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Sunday, September 24, 2023


UH rallies late, falls short in crucial 28-25 loss to Tulsa

Tulsa crashed UH’s homecoming party and rained on Senior Night — dashing the Cougars’ aspirations of winning the Conference USA West Division in the process.

The Golden Hurricane beat the Cougars 28-25 on Saturday at Robertson Stadium.

The Cougars had to rally from an 18-point deficit for the second consecutive week, but freshman quarterback David Piland’s five interceptions proved to be costly.

“You can’t turn the ball over that many times, especially to a team that’s equal to you, and expect to win the game,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “To be in the position at the end of the game to win, I’m proud of our seniors, and I’m disappointed for them and our fans.”

The Cougars (5-5, 4-3 C-USA) have all but been eliminated from contention in the West and a shot to play in the C-USA championship game. They also still need to gain at least one more win in their final two regular-season matchups to become bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive season.

The Cougars were down 21-7 at halftime and received the ball to start the third quarter. Piland led UH on a nine-play, 48-yard drive that was capped by Matt Hogan’s 32-yard field goal, which closed the gap to 21-10.

The Hurricane responded with a 1-yard touchdown run from quarterback G.J. Kinne to make it 28-10.

Then the offense caught fire with the help of two seniors.

With 2:05 left in the third quarter, Piland connected with James Cleveland on a 19-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-17.

The defense came up with a stop on fourth-and-4 on the ensuing possession, giving UH possession at the 34.

On the next play, Piland hit Kierre Johnson for a dazzling 66-yard catch-and-run with 12:16 left in the game. The Cougars’ two-point conversion attempt was successful, reducing Tulsa’s lead to 28-25.

Freshman linebacker Efrem Oliphant came up with a sack of Kinne on second down, which prompted an eventual punt.

With a chance to take their first lead, the Cougars drove all the way to the Tulsa 46 before Piland committed his fifth and decisive turnover.

UH fell to third place in C-USA West, with SMU (5-5, 4-2) and Tulsa (7-3, 4-2) tied for first. SMU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Tulsa by virtue of its 21-18 win in their Oct. 9 matchup.

The Cougars still have an outside shot to win the West, but they need both SMU and Tulsa to falter down the stretch.

“You can’t blame any one person; it’s a team loss,” cornerback Jamal Robinson said. “We’ve got to move on and get this next win, and hopefully things shake up for us.”

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