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Sunday, October 1, 2023


Nightmare on Scott Street: Offense dooms Houston in loss to UCF

UH junior quarterback Clayton Tune stiff arms a Tulane defender during Houston's season opener on Oct. 8 at TDECU Stadium. | Courtesy of UH athletics

UH junior quarterback Clayton Tune stiff arms a Tulane defender during Houston’s season opener on Oct. 8 at TDECU Stadium. | Courtesy of UH athletics

After an early lead, offensive struggles held UH back in the game as Houston fell to UCF in a 44-21 rout on Saturday afternoon at TDECU Stadium.

Although Houston (2-2, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) dominated possession in the first half, the UCF’s (4-2, 3-2 AAC) defense held the Cougars’ offense scoreless for the first 38:44 of the game, forcing punts on four of their first seven possessions and one interception and a missed field goal.

The UH defense got to UCF early, as senior defensive end Payton Turner forced a sack-fumble before it was scooped and returned into the endzone by senior linebacker Grant Stuard to take a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter.

UCF wasted no time and responded quickly with a four-play, 78-yard drive that finished with a 34-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel to sophomore wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe to take a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter.

After an interception by UCF junior linebacker Eriq Gilyard on the Cougars’ next possession, the Knight’s marched down the field and capped off their drive with a one-yard rush into the endzone by junior running back Bentavious Thompson.

Despite a turnover on its second possession, UCF responded with 20 unanswered points to lead Houston 23-7 at halftime.

After struggling to get points on the board offensively in the first half, UH found its way into the end zone for the first time in the game with a one-yard rush by senior running back Kyle Porter to cut UCF’s lead to 23-13 after a failed two-point conversion.

UH’s defense carried that momentum, as they shut out UCF’s offense in the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Knights beat the Cougars through the air once again after Gabriel connected with O’Keefe on a 36-yard strike for the second time in the game extended UCF’s lead over UH to 30-13.

After a second interception from UH junior quarterback Clayton Tune, UCF ran its way down the field and topped off the drive with a one-yard rush into the endzone from senior running back Greg McCrae to extend its lead to 37-13.

A late 10-yard touchdown pass from Tune to sophomore wide receiver Nathaniel Dell cut the Cougars’ deficit to 37-21.

Tune finished the game with 263 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

A huge loss for the Cougars occurred in the first quarter when senior wide receiver Marquez Stevenson left the game with an injury. UH’s Turner was also shaken up in the second half of the game.

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