The Houston Cougars less-than-storybook inaugural Big 12 season came to a close on Saturday afternoon in a 27-13 loss to UCF in Orlando.
Houston opened the game with the ball and started things with six straight runs to get inside UCF territory. On fourth down, sophomore wideout Joseph Manjack IV made a spectacular catch to continue UH’s drive, where fellow sophomore receiver Stephon Johnson caught a short pass and took it 16 yards for a touchdown.
Despite a mishap on the kickoff setting the Golden Knights up their own six-yard line, UCF responded with a 13-play drive capped off by an eight-yard quarterback keeper into the end zone. UCF missed the extra point, allowing UH to hold on to a 7-6 lead.
Houston drove into UCF territory on all four drives in the first half, but failed to get points on the final two.
After a field goal to close the first quarter by UH, UCF once again marched down the field for a touchdown, taking the lead 13-10.
On the ensuing UH possession, Smith threw an interception deep in UCF territory, killing another promising drive. On the next drive, Smith was sacked on fourth-and-short at the UCF 37-yard line. UCF missed field goals on both of their following drives, however, and the score remained 13-10 at the half.
In the second half, UCF was rolling quickly from the beginning, scoring another touchdown to extend its lead to ten points.
Houston’s offense struggled on its first drive of the second half. Junior quarterback Donovan Smith struggled to complete to his receivers as the Cougars went three-and-out.
On defense the Cougars managed a stop on the following drive from the Knights.
With possession once again the Cougars made their way to the red zone but were stifled by three false start penalties on the drive. After a run on a 3rd & goal at the 18-yard-line Houston settled for a field goal, making the score 27-13.
Any attempt at a Houston comeback fell flat, as UCF managed to run out the clock for the bulk of the fourth quarter.
UH regained possession with less than three minutes to launch a comeback effort, though with sophomore quarterback Ui Ale replacing Smith due to a knock. The Cougars were promptly stopped in just four plays, handing the Knights the convincing win.
The loss moves Houston’s final record in 2023 to 4-8 with a 2-7 record in its inaugural Big 12 conference schedule.