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Cougars clinch first conference win with victory over UConn

UH claimed its first conference win of the season bringing its overall record to 3-4. They will host SMU on Thursday as they continue fighting to secure a bid for a postseason match. File Photo

Despite another rigid showing in East Hartford, Connecticut, Houston picked up its first conference win of the season in a grinding 24-17 victory over UConn.

The Cougars earned their second-ever win against the Huskies in the midst of a rebuilding season, which has seen the implementation of first-year head coach Dana Holgorsen and star quarterback D’Eriq King deciding to redshirt.

Although UConn held the edge in yards, first downs and time of possession, UH was able to propel itself to its first conference win of the season with an efficient offense.

Shuffling cards

Freshman quarterback Logan Holgorsen earned his debut start as a Cougar following sophomore Clayton Tune’s battle with injuries. Although Holgorsen’s stats did not light up the scoreboard, he competently completed seven of his 15 attempts for 123 yards, including a long-distance dart to sophomore Jeremy Singleton, who took it 58 yards to the house.

Sophomore Bryson Smith, who Coach Holgorsen has toyed with as a quarterback since King’s absence, completed two of his three attempts for 55 yards.

The duo combined to land 50 percent of their passes and averaged 9.9 yards per completion.

Smith also contributed on the ground, tallying 29 yards on nine carries and earning a crucial two-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Junior Kyle Porter also contributed on the ground as he recorded 68 yards on 18 carries, both team highs, as well as a touchdown.

However, Houston’s 284 yards in Saturday’s outing were well below its average of 411.8 despite playing a UConn team that has allowed over 450 yards per game. The Cougars were just 3-11 on third-down conversion attempts.

Defense struggles again

For the fifth time this season, UH allowed 400 yards, this time doing so against one of the nation’s bottom-10 offensive teams. The Huskies entered the game averaging just 295.8 yards per game but notched 438 against the Cougars.

Houston allowed freshman quarterback Jack Zergiotis to throw for 270 yards, his second highest of his career and just the second time the Canadian has thrown for more than 100 yards.

UConn outgained UH on the ground, recording 168 yards to just 108 for the visitors. The Huskies had averaged just 104 yards per game, the ninth lowest, going into Saturday’s game and their 168 were their most against an FBS opponent in 2019.

UH entered the game in the bottom-10 for yards against and the bottom-25 for points against per game. The Cougars have now allowed 470.3 points per game and have forced only four turnovers through seven games.

Tough road ahead

Saturday’s victory, despite its edgy showings, could be a helpful propeller for the Cougars going forward in the second half of the season. Houston notched its third victory of the season and will have an uphill battle going forward to avoid missing a bowl game for the first time since 2012.

UH will begin a trying push to earn three wins over the next five games to secure a bid for a postseason match. Thursday’s battle against undefeated No. 19 SMU in Houston will be followed by a trip to Orlando to take on two-time defending American Athletic Champions UCF.

The Cougars will then host the Memphis Tigers and the Navy Midshipmen as well as traveling to Tulsa to take on the Golden Hurricanes. The only opponent out of these four without a current winning record is Tulsa.

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