Coogs put up 38 first half points on way to dominate win over Rice retaining Bayou Bucket

Written by Ryan Musich
HOUSTON, Texas—From TDECU Stadium, the Houston Cougars made their much-anticipated home debut for the 2017-2018 season, as they faced off against their rivals the Rice Owls. It was Houston Head Coach Major Applewhite’s home debut with the Coogs, as well as Quarterback Kyle Allen’s home debut and they did not disappoint with a 38-3 victory to claim the Bayou Bucket.

Houston elected to defer to the 2nd half as they won the toss, and their defense would come out hot. Rice was unable to get anything going on the ground or through the air early on, and this lasted throughout the game. The Houston offense though would be a little rusty out of the gate as the Coogs were forced to punt on their first 2 drives of the game. However, on the Cougars third possession, they were able to get on the board as Running Back Duke Catalon caught a screen pass from Kyle Allen and then ran the ball into the end zone to put the Cougars on top 7-0. The drive was highlighted by a 23-yard pass to wide receiver John Leday on a deep crossing route.

Houston continued to make play’s as their defense would recover a fumble off of a Rice mishandled hand off. Unfortunately, Kyle Allen was unable to move the ball into the end zone and Houston would have to settle for a field goal that put Houston on top 10-0. More playmaking by the Cougars defense soon followed, as true freshman Payton Turner came up with an interception in Rice territory. The Coogs then capitalized off the great field position as running back Dillon Birden would take an inside carry to the house extending Houston’s lead to 17-0.

As Rice continued to struggle, Houston’s offense would again put together another solid drive. This time highlighted by a 25-yard tunnel screen to wide receiver Linell Bonner. The drive was capped off with Duke Catalon punching it in for his 1st touchdown of the season to extend the Cougars show of dominance at 24-0. More turnovers from the Owls would ensue as All-American Ed Oliver forced a fumble by Sam Glaesmnan, which was easily recovered by the Coogs.

The Houston offense would make good done with that turnover, as Kyle Allen found John Leday for a TD connection to extend the Coogs lead to 31-0. After another dominant possession by the Houston defense, Mulbah Car would run in another touchdown for the Cougars to officially make this one out of hand with Houston’s lead extended to 38-0, which is where it sat at the end of the half. . The domination by Houston was as evident on the scoreboard as it was inn the stat lines.  Everything was working on both sides of the ball for Houston and Rice couldn’t get a stop or get anything going on offense. Houston held Rice to 70 total yards of total offense and forced 3 turnovers. Kyle Allen finished the half completing 24 of 26 passes for  242 yards and 2 TD’s through the air.

Houston started the 2nd half hot, but nonthe less clearly put the brakes on the show.  On the opening play of the seconds half, Kyle Allen would hit Linell Bonner for a 32-yard pass over the middle to put the ball quickly into Rice territory. However, after another first down play, the Owls defense would stiffen up and Houston would have to settle for a 46-yard field goal attempt that would be missed.

This gave the Owls a small glimpse of momentum that would setup their best possession of the night to this point, as they got their running game going. The Owls drive started at their own 30-yard line, and they were able to quickly get the ball into Houston territory for the first time of the night. However, the drive would stall forcing a 43 yard fiel goal from Rice kicker Will Harrison which was missed.

The next drive for the Coos would be Kyle Allen’s last as he led Houston down the field once more but was then taken out of the game in the middle of the drive. As Allen walked off the field he would be taken out to a huge standing ovation from the crowd at TDECU Stadium. Kyle Postma would enter the game, and Houston would turn it over on downs when they couldn’t punch the ball in from Rice’s 1-yard line.

Houston continued to play conservative football the rest of the way as they would put their 2nd string units in on both sides of the ball, essentially calling off the “dogs”. Rice would break through though with just under 4 minutes remaining though as Rice’s kicker Will Harrison was knock through a 31-yard field goal as the Owls put together a 13 play 75 yard drive to end the game on a solid note making it 38-3 with Houston on top.

This is an opinion. Rice was unable to do much Saturday night when they had the ball. That was in due cause from Matthew Adams, Garrett Davis, and the All-American Ed Oliver Jr. who led the Coogs defense statistically. However, the Cougars defense as a whole played flawless football Saturday.

The Cougar offense also played tremendous football. Kyle Allen led the way for the Houston offense, mainly held up by his first half performamce. Additionally coach Applewhite had to love the way the running game looked tonight with 3 rushing touchdowns from the running backs. The key stat that really stood out to me tonight though were the turnover numbers. Mainly for Houston quarterback Kyle Allen, limiting interception’s to 0, in comparison to the game against Arizona where he threw two.

After the game, Major Applewhite was ecstatic about the win. Major touched on a few things that I found intriguing. He was excited that his 2nd and 3rd string personnel did well tonight on both sides of the ball. Applewhite said that Texas Tech will be a tough team to face since they have “Leetch type” offense. When asked what he saw from Kyle Allen this week in practice that might’ve led to Allen’s success tonight Applewhite said “Honestly….Kyle did not have a good week of practice.” Linebacker Matthew Adams when asked about how much this game meant to him he said simply “Hashtag for the City.”

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