Cougars live on the edge
UH was dangerously close to being 2-1 instead of 3-0 in its 35-34 win against Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
The Cougars dug themselves out of a 27-point hole with four unanswered scoring drives engineered by senior quarterback Case Keenum. The defense did its part by forcing two turnovers in the second half, and allowing no points from Louisiana Tech (1-2) in its last five possessions.
The Bulldogs had 25 more snaps than the Cougars, keeping the explosive UH offense off the field and contained for the better part of three quarters.
“It was the same story as last week,” Keenum said. “We had to put together a few drives there. We put it off a little longer this time. It’s not ideal, but right now I’ll take it.”
It would have been easy to write the Cougars off when they were down 34-7. Some fans may have turned the game off entirely, thinking it was out of reach.
UH could have packed it in, determining that a victory in Ruston, La., wasn’t meant to be. But good teams hang around, go on a run and make the score more respectable. It takes more than that to pull off the largest comeback in school history.
A slow start and early miscues gave the Bulldogs an immediate edge at Joe Ailett Stadium.
Senior Patrick Edwards lost a punt that led to the Bulldogs’ first score. He also had trouble handling his second return after waving for a fair catch.
Kent Brooks replaced Edwards afterward and did nothing but call for fair catches to prevent any more fumbles.
Keenum threw his first two interceptions of the season, and UH was penalized six times for 42 yards. The Bulldogs’ rushing attack didn’t have its way with the Cougars, but running backs Lennon Creer and Ray Holley and quarterback Nick Isham were effective, gaining 193 of Louisiana Tech’s 233 rushing yards.
The Cougars have the luxury of 19 experienced seniors on the roster who have rallied on numerous occasions. Lesser-experienced players like junior Chevy Bennett are proving they can be relied upon as well.
In the second quarter, Bennett deflected a pass in the end zone to force a field goal. Instead of going up by 14, Louisiana Tech went up by 10.
Running back Michael Hayes scored the first UH points on a 54-yard catch and run for a touchdown. On 4th-and-1 on the 5-yard line he jumped over the pile for the first down, which led to the first of Bryce Beall’s two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Senior receivers Justin Johnson and E.J. Smith caught passes that were the catalysts for touchdowns.
Sophomore defensive back Thomas Bates filled in for an injured Zach McMillian and grabbed two timely interceptions — the first of his career.
Had any of those plays gone the other way, they could have shifted the result out of the Cougars’ favor.
“We’re getting great leadership,” Sumlin said. “There are seniors who have been in big ball games and understand the situation. They didn’t get frustrated or flustered. They kept playing and made enough plays at the end of the game to win.
“A lot of times in those situations guys try to do to much or overcompensate. All of those plays were made in the context of the offense or defense.”
The Cougars will return to Robertson Stadium for their last non-conference matchup against Georgia State (1-2) on Saturday.