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Cougars take first Big 12 win; defeat West Virginia with last-second Hail Mary

Sophomore wide receiver Stephon Johnson (right) scored the walk-off touchdown for the Cougars in Thursday night’s win over West Virginia. | Anh Le/The Cougar

The Houston Cougars recorded their first-ever Big 12 victory on Thursday evening in thrilling fashion, defeating West Virginia 41-39 on a last-second Hail Mary heave.

In the first quarter, the Cougars received the ball first but were unable to get anything going. 

West Virginia’s first possession was an 82-yard drive ending in a field goal to put the Mountaineers 3-0 ahead.

UH answered back immediately as sophomore wide receiver Matthew Golden took the subsequent kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown, putting Houston ahead.

West Virginia was unfazed in the next possession, answering with a 69-yard drive ending in a touchdown as the first quarter came to a close.

The beginning of the second period was defined by a series of penalties on both sides, with little momentum gained by either team.

The UH offense, led by junior quarterback Donovan Smith, orchestrated a 56-yard touchdown drive as the first half neared its end.

West Virginia fired back at the start of the third quarter, only needing four plays to get on the scoreboard and take a 17-14 lead over UH.

Later in the quarter, West Virginia quarterback Garret Greene had a pass intercepted by junior defensive back Isaiah Hamilton in the end zone.

Houston took advantage of the regained possession, as sophomore running back Stacy Sneed found open space for a 58-yard run, putting Houston in position to score. 

Sophomore wide receiver Joseph Manjack IV caught the 15-yard touchdown pass from Smith, putting the Cougars back up with a 21-17 lead.

The Mountaineers bounced back from their turnover on the previous possession with an explosive 49-yard pass.

Later in the drive, a quarterback sneak gave the Mountaineers a 24-21 lead with 14:16 left in the fourth. 

Houston was able to respond quickly as Donovan Smith threw a touchdown pass to Samuel Brown in the back corner of the endzone.

With 7:28 left in the game, Stacy Sneed caught a 21-yard touchdown to give Houston a 35-24 lead.

With time waning, West Virginia had one final chance to get back in the game. With a touchdown and successful two-point conversion, the Mountaineers pulled within a field goal at 35-32 with only minutes left in the fourth.

UH ran down the clock before being forced to punt back to West Virginia with just 1:17 left.

With twenty seconds left on the clock, a stunning 50-yard passing connection got the Mountaineers in the endzone to take a 39-35 lead.

Moments later and with the clock expiring, Donovan Smith threw a 49-yard Hail Mary pass to sophomore wide receiver Stephon Johnson to give the Cougars their first ever Big 12 win.

Smith finished the game with 253 passing yards and five total touchdowns.

Sophomore defensive back A.J. Haulcy recorded 15 tackles on the night. 

With the win, UH advances to 3-3 record on the season.

The Cougars will look to build on the win against Texas next Saturday in front of a sold-out TDECU Stadium crowd.

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