Houston had lost the last four matchups against Memphis (7-3, 5-3 American Athletic Conference) entering Saturday’s game. UH was unable to shake a slow start and lost its fifth straight game against the Tigers 27-30.
The Cougars (3-4, 3-3 AAC) put up the first points of the game, but got outscored 27-3 the rest of the way until a 21-point fourth quarter by UH tied the game.
However, the Cougars’ defense could not hold serve in the final 28 seconds of the game and Memphis won it on a last second field goal.
Here are some of the high and low points of Saturday’s contest:
Defending the run
The Cougars showed dominance defending against the run as they allowed only 64 yards rushing on 30 attempts. The lead rusher for Memphis was sophomore running back Asa Martin, who only had 27 yards on 11 attempts.
The standout for the defense was senior linebacker Grant Stuard, who posted 11 total tackles, 10 of them solo and two for a loss of yards.
Junior cornerback Marcus Jones also had a nice game for the Cougars on defense, recording his first career interception and five tackles in the loss.
Trailing 27-6 going into the final quarter, the game looked to be a wash, but the Cougars were able to show off their fight as they scored 21 in the period alone, which ultimately tied the game.
UH junior quarterback Clayton Tune led the charge, throwing two crucial touchdown passes, which included the go-ahead tying score on fourth & eight with just 28 seconds to go in the game, and rushing for another one on a 19-yard scramble.
However, that 28 seconds proved to be just enough time for Memphis to finish the game off as the Tigers got the 46-yard field goal from kicker Riley Patterson as time expired.
Failure to convert in the red zone, penalties, turnovers and bad throws plagued the first half for UH.
The Cougars had no problem moving the ball between the 20-yard lines at the Liberty Bowl, but could not convert those drives into touchdowns.
Of the three red zone drives UH had in the half, the Cougars turned them into only six points, and one of them even led to a touchdown for the Tigers, who scored towards the end of the second on a scoop and score off a fumbled snap by UH.
Scoop and score
As just mentioned, the muffed snap by Tune in the red zone that was recovered by Memphis sophomore linebacker Jaylon Allen for an 85-yard touchdown hurt the Cougars so much it made the list twice.
This was a crucial turnover that swung the momentum for Memphis. At that point in the game, UH was knocking on the door to possibly retake the lead over Memphis, or at least cut its advantage to one.
Instead, it led to the Tigers going up 17-6 with less than a minute before halftime.
The Cougars constantly shot themselves in the foot with penalties, committing seven that cost them a total of 75 yards.
There were three holding calls alone in the first quarter, two of which were drive killers.
Unnecessary roughness gave a scoreless Memphis offense that was staring at a potential fourth and 10 another 15 yards and a first down right into the Cougars’ territory, which led to a field goal that tied the game early.
On the final drive of the game, UH was penalized on another pass interference call that put Memphis on the Cougars’ side of the field with less than 20 seconds to go in regulation, which set up the game-winning kick.
The Tigers were not penalized in the game.
Final 28 seconds
The big story in this game was UH’s almost comeback, an effort that was erased in 28 seconds.
The final 28-second defensive collapse was a product of a questionable coverage that led to a massive 15-yard penalty.
After the game, UH head coach Dana Holgorsen said he did not believe it was a hold, but the officials saw otherwise.
This set up the big 22-yard strike over the middle by Memphis senior quarterback Brady White, which led to the game-winning 46-yard field goal by Patterson.