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Monday, December 11, 2023


Decisive win over rivaled Owls

Charles Sims slips past a Rice defender on his way to the end zone on one of his many explosive plays. | Rebekah Stearns/The Daily Cougar

Charles Sims slips past a Rice defender on his way to the end zone on one of his many explosive plays. | Rebekah Stearns/The Daily Cougar

Led by junior running back Charles Sims’ 158 rushing yards and career-high three touchdowns, UH retained the Bayou Bucket for the first time since the 2006-2007 season defeating the Rice Owls 35-14 at Reliant Stadium.

“That was a great team win,” said head coach Tony Levine. “It was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we made some plays on offense. We played particularly well on the defensive side of the football, and we did some good things on special teams.”

Most importantly, with the win, the Cougars improve to 1-3 for the year and 1-0 in conference play.

“Everyone was going into this game with the mindset that what’s done is done,” said redshirt sophomore quarterback David Piland. “We needed to learn and get back to where we want things, and we did a great job of that.”

Defensively, the Cougars held the Owls to 120 total offensive yards through the first 30 minutes, the fewest yards allowed in that time frame since limiting Penn State to 115 yards at last season’s Ticket City Bowl.

“The last three games didn’t go our way, and we knew we would have to prepare more so we would have a better look on our opponents,” said senior linebacker Phillip Steward. “We all came in at 6 a.m. this week to watch film, and it paid off tonight.”

Against the run game, UH was particularly stout, allowing just 69 yards on 34 carries. Freshman defensive back Trevon Stewart led all players with 11 tackles while Steward contributed eight.

“What you saw tonight was guys playing with passion and guys tackling,” Levine said. “You saw us hit the quarterback and create some turnovers. I think that’s more of the 2012 defense that I feel like I know, what we saw this afternoon.”

Under center, Piland completed 26 of 43 passes for 361 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target of the day was freshman wide receiver Larry McDuffey who caught eight balls, totaling 100 yards including a 25-yard reception on third and 15 for the game’s opening touchdown. For Levine, the production from young players like McDuffey is encouraging.

“The thing I’m excited about is we’re a young team,” Levine said. “I’m going to enjoy the next two months watching this football team grow up in front of our eyes.”

The Cougars will get another opportunity to grow when they return to Robertson Stadium to face their last non-conference opponent of the year in North Texas on Saturday.

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