September 12, 2009

Cat Scratch Fever: Houston claws OSU

STILLWATER - After winning a big one against Georgia last weekend, the key for Oklahoma State coming into its game against Houston was to not suffer a letdown.

Oops. So much for that. The Cowboys struggled all afternoon long and the Cougars took advantage, pulling off a 45-35 upset in front of 50,875 at Boone Pickens Stadium.

While many fans and media types might cite OSU getting a big head from all the press it picked up after the win last week - the cover of Sports Illustrated, numerous mentions on television - head coach Mike Gundy doesn't agree.

"I'd like to say yes but I don't buy that," he said. "Houston can score points. They've got skill guys that can make plays. I think our team was aware of that. I don't believe in the SI jinx, I don't believe in being ranked really high and everybody telling them they are good and not preparing. I thought the team prepared well. I was disappointed that we made mistakes and turned it over. I don't think that played a role. I think Houston played a good football game."

The Cougars (2-0) clawed up OSU all afternoon, with quarterback Case Keenum leading the way. On the game, he was 32-of-46 for 366 yards and three touchdown passes. He frustrated Bill Young's defensive unit the whole way, picking apart everything put up against him. In fact, by the 1:37 mark of the second quarter, Houston had amassed more offensive yardage than the Bulldogs got the week before.

"We didn't play real well," Young said. "We made too many mistakes. We didn't get enough pressure on the quarterback. That's a very, very good scheme and excellent quarterback. I thought he played exceptional. He did a tremendous job avoiding the rush. We pressured him and hit him a couple of times and thought he might be out of the game, but he just got right back up. So you really have to give him a tremendous amount of credit."

While the game ended up being close in the second half, the Cowboys (1-1) didn't show up in the first 30 minutes, especially on offense.

After an initial victory by the OSU defense in the form of an interception of Keenum, a Cowboy fumble turned it back over to the Cougars. They took advantage, as Keenum was able to scramble his way to the end zone for an early 7-0 lead. They added a field goal to go up 10-0 before the Pokes put points on the board - a nine-yard touchdown run by Kendall Hunter. The Cougars answered with two touchdowns just before halftime and a three-point deficit turned into a 24-7 gap as intermission came calling.

The Pokes showed signs of life in the third quarter, scoring three straight TDs and totally flipping the momentum of the game. Suddenly up 28-24, prospects seemed brighter for OSU.

But that onslaught didn't faze Keenum and the UH offense. They scored three times in the fourth quarter and made enough stops along the way to secure the victory.

Along the way, UH capitalized on fourth down conversions. While they were only 3-of-11 on third down, the Cougars converted both fourth down situations they faced. And on top of that, UH was a perfect 5-for-5 inside the red zone.

"It was big," said UH running back Bryce Beall, who had 18 rushes for 80 yards and a score. "We don't look at the numbers next to the players, we just look at the team and wanted to come here and get a victory. We knew coming in here, having to play the No. 5 team it was going to be hard. Coach told us that. We just respected out opponent and played hard."

While it remains to be seen if OSU overlooked UH or not, one thing is for certain: for a second straight week, the offense sputtered in the first half. That's never a good thing to have happen - especially when your opponent can move the ball quickly and efficiently.

"We've got to start faster," Gundy said. "That's two games in a row that we've not got things going until the middle of the second quarter or the second half. And when you play a team that can move the ball and score points like they do, you've got to start faster. So we have to do a better job as coaches and getting our players to start faster."

"We turned the ball over and kind of like last week: the penalties," Zac Robinson said of the offensive woes. "We had a chance there at the end and we had some things happen. We just could not get it done. You have to give them credit, because they played great defense."

The win was the first for Houston over a top five team since a 29-15 win over No. 4 Texas on Nov. 10, 1984.

Now the Cowboys must turn their focus to another Bayou City school - the Rice Owls. They fly into Stillwater next week for a 6 p.m. kickoff.

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