Cougars Beat Owls to Earn Possession of the Bayou Bucket
Saturday's Bayou Bucket might have been the last of the series for a long time. But if that's how it turns out, then Houston's 31-26 win might go down as one of the most memorable in the series. The game featured just about everything: incredible onside kicks, bombs, trick plays, blocked kicks and questionable coaching decisions.
Stephen Pinchback/Houston Athletics Communications Tony Levine and the Cougars celebrate after winning the Bayou Bucket
Rice (1-2) controlled the first quarter of the game, scoring 13 points and treating the UH (3-0) defense like the UH offense had treated the Southern defense in week one of the season. And Rice's defense was all over the Cougars, knocking UH quarterback John O'Korn out of the game for several plays early in the game with a brutal-looking hit. But the Cougars proved resilient, dominating play in the second quarter and gaining the momentum and the 17-13 lead as the half came to an end.
The Owls seemed off balance for the rest of the game, never quite able to find their rhythm on offense. The Cougar offense looked as if it was able to do just about whatever it wanted, and it seemed to put the game early in the fourth quarter when O'Korn hit Ryan Jackson on the wheel route for a 32-yard touchdown on fourth and three to go up 31-13. But the Owls got battled and thanks to the defense and special teams, were down 31-26 with 2:16 remaining in the game. The Owls recovered the onside kick, but were unable to do anything offensively, leaving UH the victor.
"A win's a win, and we'll certain take that one in this rivalry," Houston head coach Tony Levine said. "Again, I think the build-up of this week, to this game today, I think it certainly matched its billing."
THE MOMENTUM SHIFT
Rice was up 13-10 late in the second quarter when it began driving on the UH defense. But as has become the case with the Owls, the offense started misfiring. With under a minute on the clock, Rice trotted out the usually-reliable Chris Boswell for a 56-yard field goal attempt. Boswell's kick went wide left and UH got possession of the ball with 51 seconds left on the clock. A mere 46 seconds later, the Cougars were up 17-13 after hit Daniel Spencer on the post route for the 25-yard TD pass.
Bailiff cited a confidence in Boswell in going for the points, and a desire to put some distance between the Owls and the Cougars on the scoreboard. He also cited faith in his defense. The Cougars were going to try to score no matter the result of the field goal, but the excellent field position did make the play-calling decisions easier.
"We had timeouts left, unless we were back on our own goal line, we were going to down the field and attempt to score," Levine said. "But the missed field goal gave us the ball closer to midfield, so at that point, with our timeouts lefts, it was a no-brainer."