Hopes for Cougar bowl ends in 43-30 loss to No. 24 Oklahoma State
The Houston Cougars fell Saturday night in a tightly-contested matchup with the No. 24 Oklahoma State Cowboys, departing TDECU Stadium for the final time in 2023 with a 43-30 loss.
The Cowboys received possession to start the game but were promptly stopped by the UH defense.
Houston’s offense, which has been wildly inconsistent all season, showed promise on its opening drive. A 22-yard sideline connection between junior quarterback Donovan Smith and sophomore wide receiver Samuel Brown was ruled complete after a review, though the drive eventually fizzled out.
On Oklahoma State’s following drive, a wayward pass attempt fell into the hands of junior defensive back Isaiah Hamilton for a pick-six to put Houston ahead 7-0.
With possession once again, the Cowboys moved the chains into UH territory before stalling and being forced to settle for a 46-yard field goal.
The Cougars got the ball back set on answering the OSU field goal. On the third play of the drive, Smith found freshman wide receiver Jonah Wilson on a deep ball down the middle for a 60-yard touchdown connection to put Houston ahead 14-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, the Cowboys orchestrated a ten-play drive that culminated in a touchdown connection in the corner of the endzone. On the subsequent PAT, the Cougars managed to block the kick to leave OSU with only six points from the drive.
Houston took advantage of the momentum from the blocked PAT on its following possession, driving down the field. The drive culminated in Smith finding sophomore wide receiver Joseph Manjack IV wide-open for a 28-yard touchdown. With the PAT, UH pulled ahead 21-9.
Later in the quarter, Houston pinned the Cowboys within their own five-yard line on a punt, setting up a tackle-for-loss in the endzone by senior linebacker Malik Robinson. The safety gave UH two more points.
With the ball back in its possession, a wayward pass from Smith resulted in an interception setting OSU up in Cougar territory. On just the second play of the resulting drive, an incredible catch by OSU wide receiver Leon Johnson III on the left side of the endzone put the Cowboys within a touchdown of Houston’s lead.
Another unsuccessful drive for the Cougars put possession back in the hands of Oklahoma State with less than one minute remaining in the first half. As time ticked down, the Cowboys orchestrated a five-play drive culminating in a 21-yard field goal as time expired to leave the Cougars ahead by a slim 23-19 margin.
After a brief drive to open the second half, the Cougars punted to the Cowboys. On the drive that followed, Oklahoma State moved the chains down the field to set up a six-yard touchdown run up the middle. The touchdown and subsequent PAT gave OSU its first lead of the game, a slim 26-23 advantage.
Yet another brief UH drive followed. When the Cowboys received the ball again, they picked up where they left off. In just two plays, Cowboys running back Ollie Gordon II sprinted a combined 63 yards and added another touchdown to OSU’s growing lead.
Houston continued to stall offensively. At the onset of the fourth quarter, another three-and-out handed OSU possession once again, this time resulting in a field goal to put the Cowboys up by a 36-23 margin with 9:45 remaining.
After showing little-to-no life since halftime, the Cougars finally showed some fight on the drive that followed. In just five plays, Houston moved down the field propelled by a pair of Donovan Smith keepers, the latter going 31 yards for the touchdown to put UH within one possession of OSU.
With time for the comeback dwindling, the UH defense aimed for a crucial stop that would not come. After killing over five minutes of the game clock, Ollie Gordon II found the endzone for the third time on the night with 2:19 left in the game.
Dreams of a miracle comeback quickly came to an end for the Cougars as a 4th down heave from Smith was intercepted, all but guaranteeing the Cowboys would depart with the win.
After the game, Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen noted the intensity of Big 12 competition, as he has following several other conference losses this season.
“They wore us out,” Holgorsen said. “That’s what a Big 12, big boy team is going to do.”
With Saturday’s loss, UH fell to 4-7 on the season, guaranteeing the Cougars will not be appearing in a bowl game. It is the first time since 2019, Holgorsen’s first season in Houston, and only the second since 2012 that the Cougars will not make a bowl appearance.
UH returns to action on November 25, when it will face off against UCF in Orlando, Florida in its final game of the 2023 season.