconds left in regulation.

Fortunately for the Cougars, Keenum delivered in crunch time.

‘Our guys did not panic,’ Sumlin said. ‘We made enough plays to win. That says a little bit about our team. We win as a team.’

The win allows UH to’ remain in a tie for first place’ in the C-USA West Division and’ marks the Cougars’ 13th straight victory at Robertson Stadium.

On the first drive of the second half, Southern Miss drove the ball 66 yards and took 7:33 off the clock. But the Golden Eagles could not score, as Daniel Hrapmann’s 32-yard field-goal attempt missed wide left with 8:27 left in the third quarter.

UH’s first possession of the second half also ended in a field-goal attempt, but Matt Hogan did not miss. His 34-yard field goal capped a 12-play, 63-yard drive and pushed the Cougars’ lead to 33-22 with 4:03 remaining in the third.

UH extended its advantage to 40-22 when Keenum threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to James Cleveland with 12:25 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Southern Miss fired back with a 10-play, 70-yard drive, capped by Tory Harrison’s 1-yard touchdown run, to cut its deficit to 40-29 with 8:54 left to play.

The Cougars’ offense, however, was not done.

Keenum engineered another successful drive, as UH’s offense went 63 yards in nine plays before settling for a 23-yard field goal from Matt Hogan.

The Golden Eagles pulled within 43-36 when quarterback Martevious Young connected with Gerald Baptiste for a 5-yard touchdown with 5:25 remaining.

The Cougars appeared to put the game away on the next drive, moving to the Southern Miss 22 before Bryce Beall lost his second fumble of the ball game.

This allowed Young to lead Southern Miss on an eight-play, 78-yard drive that tied the game. Running back Tory Harrison found the end zone from 1-yard out to even the score at 43 with less than a minute left, but Keenum came to the Cougars’ rescue.

Both offenses came out firing, combining for 52 points and 690 yards in the first half

Southern Miss caught a break on the first play of scrimmage, as Beall fumbled the ball. Linebacker Korey Williams fell on the ball to give the Golden Eagles possession at UH’s 21-yard-line.

Four plays later, running back Damion Fletcher powered into the end zone from 6 yards out to put Southern Miss up, 6-0, with 13:38 remaining in the first quarter. Fendi Onubon kept the deficit at 6-0 by blocking Justin Estes’ extra-point attempt.

Two UH possessions later, running back Charles Sims’ 31-yard rushing touchdown gave the Cougars a 7-6 lead with 6:29 left in the opening quarter.

The Golden Eagles regained the lead, 13-7, when Young connected with a wide-open Gerald Baptiste for a 70-yard touchdown with 1:00 left in the first. The Cougars’ defense appeared fooled by Young’s play-action fake, allowing Baptiste to sneak behind UH’s secondary and make a big play.

Less than two minutes later, UH was on top again.

Keenum engineered a seven-play, 74-yard drive, capped by a 33-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Dugat to give UH a 14-13 advantage with 14:10 left before halftime. The score was the first of Dugat’s collegiate career, but it probably will not be the last for the highly touted freshman from Dayton High School.

The Cougars stretched their lead to 21-13 when Keenum hooked up with Tim Monroe on a 55-yard touchdown pass with 11:41 remaining in the second quarter. Monroe did most of the work, breaking a tackle to turn what would have been a gain of less than 15 yards into six points.

The Golden Eagles cut the Cougars’ lead to 21-19 when Young scrambled into the end zone from 1-yard out with 7:49 left before the break.

But UH quickly regained the momentum, as Onubon blocked his second extra-point attempt of the game. Safety Nick Saenz scooped up the ball and returned it 101 yards for a reverse deuce that gave the Cougars a 23-19 advantage.

On its next possession, Southern Miss pulled within 23-22 when Hrapmann nailed a 29-yard field goal with 2:28 remaining in the second quarter.

UH increased its lead to 30-22 when Keenum threaded the needle on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cleveland with 37 seconds left in the second quarter.

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