Cougars trample Jaguars
In his debut as head coach of UH football, Kevin Sumlin and the Cougars gave fans something to cheer about.
Fifty-five things to cheer about, to be exact.
In front of 26,555 – the second-largest crowd for a home-opener at Robertson Stadium – the Cougars soundly defeated the Southern Jaguars 55-3. It is the highest-scoring game ever by a coach in his UH debut, topping former head coach Bill Meek’s 54-12 victory against Montana in 1955.
"We’re proud of how they played," Sumlin said. "Obviously, they were well-prepared and our coaching staff did a good job in getting the players to execute."
With 615 total yards, the Cougars proved to have adapted well to the new offensive scheme Sumlin put in place.
"When you play a bunch of spread offense it’s not so much the throwing and the catching. It’s what people do after they catch the ball," Sumlin said.
In spite of that, sophomore quarterback Case Keenum managed to complete 33 of 43 passes for 392 yards. He also became the first quarterback to throw for five touchdowns in a game since Kevin Kolb against Texas-El Paso in 2005. Both were personal single-game highs.
Sophomore running back Andre Kohn emerged as the Cougars’ leading rusher against Southern. He accounted for 56 of Houston’s 148 total rushing yards on 11 carries and recorded the only touchdown on the ground of the night.
"The running backs were pretty good. Kohn got out in the open field a couple times. He has the tools," Sumlin said.
Kohn wasn’t the only one to make an impression on Sumlin, who saw his team in a game situation for the first time since he was hired in December.
"The thing that is positive about tonight is that we played a lot of people and they got some meaningful minutes," Sumlin said.
Keenum scored with three different receivers throughout the night, throwing twice to sophomore wide receiver L.J. Castile and senior tight end Mark Hafner and once to freshman wide receiver Patrick Edwards.
However, it was junior quarterback Blake Joseph who got the longest touchdown pass of the game when he connected with sophomore wide receiver Kierrie Johnson on a 59-yarder after replacing Keenum late in the third quarter.
Running back Bryce Beall finished just behind Kohn with 53 total yards on six carries, and Jackie Hinton Jr. added 33 total yards on seven carries.
"(Beall) is a big, powerful guy and is a different style of runner. He is a little bit stronger than some other guys. I was real happy that Jackie Hinton Jr. got in and got some touches," Sumlin said. "It’s a long season, and the running backs take a lot of shots. The two freshman give us an added punch."
The defense, which led Conference USA in yards given up per game in 2007 with 365.5, gave up just 252 to the Jaguars. Southern’s lone score came courtesy of a 36-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Josh Duran in the second quarter.
"We wanted to play hard, physical and smart, and I think we did that," senior safety Kenneth Fontenette said. "We definitely didn’t want them to score a touchdown."
The defense put pressure on junior Southern quarterback Bryant Lee (22-34, 182 yards, 0 TDs) and the offensive line, limiting the Jaguars to just 13 first downs and forcing them to punt seven times, while UH only punted once.
"We felt good about that as a defensive unit. As long as he was running, he could get a few yards, but he wasn’t passing, which was the game plan," Fontenette said.
Sumlin said the defense played with "good intensity," which will be crucial to continuing to win games throughout the season.
"I thought we tackled really well… and that’s key. Every week we are going to face some pretty good offenses. If we can tackle like that and create some turnovers I think we will be fine," Sumlin said.