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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Cougars withstand valiant effort from Tulsa, earn 46-45 win

TULSA, Okla. – Matt Hogan’s leg and a strong wind may have saved UH’s chances for a top-10 ranking and a spot in the Conference USA championship game.

The red-shirt freshman nailed a wind-aided 51-yard field goal as time expired to give’ the 13th-ranked Cougars’ a 46-45 victory Saturday in front of a crowd of 20,243 at Chapman Stadium.

The kick was the fourth-longest in school history and a career high for Hogan, but he was just trying not to panic.

‘I just tried to keep a calm head,’ Hogan said. ‘I was glad to make it from that distance.’

The Golden Hurricane took a 45-37 lead on fullback Charles Clay’s 1-yard rushing touchdown with 3:28 left in the game, but UH’s offense was ready to answer.

Quarterback Case Keenum engineered a 13-play, 61-yard drive that ended with James Cleveland’s 1-yard touchdown reception with 21 seconds left in the game. But the Cougars’ two-point conversion attempt failed, as Keenum was sacked by linebacker Tanner Antle.

UH (8-1, 4-1 C-USA) did not quit, however, as’ Tim Monroe’ recovered the ensuing onside kick after it was botched by Tulsa’s hands team.

Then Keenum hooked up with Cleveland and Tyron Carrier on consecutive receptions to move UH to the Golden Hurricane’s 34-yard-line with less than 5 seconds left to play.

Faced with a touch decision, head coach Kevin Sumlin elected to use a strong wind to his advantage. Hogan did the rest of the work.

UH trailed Tulsa 38-27 with 2:13 left in the third quarter when Carrier retuned a kickoff 98 yards to cut the Cougars’ deficit to 38-34. This marked Carrier’s second kickoff return for a’ touchdown of the season and the second of his career against the Golden Hurricane (4-5, 2-3 C-USA).

‘(The return) was big,’ Sumlin said. ‘As the game progessed, our key players stepped up and made plays like that.’

After Carrier’s return, the Cougars’ defense took control for a while.

Tulsa’s next two possessions ended in turnovers, as cornerback Jamal Robinson intercepted a home-run toss from quarterback G.J. Kinne before safety Carson Blackmon recovered a fumble by Jamad Williams.

After the fumble, UH took the ball to the Golden Hurricane’s 1-yard-line before running back Bryce Beall was stuffed more than a yard short of the goal line on a fourth-and-goal attempt.

The Cougars’ defense stepped up again on Tulsa’s next possession, forcing a three-and-out that allowed UH to take over at the the Golden Hurricane’s 46.

Seven plays later, Hogan connected on a 26-yard field goal to cut UH’s deficit to 38-37 with 8:08 left remaining in the game.

After the game, Sumlin praised his team’s ability to persevere.

‘The belief that you can win is as important as anything,’ Sumlin said. ‘As long as there’s time on the clock, you can’t get down.’

The beginning of the second half did not go quite as well for the Cougars.

Tulsa caught a break early in the third quarter when the officials ruled that Carrier fumbled a punt, which Laquentin Black recovered at the Cougars’ 8-yard-line. UH challenged the call, and although replay showed that Carrier never touched the football, the referees upheld the ruling.

The Golden Hurricane took the lead one play later, as Kinne threw a 6-yard touchdown strike to’ Clay to put Tulsa up 28-24 with 12:45 remaining in the third quarter.

On their next possession, the Cougars answered with a 24-yard field goal from Hogan that cut their deficit to 28-27 with 9:11 left in the third.

The Golden Hurricane pushed its lead to 31-27 when Kevin Fitzpatrick nailed a 25-yard field goal with 5:43 remaining in the third.

Tulsa then took its biggest lead of the game, 38-27, when Kinne scrambled into the end zone from 5 yards away with 2:13 left in the third.

Carrier followed with his 98-return on the ensuing kickoff, and the rest was a blur for the Cougars.

‘I’m speechless,” Cleveland said. ‘I don’t even know how to describe it.’

Both offenses came out firing in the first half, combining for 45 points and 712 total yards.

After the vaunted UH offense earned only one first down on the game’s opening possession, Tulsa took advantage. A seven-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Clay, gave the Golden Hurricane a 7-0 lead with 10:29 left in the first.

The Cougars quickly responded, as Keenum connected with Cleveland for a 4-yard touchdown that tied the game at 7 with 7:48 remaining in the opening period.

The offensive explosion continued when UH’s defense bit on a play-action fake by Kinne, allowing Clay to slip behind the secondary for a 60-yard touchdown reception. The score gave Tulsa a 14-7 advantage with 6:37 left to play in the first.

The Cougars evened the score at 14 when Sims scampered into the end zone from 18 yards out with 58 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

UH took its first lead of the game, 17-14, on Hogan’s 32-yard field goal with 10:33 left in the second quarter.

The Cougars stretched their advantage to 24-14 when Keenum found a wide-open Cleveland for a 36-yard touchdown strike with 6:44 left before halftime.

The Golden Hurricane cut its deficit to 24-21 on its next possession, as Kinne connected with Johnson for a 15-yard score with 3:11 remaining before the break.

UH appeared to be close to another touchdown on its next possession, but Sims fumbled the ball after defensive back DeAndre Brown leveled him inside the 10-yard-line. Defensive back James Lockett pounced on the loose ball at the Tulsa 2, allowing the Golden Hurricane to stay within 3 points.

It was a productive first half for Keenum, who completed 20 of 28 passes for 311 yards, and Edwards, who caught six passes for 132 yards.

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