Cougars rally in second half to beat Knights, 31-24
In a game that was a tale of two halves, the Houston Cougars returned to the win column Saturday as they erased a 21-point deficit to defeat the University of Central Florida Knights 31-24.
The Cougars started slow, ending the first quarter down 7-0. Senior quarterback Greg Ward, Jr threw two interceptions in the first three possessions and three in the first six possessions, directly leading to 14 points for UCF. The Knights went into halftime up 21-3 and went up 24-3 early in the 3rd quarter after Houston lost a fumble deep in its own territory.
After the Cougars went down by 21, the defense stepped up and and forced four turnovers of their own, allowing them to score 28 unanswered points in the second half and come away with the win.
“It was an unbelievable team win,” Head coach Tom Herman said after the game. “I’m really proud of the way we responded, not necessarily in the first half, but there was a ton of confidence and positivity in the locker room at halftime.”
Herman also said that although the team was down by 18 points at halftime, they didn’t change their game plan. He says that the defense just played more soundly and made sure they were prepared better for every play.
Despite a shaky three-interception first half, Ward led the way for the Cougar offense, going 26 for 37 through the air for 240 yards and a passing touchdown. On the ground, sophomore running back Duke Catalon led the way with 91 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. Junior running back Dillon Birden also had an impact on the offense with 76 yards on 11 carries.
Ward says that although he had an inauspicious start, the key for him keeping his confidence was to play for the team and not to think about himself and how he felt during the game. He also said that he put the first half behind him and went out to be the leader that the team needed in the second half.
Leading the defense was Junior linebacker D’Juan Hines, who had nine total tackles, including one for a loss. Senior and sophomore cornerbacks Brandon and Howard Wilson led the Cougar secondary, recording an interception and three solo tackles each, with Brandon also recording an assisted tackle.
Brandon Wilson said that the defense had to come out and perform better in the second half and stop doing things to hurt themselves.
“We had to come out and respond,” Wilson said. “We put ourselves in bad situations with the penalties and stuff, but we responded and good things happened.”
The Cougar win improved their record to 7-2 and dropped UCF to 4-4. The Cougars are going into a much-needed bye week, which they will use to rest and get their bodies right for the last three games of the season.