Cougars survive UCLA, win 38-34
The UH offense was able to make up for a lack of defense, as the Cougars defeated the UCLA Bruins 38-34 Saturday at Robertson Stadium in front of an announced attendance of 31,144.
Senior quarterback Case Keenum showed no effects from his knee injury, completing 30-of-40 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Under duress, he scrambled for 39 rushing yards.
The Cougars shrugged off the notion that the win is retaliation for last year’s disastrous showing at the Rose Bowl.
“It’s never about redemption or revenge or any of that,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “I said it and I meant it — I know it sounds like coach speak, but it was important because it was the first game.
“I talked to our team today about enjoying this victory, and when we come back on Monday we have to focus on next week. It’s important because it’s the second opportunity.”
After racing out to a 31-14 halftime lead, the cushion evaporated to three with 14 unanswered UCLA points in the third quarter.
The Cougars responded when receiver Tyron Carrier lost a fumble that was recovered by center Chris Thompson in the end zone to make the score 38-28 with 9:31 remaining. The play counted as a touchdown reception for Thompson.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to score,” Thompson said. “Especially with this high-scoring offense. At the time I just thought that this is my opportunity.”
On the ensuing possession, the Bruins drove 65 yards on 15 plays before kicker Kip Smith missed a 32-yard field goal. It would prove to be costly for UCLA, as the drive burned more than seven minutes off the clock.
UH went three-and-out on the next drive, leading to an 11-yard touchdown from UCLA quarterback Richard Brehaut to receiver Anthony Barr with 1:24 remaining. The extra point attempt was blocked by freshman Mark Roberts.
The inevitable onside kick was recovered by sophomore Shane Ros. With UCLA having burned all its timeouts, the Cougars were able to run the clock out until time expired.
“It was pretty surreal,” Keenum said. “This whole day has been everything I wanted it to be. It’s just awesome. I’ve imagined what this was going to be like, this is the perfect way to start the year off.”
Keenum completed passes to nine different receivers, but the Cougars had crucial contributions in the running game as well. Senior running back Bryce Beall finished with 70 yards and a touchdown, and senior Michael Hayes finished with 44 yards and two scores.
Carrier finished with 138 yards and a receiving touchdown. He also picked up 42 return yards, good for 180 all-purpose yards, becoming the new all-time UH leader.
“One of my dreams was just playing in college,” Carrier said. “I never knew I would be breaking records.”
Starting UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince left the game in the second quarter after landing awkwardly when he was forced out of bounds. He was diagnosed as having concussion-like symptoms. Brehaut, his replacement would finish with 264 passing yards and two touchdowns, along with 96 rushing yards. Running back Charles Sims was also shaken up in the first half and did not return.