Cougars stumble late in 34-31 loss to Rice in Bayou Bucket
Earlier in the week head coach Kevin Sumlin stressed the little things to his team, because if they aren’t taken care of they could become big things.
His words rang true.
The Cougars were dealt a 34-31 upset loss from Rice, Saturday at Rice Stadium, in what could be a glimpse of things to come for the team.
With less than two minutes remaining, and a three-point deficit the Cougars (3-3, 2-1 C-USA) were faced with a fourth-and-1 at the Rice 37. True freshman quarterback David Piland dropped the snap, which turned the ball over on downs. The Owls (2-5, 1-2) were able to run the clock out till time expired to take the 2010 Bayou Bucket.
Sumlin said despite the error, it was not the sole reason the Cougars lost.
“If you battle back or you don’t, it’s still frustrating to lose,” he said. “You can win a game many ways, and you can lose it a whole lot of ways and one or two plays usually doesn’t make the difference. There’s a bunch of different plays in this game that affected the outcome. It’s not just the last play when we had (the ball). There’s a number of plays in the first half that affected the outcome.”
Rice sprinted out to a 27-7 lead at halftime but the Cougars were able to respond.
A pair of Patrick Edwards touchdown catches got the Cougars within six points. With 4:17 left in the third quarter, the Cougars pulled ahead 28-27 on a 1-yard run by running back Bryce Beall, for their first lead of the game.
Rice was forced to punt on their next drive, giving the Cougars a chance to put away the Owls.
A 37-yard field goal from Matt Hogan gave the Cougars a 31-27 advantage with 8:55 to go in the fourth quarter, but a timeout was burned in the process.
But on the Owls’ ensuing drive the defense offered little resistance when the Owls scored on an 11-play, 57 yard drive capped by a 13-yard, go-ahead touchdown to Vance McDonald from quarterback Nick Fanuzzi.
“You play the game where it is,” Sumlin said. “I thought our guys came out after halftime and accepted the challenge. Unfortunately, it’s two halves of the game that we need to play, and we didn’t do that.”
The game started off rocky for UH. On the Cougars’ first possession, Piland was intercepted by Rice’s Justin Hill, giving the Owls possession at the 5. The Cougars’ defense forced fourth down, but a direct snap to running back Jeremy Eddington gave Rice its first score.
Sumlin said he felt the early giveaway came back to haunt the team.
“The turnover early really affected us,” he said.