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Monday, December 9, 2019

Football

Houston steamrolled by No. 18 Memphis 45-27; losing season sealed


Sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune threw for X yards and rushed for another X in X attempts, including a 68-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of Houston's X-X win/loss to No. 18 Memphis on Saturday at TDECU Stadium. | Katrina Martinez/The Cougar

Sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune threw for 157 yards and rushed for another 65 on 10 attempts, including a 68-yard touchdown run in the first quarter of Houston’s 45-27 loss to No. 18 Memphis on Saturday at TDECU Stadium. | Katrina Martinez/The Cougar

Houston fell 45-27 to No. 18 Memphis in its Homecoming game, sealing UH’s first losing season since 2012.

With the loss, the Cougars fell to 3-7 overall and 1-5 in the American Athletic Conference, while the Tigers, still fighting for the AAC West title, improved to 9-1 and 5-1.

The loss came despite one of the hottest first halves Houston has had all season.

Hot start

UH got things started a few minutes into the game with a 53-yard bomb from sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune to junior wide receiver Marquez Stevenson, who leads active FBS players with nine receptions of 50 yards or more since 2018.

Houston’s score was answered just three minutes later at the 8:03 mark when Memphis quarterback Brady White hit freshman tight end Kameron Wilson on the right sideline for a 6-yard touchdown to tie it 7-7.

“We jumped out on them” Tune said. “We executed really well and attacked the things that we saw that they did on defense.”

White, a junior, finished the game with 341 passing yards, over two-thirds of the Tigers’ total 531 yards in the matchup.

Tune and the offense took the ball over on their own 25, and it took only two plays for the Cougars to find the end zone for the second time in as many drives.

With just over seven minutes to play in the first, Tune took a rush right up the middle 68 yards to the house, escaping several Memphis defenders and putting UH up 14-7 on the way.

“I saw the end zone,” Tune said after the game, “and I wanted to score.”

The Cougars caught a break on the ensuing Tigers drive, getting the ball back at the Memphis 29-yard line after sophomore linebacker Zamar Kirven returned an interception, the first of his career, for 9 yards.

Unfortunately for Houston, the offense did not capitalize on the turnover, instead settling for a 38-yard field goal from junior kicker Dalton Witherspoon to extend the UH’s lead to 17-7.

The lead quickly shrunk, however.

Slipping away

Memphis started the second quarter off hot, cutting into Houston’s lead 17-14 after a 23-yard touchdown pass from White to junior wide receiver Damonte Coxie, the quarterback’s second of six total touchdowns in the game.

UH responded 17 plays later with a 26-yard field goal from Witherspoon thanks to a 2-yard fourth-down conversion by junior running back Chandler Smith that saved Houston’s 9-minute, 22-second drive.

From there on out, things were not pretty for the Cougars.

“We ran out of gas with four minutes to go in the second quarter,” Holgorsen said.

Memphis, who punted just two times in the game, marched down the field with a 56-yard sideline pass from White to senior wide receiver Antonio Gibson.

Two plays later, with 3:30 left in the second quarter, the Tigers took the 21-20 lead with a 14-yard keeper from White.

The score was the first seven of 31 unanswered points Memphis scored on Houston that included four White touchdowns and a field goal.

“If we could have gotten out of that half 28-20,” Holgorsen said, “then we might have a chance.”

Losing record

With the loss, the Cougars fell to 3-7 overall and 1-5 in the American Athletic Conference, while the Tigers, still fighting for the AAC West title improved to 9-1 and 5-1.

Along with the drop in the record, the injury-riddled Cougars will miss out on a bowl game.

“Our goal is to win and get to a bowl, obviously,” Holgorsen said. “It’s not going to happen, and it’s not surprising to me.”

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