Defense carries Cougars to first American win
After 62 points on offense against Southern on Aug. 30, UH modified its style of play when it traveled to Philadelphia to play Temple, for the first ever American Athletic Conference game.
The Cougars found themselves in a defensive battle with the Owls but made enough plays to win 22-13. Until this match, the Cougars had not won a game outside of Texas since Nov. 25, 2011 when former UH quarterback Case Keenum led the Cougars against Tulsa.
With less than two minutes remaining and the Cougars up 15-13, Temple had the ball until sophomore defensive back Adrian McDonald made the game-clinching interception, which he returned 40 yards to the Temple 12-yard line. That play helped his team improve to 2-0.
Sophomore running back Ryan Jackson capped off the ensuing offensive drive with an 8-yard touchdown run to make it a two-possession game.
The Cougars have improved on defense, as they’ve only given up a total of 26 points during the first two weeks. Last season, the team surrendered 86 points in the first two games. Senior middle linebacker Derrick Mathews had 13 total tackles and led the team for the second consecutive game. The Cougars held the Owls scoreless in the second half.
“We just try to do what we can do and usually our offense evens it out to put some points up on the board. But it wasn’t really working for (the offense) so we had to play our game,” McDonald said. “If we put it together (defense and offense) we could be a dangerous team.”
The Cougars’ offense tallied 524 yards compared to the Owls’ 300, but was unable to pull away because of miscues in the red zone.
UH made eight trips inside the Temple 20 but scored only one touchdown. During three red zone trips, the Cougars failed to score any points. The offense came out with great rhythm on its first three drives but was unable to score touchdowns. The first drive ended with a field goal missed by Richie Leone that sailed wide right. The following two resulted in a field goal and a punt.
“We have to give credit to Richie Leone. He did his job and he put points on the board when we couldn’t put points on the board,” said Jackson, who rushed for 118 yards.
Redshirt junior quarterback David Piland, who started the game and played until the second quarter, was unable to convert on critical third downs early inside the red zone. Piland went 6-17 for 73 yards in one quarter of play. His replacement, freshman quarterback John O’Korn, threw for 233 yards on 31 attempts.
Sophomore receiver Deontay Greenberry displayed chemistry with both quarterbacks. He dominated the Temple defense all game, with 165 yards on 14 catches.
Greenberry said he and O’Korn got into a rhythm.
“I wasn’t thinking that (O’Korn) would get as much playing time as he is, but when we came in, we started to connect — so I already knew that we’re probably going to be playing at times. So we just went out there and executed,” Greenberry said.
Senior kicker Richie Leone went 5-6 on field-goal attempts. He now leads the team with 28 total season points. Second to him is junior receiver Daniel Spencer and O’ Korn, who both have 18.
Senior cornerback Zachary McMillian got his first interception of the season on the first play from scrimmage.
The Cougars have a bye week upcoming, but face Rice for the Bayou Bucket trophy on Sept. 21.
Christopher Shelton contributed to this story.
Correcton: An earlier version of this story stated David Pland’s stats incorrectly.