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Houston falls short in upset bid against No. 8 Texas

The Cougars’ chance for a historic upset in front of a 42,000-strong crowd came up painfully short in the final minute. | Anh Le/The Cougar

Houston had an opportunity to beat No. 8 Texas in front of a sellout TDECU Stadium crowd but fell heartbreakingly short. The Longhorns defeated UH 31-24 Saturday evening.

With one minute to go down a touchdown on the Texas 10-yard line, UH had a fourth down and one.

Donovan Smith rolled right and looked for Stephon Johnson, the hero of last week’s Hail Mary game.

The pass was behind him and fell to the ground. And that was it.

“They made the play and we didn’t,” said head coach Dana Holgorsen.

On the previous play, running back Stacy Sneed was ruled short on his third-down run. Holgorsen felt the spot was wrong, but opted not to challenge the call or call a timeout because the refs assured him that it was being looked at.

“I think the spot was horrible,” Holgorsen said. “(The refs) said ‘We are reviewing it and it’s confirmed.’ I didn’t want to waste a timeout.”

It was a death knell to what was a roaring comeback after being down 21-0 in the first half.

In the middle of the second quarter, senior defensive lineman Jamaree Caldwell sacked Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers on a big third down to stop the Longhorns. Four plays later, junior quarterback Donovan Smith found wideout Matthew Golden for a 32-yard touchdown strike that finally put the Cougars on the board.

Smith finished 32-46 for 378 yards passing and three touchdowns.

Texas then attempted a fake field goal inside UH territory which was stopped short of the first down. With two and a half minutes to go in the half, Smith engineered a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 21-yard pass on the run to sophomore receiver Joseph Manjack.

Smith continued his hot streak out of the locker room, completing three straight passes to set the Cougars up at the goal line, where he hit Golden for the game-tying touchdown.

“We didn’t panic,” Holgorsen said. “I’m proud of the way they (the players) fought.”

After a Smith fumble on the next UH possession, the Houston defense was able to prevent disaster by holding Texas to a field goal, making the score 24-21 toward the end of the third quarter.

Midway through the fourth quarter, sophomore wideout Sam Brown busted a 51-yard catch-and-run that made Houston threaten to score again. With 7:43 to play, Jack Martin booted a 40-yard field to goal to tie the game at 24.

Texas then responded with a series of big runs from both running backs C.J. Baxter and Jonathon Brooks, eventually scoring on a 16-yard scamper to make it 31-24 with 5:37 left to play, ultimately winning the game.

The last time Houston beat Texas was in 1991 when both teams were part of the Southwest Conference. With Texas set to play in the SEC next year, UH’s next game against Texas is unscheduled and unknown.

Houston dropped to 3-4 on the year and 1-3 in the Big 12. UH will travel to play Kansas State next Saturday.

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