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Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Cougars comeback bid comes up short, lose Bayou Bucket to Rice

UH scored 35 unanswered points to bring its game against Rice to overtime, but it was not enough. Anh Le/The Cougar

Weird things happen in the Bayou Bucket Classic.

The Cougars battled back from 28-0 deficit to force overtime, but UH could not finish the game, losing to Rice in the Bayou Bucket Classic for the first time since 2010, 43-41.

It was perhaps the final Bayou Bucket Classic for the foreseeable future, as the game is not scheduled for the future.

After trading touchdowns in the first overtime, Rice scored once more to begin the second OT. The Owls initially failed to convert on their mandatory two-point attempt, but a penalty on gave them another chance, which they converted.

On the ensuing UH possession, the Cougars scored a touchdown and found themselves in a two-point conversion for the game. Junior quarterback Donovan Smith missed sophomore receiver Matthew Golden, and the game was over.

It was a disastrous start for the Cougars in the first series. After the Owls marched 78 yards for a 10-play opening drive touchdown, junior quarterback Donovan Smith threw a wobbler as he was hit and it was picked off. Seven plays later, Rice ran it in on fourth down and goal, and the Cougars found themselves down 14-0 with 4:17 left in the first quarter.

After the three-and-out from UH, Rice continued the onslaught. Receiver Luke McCaffrey made a wild one-handed grab for his second touchdown of the game, making it a three-touchdown deficit for UH to end the first quarter.

The nightmare continued on the next series, when Rice put together their fourth straight touchdown drive, this time going 11 plays for 92 yards and ending with Daniels’ third touchdown pass of the half, bringing the lead to 28 points.

“The first eight possession are just unacceptable,” said head coach Dana Holgorsen after the game. “Not ready to play. Not respecting our opponent.”

True freshman running back Parker Jenkins’s 22-yard gain on his first collegiate run finally brought life to the Cougar offense. After two successful fourth down conversions and a Rice penalty set up UH at the Owls’ 10 yard line,  Smith hit sophomore receiver Matthew Golden for a touchdown pass with under three minutes to play in the half.

Rice again put together a nice drive at the end of the half, but junior cornerback Isaiah Hamilton picked off Daniels’ endzone pass keeping the score at 28-7 at halftime.

Late in the third quarter, the Cougars recovered an Owls’ fumble that was punched out by senior linebacker Malik Robinson, leading to a UH touchdown six plays later.

The door creaked open for UH when Matthew Golden snagged an incredible one-handed catch on fourth down. The next play, sophomore tailback Stacy Sneed ran in a touchdown to bring the Cougars to within one score, 28-21.

With under three minutes to go, a bad punt from Rice set UH inside plus territory with a chance to tie it. Eight plays later, Donovan Smith bulled his way in for the game-tying touchdown.

After the game, junior defensive end Nelson Ceaser felt that the team overlooked Rice in anticipation for its upcoming Big 12 opponent in TCU.

“I just feel like We were looking at our schedule,” Ceaser said. “We took Rice for granted, point blank period.”

Holgorsen and players alike pointed out that the previous week of practice was marked with a lack of intensity.

“From a team perspective, we came out on Wednesday lacksadaisical,” said sophomore Samuel Brown. “They flipped the script on us.”

The Cougars moved to 1-1 on the year, and their seven-game win streak against Rice was snapped.

Up next, UH will play in its first-ever Big 12 matchup against TCU at TDECU Stadium on Saturday night.

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