|Photo by Darla Tamulitis-La Vita Loca Photography|
By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2014 TexSport Publications
UNIVERSITY PARK, TEXAS (November 28, 2014) Capitalizing on three rushing touchdowns by quarterback Greg Ward Jr., the Houston Cougars rallied in the second half and downed the winless SMU Mustangs by the score of 35-9 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, November 28, 2014. With the win, the Cougars raised their season record to 7-4 going into their final regular season game against Cincinnati. They also raised their conference record to 5-2, which solidified their fourth place standing in the American Athletic Conference.
After a quick three-and-out by SMU to stat the game, the Cougars received the ball at the 13:30 mark in the first quarter. On the first play from scrimmage for Houston, Ward, Jr. kept the ball, running it up the left side of the field. He rambled 38 yards, untouched, for the touchdown. Kyle Bullard added he obligatory extra point, to give Houston a quick 7-0 lead.
On their second possession, the Cougars drove the ball down the field, but when the drive stalled, had to settle for a 36-yard field goal attempt. Bullard booted the ball wide and SMU took over on their own 20 yard line.
After some back and forth ball in the latter part of the first quarter and the early part of the second quarter, neither team could seem to get an offensive advantage on the field. Both SMU and Houston missed field goals; the Cougars from 36 yards and the Mustangs from 38 yards and both teams’ defenses were keeping the opposing offense in check.
The Mustangs finally got the scoreboard when Houston was backed up against their own end zone. Ward was scrambling to find a receiver and was called for intentional grounding, giving the Mustangs two points for a safety.
Houston kicked off and gave SMU the ball on their 22-yard line. After two plays, Matt Davis unleashed a 67-yard pass to wide receiver Jeremiah Gaines. Gaines caught the ball, and with two Cougar defender in pursuit, rambled down the left side of the field for the touchdown. Cody Rademacher split the uprights to give the Mustangs a 9-7 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.
The Cougars received the ball to start the second half and quickly put the offense in motion. Driving 64 yards in eight plays, Houston gave the ball to running back Kenneth Farrow. He carried the ball the final 11 yards for their Cougars’ second touchdown on the day. Bullard made another extra point, and the Cougars took back the lead, with a score of 14-9, with 11:34 left in the third quarter.
Ward, Jr. scored his second touchdown of the day when is carried the ball the final four yards of a 99 yard drive. The touchdown, along with Bullard’s conversion took the score to 21-9 at the third quarter’s 3:10 mark.
After the Houston kickoff and a fumble for the Mustangs, the Cougars got the ball back in Mustang territory and began another scoring drive. Three plays later, Farrow carried the ball the final 14 yards into the end zone for the score. The drive lasted 1:04, travelled 23 yards, and gave the Cougars another seven points close out the third quarter with Houston leading SMU 28-9.
The 21 points scored by the Cougars in the third quarter was most points scored in the third quarter by Houston all season. With the third quarter rushing touchdown by Farrow, he moved into a tie for ninth place in Houston single season history with 11 rushing touchdowns. The current record is 15, established by Jackie Battle in 2006.
With 4:46 remaining in the game, Ward Jr. carried the ball the final five yards for third rushing touchdown of the game to give the Cougars, along with Bullard’s conversion, a 35-9 lead. The drive covered 52 yards in five plays and lasted 2:40.
Ward, Jr., who is having a phenomenal rookie season at Houston, rushed for 93 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns. He also completed 17-of-28 passes for 144 yards and one aerial touchdown. Farrow carried the ball 18 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Steven Taylor accounted for five solo tackles, while Efrem Loiphant tallied fourth unassisted takedowns.
SMU’s Davis carried the ball 20 times for 70 yards, while completing 13-of-27 passes for 145 yards.
The Cougars, who were tied for fourth place with East Carolina in the conference standings with a 4-2 record prior to the game. The Pirates (7-3, 4-2 The American) take on Tulsa (2-9, 2-5 The American) in a Saturday evening game in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
With the loss, the Mustangs fall to 0-7 in conference, 0-11 for the season and 0-14 in their last 13 games. They close out their season on Saturday, December 6 on the road versus Connecticut.