Cougars overcome turnovers, penalties to earn win

UH handled its business against South Florida, a team that had scored only six offensive touchdowns all season and entered the game without breaking the pylon in its last three games.

UH couldn’t keep South Florida from scoring two touchdowns, but made just enough plays to capture a tough 35-23 victory on Thursday at Reliant Stadium to improve its record to 7-1.


Even though the Cougars would have wished to have played better in the second half against South Florida, they made the necessary plays that propelled them to a 7-1 record. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

“It’s good to be in these situations. We’ve been in them before,” said sophomore running back Kenneth Farrow. “We are not going to stop playing until the clock hits zero, so it’s good to know how to react when certain things happen.”

Although the Cougars walked away leading the American Athletic Conference at 4-0, their uncharacteristic miscues could have spoiled it. The Bulls had opportunities to nearly steal the game.

Sophomore running back Ryan Jackson rushed for 36 yards down to the South Florida 4-yard line on just the third play to start the second half, but coughed up the ball. A Jackson touchdown would have made it a three-possession game; instead, USF drove down the field and closed the gap to 21-13 after converting a field goal from 50 yards.

In the middle of the fourth quarter, the Cougars held a 28-23 lead and had an opportunity to increase it, but on the third play of the drive, Farrow was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, which set the Cougars back 15 yards and helped stall the drive.

Farrow said the foul he committed was “selfish” and made him sick to his stomach.

Head coach Tony Levine said it’s important to pick his players back up after making a mental error, especially with a young team.

“If you ever correct a student athlete, it’s my philosophy that at some point …  you come back and you build them back up,” Levine said. “That’s uncharacteristic for Kenneth, and he knew it right away. We’ll learn from that and move forward. He is one of the best leaders of our 120 student athletes, and what he wants to do more than anything is win.”

After the UH defense held its ground, the Cougars were in a position to put the game away, but junior receiver Damian Payne’s muffed punt paved the way for yet another opportunity for the Bulls to corral a comeback.

“Those are things that are teachable, correctable and certainly things we hadn’t done until this point. We’ll get those fixed,” Levine said.

With about four minutes remaining in the game, it looked as if South Florida finally took the lead on a touchdown pass from 27 yards, only to be negated by a phantom offensive pass interference call.

“In my mind, I went from no to yes very quickly,” Levine said. “It was a judgment call. The officials thought the South Florida receiver pushed off to catch the pass, and it was a critical play in the game.”

The Bulls never recovered, but the Cougars did.

The Cougars got their first turnover of the night on the ensuing play, as junior defensive lineman Jeremiah Farley recovered a fumble that freshman defensive end Tyus Bowser stripped.

On the ensuing offensive drive, Farrow scored a five-yard touchdown. Sophomore safety Trevon Stewart’s interception on the next defensive stand sealed the contest and cancelled out the Cougars’ dismal play in the second half, in which the Cougars gave up two turnovers, mustered only 154 yards of offense and obtained a mere 7:22 time of possession.

“We had a slow start. They had a good game plan, and they were not trying to turn over the ball as much as we were trying to get it,” said junior linebacker Efrem Oliphant, who led the game with 13 total tackles. “We just kept fighting and, at the end, we got two big turnovers that helped with sealing this game.”

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  • I like the way Coach Levine deals with the students. Instead of yelling and pointing fingers after Farrow’s big foul, he gave him a chance to pay back. In a return, Farrow made a touch down. It will be a good game this Sat. against UCF. I wonder how many will travel over to Orlando. GO COOGS!!!!

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