Don’t call it an upset!
In front of 71,016 fans in NRG Stadium, the No.15 Houston Cougars put the college football world on notice, they aren’t going anywhere. They rolled No.3 Oklahoma 33-23, in the Advocare Texas Kickoff, in a game that was not indicative of the score.
The Cougars took control of the game late in the second quarter, and it’s one that they would not relinquish. Starting with a Ty Cummings career long 47 yard field goal to end the first half, the Cougars would dominate Oklahoma until the final whistle.
The Cougars defense dominated the line of scrimmage. They had quarterback Baker Mayfield running for his life all afternoon. They sacked him 5 times, and hit him on numerous other occasions. Mayfield finished the day 24-33 for 323 yards and 2 touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception, but did lose a fumble early in the fourth quarter, hat could have made the game a one possession affair. All week long the story was, how would the Cougar defense slow down the 2-headed monster in Oklahoma running backs, Samaje Perine, and Joe Mixon. They did more than that. The two combined for 12 carries for 78 yards, and a Mixon touchdown run. Most of those yards came on a 32 -yard first quarter touchdown run by Mixon, to open the scoring.
Houston senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr, was impressive. He was 23-40 for 321 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also ran for 31 yards. He managed to escape pressure on a few occasions, and find his receivers down field. On one play late in the first half, he scrambled from side-to-side, stepped up, and hit Linell Bonner for 16 yards and a first down. It set up the go ahead field goal, at the end of the first half. What was more impressive was how Bonner made the grab. He had to reach over the out of bounds line, stretched out as far as possible, to make the catch. All while holding one foot in bounds, with an inch to spare. You’ll be able to see the grab on all of the highlight shows this week. Bonner finished the day with 63 yards on 4 catches. Steven Dunbar had 125 yards on 7 catches, four of them coming on third down that went for a first down. Newcomer in running back and Texas transfer, Duke Catalon, ran for 93 yards on 22 carries. He also hauled in 4 catches for 29 yards and a touchdown. He showed his versatility in how he broke tackles at the line of scrimmage and was able to run away from the defender.
The game took a dramatic turn when the score was 19-17 Houston. Oklahoma kicker Austin Seibert lined up for a 53 yard field goal attempt. The problem was, he only kicked it about 50 yards. He came up about 3 feet short, and do-it-all defensive back, and senior captain Brandon Wilson, was waiting to make the catch in the back of the end zone. Wilson hurdled one of his own blockers while running down the sideline, and brought it back 109 yards for the Cougar score. The play, knows as the kick-six, was actually 109 yards, but not officially. That made it 26-17, and the Cougars would never take their foot off the gas. Senior tight end, Tyler McCloskey, would add a 2-yard touchdown grab with 2:15 left in the third quarter, to make it 33-17.
The Cougar defense held Oklahoma in check for most of the contest. The Sooners managed 393 yards, on 60 plays. They were hit hard and often by the Cougar defense, coughed up 3 fumbles, and lost 2 of them. True freshman, and all-world 5-star defensive lineman Ed Oliver, made his presence felt in only his first game as a collegiate player. He finished the day with 7 total tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 tackles for loss, and was all over the field. He was disruptive, and played with reckless abandon. Linebacker Steven Taylor (2) and defensive lineman Tyus Bowser (1), each recorded sacks in the game. Early in the fourth quarter, Bowser stripped Mayfield, as Cameron Malveaux fell on the fumble. That turnover proved costly for Oklahoma, as they were within striking distance, and down 33-17.
Oklahoma took the early lead on a Mixon 32 yard run, with 11:43 left in the first quarter. The teams swapped field goals after that, until Houston got their first touchdown when Ward Jr. found a wide open Catalon on a 15 yard throw and catch, with 10:12 left in the first half. The Cougars led 13-10 at that point. Mayfield and the Sooners responded, when mayfield hit a wide open Mark Andrews for a 64 yard touchdown moments later, to retake the lead 17-13. Cummings would hit two field goals after that, and Houston would take a 19-17 halftime lead.
Oklahoma didn’t help their own cause, committing 5 penalties to keep drives alive, 3 of which were on third down. Those penalties lead to 16 Houston points.
Houston controlled the time of possession battle, 35:06 to 24:54.
Greg Ward Jr. was 9-11 on third downs, going for 147 yards. 8 of those were converted for first downs.
Houston Head Coach Tom Herman had his team ready to play, and the players executed the plan to perfection. Defensive Coordinator Todd Orlando, had the Oklahoma offense scratching their heads throughout. Offensive Coordinator Major Applewhite was creative with his play calling, and put the offense in a god position to sustain drives.
If this was a Big 12 audition for the Coogs, consider this to be a no brainer.
*This was the first time in school history that Houston beat 2 top-10 schools, back-to-back. They defeated No. 9 Florida State on New Year’s Eve, in the Chic-Fil-A Peach Bowl.
*The Cougars have beat their last 5, top-25 opponents.
*The win versus Oklahoma, was the Cougars’ first win against a top-3 team, in 32 years.
Houston will face Lamar on September 10th, inside TDECU Stadium. Game time is set for 11am.