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Cougars sputter in second half, still beat defending AAC champs


Senior quarterback Kyle Postma led the Cougars to their first conference victory this year with 226 yards passing and 15 carries for 81 yards. | File photo/The Cougar

PHILADELPHIA — The Cougars made a bold move at quarterback Saturday, and it paid off as they defeated the defending American Athletic Conference champions, the Temple Owls, 20-13 on the road.

Senior quarterback Kyle Postma made the most of his first start of the season and showed exactly why the Cougars needed to make the switch at QB. Postma looked comfortable in the air and on the ground, extending plays when he could during the first half. Meanwhile, the Cougars’ 18th-best defense in the country handled the Owls and closed out the game for a win.

“I’ve been out for a while, but it feels good to get back in the swing of things,” Postma said after the game. “We left a lot of points out on the field. We have to execute better, but that’s what practice is for, and we are going to work really hard to correct that.”

In his first game starting in 2017, the senior QB rushed 55 yards in the first half to complement 134 passing yards — a different picture than Applewhite’s first pick for the position, Kyle Allen, who rushed -1 yards before Applewhite switched him for Postma against Texas Tech.

The offense was firing on all cylinders in the first half, showing more aggressive decision-making by offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. Despite starting a new quarterback and playing on the road against a conference opponent, the Cougars looked to be in midseason form.

“We always want to be explosive and be aggressive offensively, and things worked early on,” head coach Major Applewhite said in a news conference after the win.

The Cougars dominated early and ended the first quarter with seven points and 130 yards of offense while allowing only 21 yards on defense to the Owls. Features by sophomore D’Eriq King, senior Dillon Birden and senior Steven Dunbar gave the Cougars a 13-point lead at halftime.

The defense continued its stellar season by keeping Temple scoreless on just 114 yards in the first two quarters and came up with two key interceptions to keep the momentum away from the Owls.

Temple redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi was held to just 122 yards passing, even though the Owls had more time of possession in the first half than the Cougars. Temple rounded out its first-half performance with just 8 combined rushing yards.

“It was a great opportunity to see everybody step up,” said junior cornerback Isaiah Johnson. “Nobody really panicked, and it was a great opportunity to see what we really had on defense.”

The Cougars’ dominance extended just five minutes into the first half, in which senior wide receiver Linell Bonner came down with a 15-yard touchdown to open the scoring for UH.

After that play, the Cougars stagnated for the remainder of the half as they struggled with penalties and gave up big plays to a resurgent Owl offense.

The Owls did manage to find some life in the third quarter, ending the shutout with a 41-yard field goal. They scored again with a touchdown reception by freshman running back David Hood to start the fourth quarter, making the score 20-10.

Temple added a field goal in the fourth to come within seven points of the Cougars.

The Cougars seemed like a different team after halftime. They hardly threw downfield, and the team settled for little-to-no yards for most of its plays. Still, the Cougars managed to maintain a lead over the Owls.

The defense also looked different in the second half. One reason: All-American defensive lineman Ed Oliver, a sophomore, sat out most of the second half with an undisclosed injury. Without Oliver, the defensive line did not click.

Ultimately the Cougars managed to hold the Owls at bay in their last possession of the game to return to Houston with a victory.

The Cougars will be back home at TDECU Stadium to take on the SMU Mustangs next Saturday.

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