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Thursday, June 1, 2023


Hogan’s a hero

TULSA, Okla. – Somehow, the No. 13 Cougars scored 9 points in the final 30 seconds to escape Chapman Stadium with a 46-45 victory over Tulsa on Saturday.

Immediately after Matt Hogan’s 51-yard game-winning field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired, the walk-on freshman was swarmed by hysterical teammates.’

But hysterical would not be the correct word to describe the majority of the 20,243 at Chapman Stadium. Tulsa’s players and fans were left wondering how UH (8-1, 4-1 Conference USA) managed to pull off one of the most miraculous comebacks in C-USA history.

‘It was chaos,’ wide receiver James Cleveland said. ‘Everyone was sprinting on the field, and I just had to sit there ‘hellip; I looked in the faces of the Tulsa players, and their hearts were just ripped out.’

All of this occurred only 21 seconds after Tanner Antle sacked quarterback Case Keenum to keep Tulsa (4-5, 2-3) ahead, 45-43.’

To keep their hopes alive, the Cougars needed to recover the ensuing onside kick. Fortunately for UH, Tulsa’s Dexter McCoil was unable to corral the ball when Chase Turner’s kick bounced to him. Tim Monroe pounced on the pigskin at the Cougars’ 39-yard-line, giving his team new life.

Keenum followed by engineering another game-winning drive.

The junior quarterback was unable to connect with Chaz Rodriguez on first down, but he found Cleveland open for a 14-yard gain on the next play. Keenum then threw a 13-yard pass to Tyron Carrier, who used his speed to get out of bounds at the Golden Hurricane’s 34-yard-line with three seconds remaining.

Hogan, who had never made a field goal that was longer than 34 yards as a Cougar, became the hero on the next play.

Hogan wasn’t named the team’s primary place kicker until three games ago. But everything was happening so quickly that he could only focus on remaining calm.

‘You just try to stay cool,’ Hogan said. ‘I’ve always wanted my shot, and I’ve been taking advantage of (being the place kicker) ever since.’

Hogan may have learned how to handle pressure situations like these from Keenum, who stayed on the field to hold the 51-yard attempt.

‘I was so thrilled that Case Keenum was handling our offense and would take us down the field,’ Hogan said. ‘Case is cool and calm, and he got us down there.’

Head coach Kevin Sumlin’s decision to kick into the wind in the third quarter paid off, as his kicker was assisted by a 15-25 mph wind at his back in the fourth.

‘We made a decision at halftime to ‘hellip; get the wind in the fourth quarter,’ Sumlin said. ‘The wind was a significant factor in the kicking game.’

‘(Hogan’s) another guy who’s come in and done a great job this season.’

For the second straight week, the Cougars needed Keenum to lead his team down the field in the game’s final moments. The junior quarterback, who completed 40 of his 60 pass attempts for 522 yards and three touchdowns, admitted that this comeback was unlike any other.

‘I have no words right now for this,’ Keenum said. ‘There are so many emotions going up and down. Tulsa played really, really hard. You’ve got to give it to them.’

‘The chances of all that stuff happening are between slim and none. It happened.’

The series of events was beyond improbable, but Keenum’s performance in the fourth quarter was not.

‘As long as we have No. 7 (Keenum) back there, our team believes we can win the game no matter what the score is,’ Sumlin said.

But this win was about more than the final 30 seconds.’

Hogan nailed all four of his field-goal attempts, making him the first UH player to make four in a game since Roman Anderson did so against Baylor on Oct. 7, 1989.

The rest of the special teams unit also delivered. Chase Turner booted two punts more than 50 yards, and the Golden Hurricane averaged only 19.4 yards per kickoff return.’

With the Cougars facing their biggest deficit of the game, 38-27, Carrier responded with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. This marked the second straight year in which Carrier returned a kick for a score against Tulsa.

‘The thing that has really come on for us is our special teams,’ Sumlin said. ‘Not just Matt Hogan, but Tyron Carrier’s touchdown. We also got some pretty good (kickoff) coverage tonight.’

The offense had another productive performance, compiling 695 total yards. Most of this yardage came through the air, as Keenum spread the ball to eight different receivers.’

Cleveland caught 12 balls for 167 yards, while Patrick Edwards reeled in 11 passes for a game-high 176 yards. Six other Cougars also caught at least two passes.

UH’s defense was torched for 534 total yards, but it forced two fumbles and two interceptions. Those turnovers proved huge, as the Cougars’ offense ended up running 32 more plays than the Golden Hurricane.

For Sumlin, the bottom line is that his team earned another victory away from home.

‘When you go on the road you can win a game all kinds of ways,’ Sumlin said. ‘You want all three phases to play well. If not, two of your three better be doing all right to win a game.’

Saturday’s victory allows UH to maintain control of its destiny in the C-USA West Division. The come-from-behind win will also boost the Cougars’ confidence as they head into the final three games of the regular season.

‘(When) you get into those situations, game plans change, and your job is to win. However you can do it, you do it,’ Sumlin said. ‘Over the course of the last four or five weeks, we’ve found all kinds of ways to do that.

‘Our coaching staff did a great job of not panicking, and I thought our kids did a great job of handling the situation too.’

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