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Saturday, December 7, 2019

Football

Houston falls to No. 25 Cincinnati in conference home opener


Junior wide receiver Marquez Stevenson caught three passes for 120 yards and a touchdown, including a 69-yarder in the third quarter. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Junior wide receiver Marquez Stevenson caught three passes for 120 yards and a touchdown, including a 69-yarder in the third quarter in Houston’s 38-23 loss. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Head coach Dana Holgorsen’s first season in charge of Houston has continued to be a tough one, as the Cougars dropped their fourth game of the season, falling to No. 25 Cincinnati 38-23.

Houston lost its second home game of the season and are now 5-2 against ranked opponents in TDECU Stadium since its opening in 2014. The Cougars’ 2-4 start is their worst through six games since going 1-5 in 2004.

The Cougars, the American Athletic Conference’s worst defensive team, struggled in stopping the Bearcats’ offensive attack, as the visitors notched 394 yards, bringing the former’s season average against to 475.7.

Still at the bottom

With six games in the books, the most noteworthy stat for Houston has not been a positive one, as the Cougars’ defense has often been the team’s shortcoming.

Coming into Saturday’s meeting with Cincinnati, Houston was in the bottom 10 of the FBS in yards against.

Houston has now allowed at least 300 yards in 20-straight games.

The visitors were led by sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder, who passed for 263 yards and three touchdowns and completed 14 of 24 pass attempts. Ridder also had 50 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Ridder wasn’t the only Bearcat to find success on the ground, as the team notched 131 rushing yards, including 68 yards on 17 carries from junior running back Michael Warren II.

“We’re not consistent right now, and that’s what’s killing us,” said junior safety Grant Stuard. “We got to be consistently good.”

Even though the Cougars outgained the Bearcats 424-394, the defensive woes again held Houston back.

Frequent flyers

While the Cougars’ run game had been the stronger offensive factor entering the match, their passing game, backed by sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune, had a respectable outing.

Tune completed 9 of 27 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns, including a 69-yard bomb to junior receiver Marquez Stevenson, the longest of Tune’s career. The Carrolton native now has 11 career passing touchdowns through seven games.

“We’re right there. We’re so close,” Tune said. “We just have to just keep building on it. We know we’re a good team, and we just have to go out there and prove it every week.”

However, Tune’s second interception in the fourth quarter was returned by Cincinnati for a touchdown, sealing Houston’s fate.

Along with Tune’s promising outing, sophomore wide receiver Bryson Smith notched his second career passing touchdown on a 50-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Jeremy Singleton.

Tune and Smith combined to record 234 yards.

Stevenson led the way for the Cougars’ receiving as the six-footer caught three passes for 120 yards and a touchdown, landing his career total to 12. Tight end Christian Trahan, a sophomore, also snagged a receiving touchdown and caught another pass for a total of 15 yards.

Miscues hurt

The afternoon affair was plagued by penalty calls and turnovers, both of which had substantial effects on the game.

The two teams combined to commit 19 penalties for a total of over 150 yards.

Houston threw four interceptions and added a fumble, resulting in 21 Cincinnati points, while a Ridder interception led to three points for the hosts.

The Cougars’ turnover margin is now minus-four.

“Proud of my team,”  Stevenson said. “We went out there and fought to the last second of the play clock.”

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