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Monday, February 6, 2023

Football

Cougars close Robertson Stadium tenure with win


The Cougars wear jerseys with D.J. Hayden's name to honor their injured teammate. | Rebekah Stearns/The Daily Cougar

The Cougars wear jerseys with D.J. Hayden’s name to honor their injured teammate. | Rebekah Stearns/The Daily Cougar

On the first play from scrimmage, senior corner back  D.J. Hayden rushed down the sideline for 48 yards. Two plays later, Hayden tossed a 22-yard yard touchdown pass to himself, giving the Cougars a 7-0 lead.

UH paid homage to Hayden — who was almost killed in a practice collision — by wearing his name on the back of every jersey. His family name was there back for every pass, rush and defensive play, en route to a 40-17 victory.

When redshirt freshman Kenneth Farrow opened the game with a 48-yard rush and two plays later redshirt senior Ronnie Williams caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from redshirt senior Crawford Jones, it seemed like Hayden was a part of the process.

The Cougars were fluid on offense early, scoring on their first three drives and grabbing a 17-0 lead. Jones built an early rapport with freshman receiver Deontay Greenberry, who had 97 receiving yards in the first half.

In the second half, the Cougars rode freshman running back Ryan Jackson and junior receiver Dewayne Peace. Peace was a big-play target in the second half with 87 receiving yards.

Jackson broke the game open with speed. He excited the crowd with a 72-yard touchdown rush around the right sideline that gave UH a 27-10 lead. Jackson finished with 136 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Jones got his first win in his second career start at quarterback. He passed for 368 yards, but Tulane did not make it easy. Jones was intercepted three times and the Cougars settled for four field goals in the red zone, leaving 12 possible points on the field.

Jones was just happy for the win though.

“I wanted to break even. I had a start least week where I wasn’t able to pull out the win, but I definitely wanted to take this one for so many reasons,” Jones said. “Getting my first start at home and it being the last game ever at Robertson Stadium has really been a blessing.”

The defense held up when the team needed it though. They made crucial plays early that preserved the lead.

Late in the first quarter Jones threw an interception to Tulane sophomore defensive end Andre Robertson. The Green Wave took over deep in UH territory, at the 19-yard line. On the following play, freshman defensive back Adrian McDonald forced and recovered a fumble and a possible crisis was averted.

In the fourth quarter when Tulane was attempting a comeback, the defense forced two turnovers in as many plays. On the first, freshman safety Trevon Stewart intercepted Tulane senior quarterback Ryan Griffin and added a 53-yard return after the play, leaving UH with a short field.

The offense capitalized with a 23-yard field goal. On Tulane’s following play, freshman defensive back Erick Eliand sacked Griffin then forced and recovered the fumble. Jackson cashed in with a 9-yard touchdown run on the ensuing offensive drive, giving UH a 40-17 lead.

Head coach Tony Levine said the season hasn’t been perfect but he likes the way it ended.

“I told the team just now in the locker room that this was a challenging season and there were some disappointments but I am proud of how they finished,” Levine said. “I’m proud of the way they did it this week.”

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