Cougars’ defense allows team to nab first conference win

Houston had a game of firsts against AAC foe Memphis, as they earned a 28-24 victory at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

The Cougars’ 29th consecutive game with a turnover was riddled with sudden possession changes for both teams.

As the first half was defined by turnovers, the first instance of the game came as sophomore quarterback Greg Ward Jr., making his first career start at the position, threw his first career interception less than a minute into the game.

To open the second quarter, Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch scored a rushing touchdown after the Tigers regained possession from their own punt as the ball kicked off of a Houston player.

Facing a 14 point deficit, Ward responded to the challenge by rushing the ball for a 64-yard touchdown, his first rushing touchdown of the season and second of his career, as well as the longest running play of the season.

UH forced the first Memphis turnover of the game as junior Lee Hightower nabbed the first interception of his career at Houston.

As junior running back Kenneth Farrow evened up the score at 14 points with a rushing touchdown, the Cougars once again regained possession as senior defensive tackle Jeremiah Farley picked up a fumbled hand off from Memphis. The possession was short-lived, however, as Ward fumbled the ball on the next play while trying to run the ball.

Senior linebacker Efrem Oliphant added himself to the list of players with turnovers as he picked up another interception for Houston late in the second quarter. Memphis, however, closed out the first half with the go-ahead touchdown once they regained possession.

The second half started slow but picked up as Ward rushed for 32 yards with just over five minutes left in the third quarter. Junior running back Ryan Jackson then accounted for the 10 yards it took to tie the game up for the Cougars at 21.

To open the fourth quarter of the game Houston took the lead with their first and only passing touchdown of the game as Ward connected with senior receiver Markeith Ambles for 25 yards.

Memphis scored their first points of the second half as they had to settle for a field goal midway through the fourth quarter while going three and out in the red zone, a testament to the strength of Houston’s defense.

The Cougars continued their defensive prowess as, with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, junior William Jackson forced a fumble while Memphis entered scoring position.

Houston’s victory was then secured as Oliphant nabbed his second interception of the game with just over one minute left, allowing the Cougars to kneel out the clock.

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