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Houston’s defense, special teams fuels 24-14 win over Tulsa

The Cougars defense had two interceptions in their 24-14 win over the Green Wave, including cornerback Damarion Williams' (6) pick which the junior returned for a touchdown. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The Cougars defense had two interceptions in their 24-14 win over the Golden Hurricane, including cornerback Damarion Williams’ (6) pick which the junior returned for a touchdown. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Houston spoiled Tulsa’s senior night at H.A. Champion Stadium, picking up their second American Athletic Conference win of the season in 24-14 fashion. 

UH, who entered the contest 3-7 and 1-5 in-conference, left Oklahoma with a 4-7 record and 2-5 in in the AAC. Tulsa dropped to 3-8 and 1-6, standing alone at the bottom of the American West standings. 

Though the Cougars did not have a bowl game to play for, head coach Dana Holgorsen’s squad played with fire on the night, with the defense and special teams leading the way. 

Not so hot start

For much of 2019, UH had been able to stay in tough games by getting off to hot starts. That did not happen against the Golden Hurricane. 

The Cougars could not find points in the first quarter, nor could they move the ball. Neither of their first-quarter drives converted more than one first-down, with the lone first coming on the opening drive.

In their second drive, Houston junior tailback Kyle Porter coughed up a fumble on a first-down screen, giving Tulsa the ball at the 31-yard line. The Golden Hurricane took advantage of the field position by scoring a 14-yard run-pass option touchdown. 

The next two drives ended in three-and-outs. The bright spot of both dismal trips: senior punter Dane Roy, who delivered with 56 and 57-yard punts, respectively. 

UH got the ball rolling in the second quarter. Starting on their 35-yard line after a shaky Tulsa punt, quarterback Clayton Tune ran-in a 14-yard touchdown. 

The score marked back-to-back games of rushing scores for the sophomore from Carrollton. 

Cougars feast on turnovers

UH’s defense stepped up while watching their offense struggle. 

With 6:58 left in the second quarter, Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith threw a completion to the wrong team. Sophomore safety Gervarrius Owens came down with the toss. 

The Cougars punted after failing to score off the turnover. 

Two plays later, the scoreboard tacked on six more points to Houston. 

On second down, with 1:34 left in the first half, junior cornerback Damarion Williams read the eyes of Smith, burst out of his stance, caught the ball and took it for a 25-yard house-call. 

In the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman safety Jordan Moore tallied Houston’s third turnover of the night. The Texas A&M transfer stripped wideout Keylon Stokes off of a slant route and picked it up for himself. 

To seal the win, Houston forced another turnover on Smith late in the fourth quarter.

Junior defensive lineman Isaiah Chambers, on his third sack of the evening, popped the ball out of the quarterback’s back. Junior defensive lineman Olivier Charles-Pierre secured the fumble.

Special teams take UH over hump

Speed kills. Height helps. 

Speedy redshirt junior wide receiver Marquez Stevenson and the 6-foot-7-inch Roy were Houston’s stars of the night. Both got it done for the special teams unit. 

Roy, a Ray Guy Award semifinalist, served up field-flipping punts — outside of his first, a 23-yard shank. He drilled six punts inside the 20, one at the two-yard line and booted a 57-yarder in the first.

Stevenson, amid a quiet offensive game, responded to a fourth-quarter Tulsa touchdown himself. The speed merchant sprinted down the gut of a Golden Hurricane for a 94-yard touchdown return. 

Stevenson’s return took the air out of a stadium that struggled to fill the lower bowl. Subsequently, Tulsa could not rebound in front of their home field fans. 

Up next

Houston will cap off their season by hosting Navy at TDECU Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday.

The 8-2 (6-1 in-conference) Midshipmen are coming off of an upset 35-28 win over SMU at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.

In 2018, on Oct. 20, Houston visited Navy and escaped with a 49-36 win. 

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