FOOTBALL: Blazers tumble to Houston

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Facing a 20-3 deficit against Alabama Birmingham at halftime, the Cougars continued to claw in the second half and dug themselves out of a 17-point hole to win 45-20.

"You’ve got to be a team that comes out and plays on edge, and we didn’t do that earlier tonight," UH head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "You have to be ready to play emotionally or get beat. The good thing that happened tonight was that I thought we grew up as a team. Three weeks ago in that same situation we didn’t behave that way."

The Cougars (3-3, 2-0 C-USA) found themselves fighting an uphill battle as they took the field for the second half, but a sack by senior defensive end Phillip Hunt and a bad center-to-punter exchange gave the Cougars the ball at the Blazers’ (1-6, 0-3 C-USA) 8-yard line.

Hunt said the defense was concentrated on limiting UAB junior quarterback Joe Webb, who leads the Blazers in both passing (234) and rushing yards (72).

"(Webb’s) a great player, and we didn’t want him to beat us with his feet or with his arm, so we had to get good pressure on him," he said.

Webb’s 247 yards of offense in the first half were enough to hold Houston, but the Cougar defense stepped up and held the Blazers to 75 second-half yards of total offense. Junior linebacker Matt Nicholson helped stonewall Webb and the Blazers with 14 tackles.

Hunt said the Cougars’ constant defensive pressure wore Webb down in the second half.

"It’s tough, but when you’ve got four guys going after him constantly play after play, it gets easy because every man takes accountability for his lanes," he said.

Sophomore quarterback Case Keenum got off to a slow start and went 13-of-23 for 110 yards in the first half.

"The first half, we came out a little shaky. I just didn’t get anything done," he said.

Keenum completed 11-of-13 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns in the last two quarters. Houston also enlisted the help of freshmen running back Bryce Beall and redshirt wide receiver Tyron Carrier to route the comeback. Beall and Carrier contributed with 108 yards each, with Beall on the ground and Carrier through the air.

"I think we just came out with more energy. The first half, we were just dead, and we weren’t excited about anything," Beall said

Things began to turn around for the Cougars when junior cornerback Brandon Brinkley intercepted a pass by Webb and returned it for a touchdown with 1:28 left in the third quarter.

Brinkley’s interception gave the Cougars a 24-20 lead going into the fourth quarter as they went on to score 42 unanswered points in the second half.

Sumlin said the Cougars focused on improving their own play instead of their opponent after the first half.

"We talked at halftime about us, not about other teams," he said.

The Cougars, who remain undefeated in C-USA, look to build on this win as they continue conference play.

"Last week was a step in the right direction, and we added to it today," Hunt said. "With this win against UAB, we want to start a winning tradition around here and go to the conference championship and hopefully win it."

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