During the first half of Saturday’s BBVA Compass Bowl, the Houston Cougars played as if they were stuck in neutral. The offense was downright offensive as Houston managed only 22 yards and one first down while falling behind 24-0 to the Vanderbilt Commodores. A much needed spark was lit at halftime, as the Cougars erupted for a 24 point third quarter to tie the game at 24 heading into the fourth quarter.
They could not sustain the momentum in the final quarter however, as Vandy ripped off 17 unanswered points of their own to pull out the 41-24 victory. The Cougars looked as if they expended all of their energy during the furious third quarter rally. Vandy cranked up the running game on their first fourth quarter touchdown drive, going 82 yards in 7 plays to retake a 31-24 lead.
They then capatalized off of two John O’Korn interceptions, turning the short fields into 10 points to put the Cougars on ice and win their third consecutive bowl game. In his first bowl game, the true freshman O’Korn, like the team, had an up and down performance. He finished 20-47 for 228 yards and 2 TDs to go with the two fourth quarter picks.
The offense wasn’t alone in their first half struggles. The defense allowed two 50 yard TD passes to All SEC receiver Jordan Matthews, who finished with 5 receptions for 143 yards in his final collegiate game to take home the game’s MVP award. Houston’s defense did a much better job on the SEC’s all-time leader in yards and receptions in the second half.
The Cougars, the nations top team in both turnovers forced and turnover margin, jump started themselves in the third quarter by recovering a fumble by Commodore’s QB Patton Robinette. That led to a six yard TD run by Kenneth Farrow to get the Cougars on the scoreboard. On their next possession, RB Daniel Spencer broke off a 62 yard run to set up a 6 yard TD pass from O’Korn to WR Markeith Ambles to pull within 24-14.
Back to back stops by the defense led to a 30 yard field goal and an O’Korn 67 yard strike to Deontay Greenberry to tie the game. However, the Cougars magic ran out in the fourth quarter, as they lost to finish the season with an 8-5 record in the inaugural season of the American Athletic Conference. It represents a three game improvement from the 5-7 mark that Houston posted in Coach Tony Levine’s first season a year ago.
Despite the loss, the future definitely looks bright for the University of Houston football program. After playing their home games in rotating venues this season, the Cougars brand new on campus stadium will be ready for the 2014 kickoff in August. Houston also will return 19 starters and the large majority of their roster overall, losing only 13 seniors total.
This young team grew this season, and saw a quarterback in O’Korn who as a true freshman demonstrated he has all of the tools to be the next great Cougar signal caller. They will definitely be a team to watch as they compete for the AAC championship and a spot in the BCS in 2014. Everything is in place for Houston to jump back on the national scene, and into the Top 25 as well.
Tags: Houston Cougars