The Cougars rout the mighty Sooners
In Muhammad Ali fashion, the Houston Cougars shocked the college football world by sending a clear message: “We are the real deal.”
The Cougars faced the program’s biggest challenge in the season opener in the form of No.3 Oklahoma Sooners– one of the favorites to be in playoff contention- in the Texas Advocare Bowl at NRG Stadium.
Despite who they were facing, the fans didn’t falter and answered the call.
“I’m excited for our players, excited for our university and excited for the great city of Houston,” Houston head coach Tom Herman said. “It was definitely a home field advantage out there.”
From the beginning of the game, Sooner fans were loud and proud while overshadowing the cheers of Coog Nation.
The cheers became more deafening when Oklahoma’s starting quarterback, Baker Mayfield took the field and marched the offense down Houston’s territory, giving the ball to Joe Mixon and put the Sooners on the board with a 32-yard touchdown run.
The score faltered Cougar fans for a bit, but they suddenly regained their boisterous energy after Greg Ward Jr stood under center.
Former Texas running back, Duke Catalon proved to be a problem at the opening drive- rushing for 11 yards into Oklahoma’s territory.
Sadly for Coog fans, the Cougars just managed to get three points via field-goal kick.
Houston’s defense was determined to stop the Sooners from scoring, allowing a field goal at the end of Oklahoma’s second drive.
Minutes into the second quarter, Coogs nation roared with excitement after Ward threw to Catalon for a 15-yard touchdown, taking the lead 13-10.
It did not last long after Oklahoma showed why they were the favorites to be in the playoffs by retaking the lead within two minutes during their possession.
Before the half, Houston shorten the score to one point with a field kick.
“That’s a good offense and they (Oklahoma) were obviously ready,” Herman said. “I think our kids just kind of settled in (…) but we weren’t calling anything different.”
After the halftime, Houston’s defense appeared determined to stop the Sooners at all cost, but Houston still needed that one play that would change the momentum into their favor.
That one play came after Oklahoma missed a 53-yard field goal, and Houston’s Brandon Wilson returned it for a 109-yard touchdown, giving the Cougars a 26-17 lead.
“I really thought I stepped out,” Wilson said. “But I didn’t hear a whistle or anything, so I just went.”
While the momentum shifted on the field, the cheers of the fan base shifted with Coogs fans cheering with pandemonium while Sooners fans stared in disbelief.
Houston’s defense stepped up once more by forcing a fumble for no gain. With the ball in their possession, the offense converted that fumble into a score- extending the lead 33-17.
Oklahoma was shutout for the remainder of the third quarter.
At the fourth quarter, the Sooners tried to make a comeback when Mayfield connected with Mark Andrews for a touchdown. Oklahoma tried to convert for two points, but Houston’s defense thwarted any attempt.
“In the second half, we got a little greedy,” Mayfield said. “Tried to do too much, and we got off track.”
Saturday’s win against Oklahoma would not only be Houston’s first win versus a top three AP team since 1984, but it would be Houston’s first victory against the Sooners.
With the Big 12 looking for expansion candidates, a win against their previous conference champion could bolster the Cougars’ petition for an invite. Even more so with the Big 12 commissioner, Bob Bowlsby seeing Houston’s performance first hand while in attendance.
“They played an excellent, well-played game,” Oklahoma’s head coach, Bob Stoop said. “We knew coming in that they were an excellent football team and they sure played that way today.”
Ward vs Mayfield
Coming into the game, Ward was overshadowed by Mayfield – who was voted in fourth place for the Heisman award.
However, after Saturday’s performance, Ward made sure that everyone know that the Cougars is a legit contender, but also not to underestimate Greg Ward Jr by having defeated two Power Five schools back-to-back.
Still, Ward tends be humble despite having accomplished such feats.
“We don’t worry about those type of things,” Ward said. “We only worry about who we have to play that week.”
Ward threw for 321 yards, completing 23 in 40 attempts, and was sacked 2 times compared to his counterpart who threw for 323 yards, 24 completions in 33 attempts, and was sacked 5 times.
True freshman, Ed Oliver made his debut by sacking Mayfield two out of the five times.
With the message sent, teams would think twice before dismissing the Cougars.
However, after winning one of their major games of the season, Herman addressed one more unit that contributed throughout the game: their fans.
“They were loud and raucous,” Herman said. “It definitely felt like a home game. To the fans, to the alumni and to the city of Houston, we definitely thank you.”