Cougars’ run game too much for Mus­tangs

Cat­alon rushes for ca­reer-high 177 yards, adds two touch­downs

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Joseph Duarte

A tough Oc­to­ber stretch that will likely de­fine the Univer­sity of Hous­ton’s foot­ball sea­son lies ahead.

The Cougars took the first step Satur­day night, re­dis­cov­er­ing their run­ning game be­hind a ca­reer-high 177 yards and two touch­downs by Duke Cat­alon in a 35-22 vic­tory over SMU at TDECU Sta­dium.

“I don’t know when the last time we had 265 yards rush­ing, a true rush­ing at­tack and not Greg Ward Jr. run­ning around scram­bling. That was im­pres­sive,” UH coach Ma­jor Ap­ple­white said.

UH im­proved to 4-1 over­all and 2-0 in the Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence head­ing into a road game next week­end against strug­gling Tulsa, fol­lowed by backto-back games against the high-powered of­fenses of Mem­phis and South Florida. Against SMU, the Cougars showed they are ca­pa­ble of two things that have been elu­sive all sea­son — the abil­ity to run the ball and score af­ter half­time.

UH en­tered the game av­er­ag­ing 140 yards on the ground, which ranked 86th na­tion­ally. Cat­alon had strug­gled in four games with 182 yards. He nearly sur­passed the to­tal in one night, break­ing loose for a 45-yard run to set up a sec­ond-quar­ter score and adding a 52-yard touch­down run just 31 sec­onds af­ter SMU had pulled to within 21-19 mid­way through the third quar­ter. Cat­alon added a 16-yard touch­down run in the fourth quar­ter.

“I’ve been wait­ing on this,” Cat­alon said. “I’m glad it hap­pened.” Aveng­ing last year’s loss

A year af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing 22-point loss to the Mus­tangs (4-2, 1-1 AAC), the Cougars ex­acted a mea­sure of re­venge. UH scored two touch­downs in the sec­ond half af­ter ac­count­ing for just three in the pre­vi­ous four games.

The Cougars seized the mo­men­tum in the sec­ond quar­ter, forc­ing con­sec­u­tive three-and-out series that pro­duced a sin­gle yard. Af­ter SMU drove to the UH 13-yard line, the Cougars caught a break when Josh Wil­liams missed wide left on a 30-yard field goal as time ex­pired at half­time.

SMU was held well be­low its sea­son av­er­age of 48.2 points, which was third na­tion­ally in Foot­ball Bowl Sub­di­vi­sion.

The Mus­tangs had to set­tle for a pair of field goals inside the UH 20 and came away empty-handed two other times. On three fourth-quar­ter series, the Cougars stopped SMU on fourth down at their 34 and safety Terrell Wil­liams had two in­ter­cep­tions, in­clud­ing a pick at the 1.

SMU, which fin­ished with 544 yards of of­fense, did not score in the fourth quar­ter for the first time this sea­son.

“You play harder when your back is against the wall,” safety Khalil Wil­liams said. “You have no choice but to fight harder to get out of the sit­u­a­tion.” Oliver suits up

A week af­ter suf­fer­ing a sprain of the me­dial col­lat­eral lig­a­ment in his left knee, All-Amer­ica de­fen­sive tackle Ed Oliver played and fin­ished with three QB hur­ries and a pass breakup.

The Cougars took con­trol with some trick­ery in the sec­ond quar­ter. From the SMU 22, John Le­day took the hand­off and flipped the ball to D’Eriq King on the re­verse. King, a for­mer high school quar­ter­back, threw a per­fect strike to wide-open quar­ter­back Kyle Postma to give the Cougars a 14-12 lead.

Af­ter a pair of three­and-outs, the Cougars were pinned at their own 5. Cat­alon de­liv­ered a 45-yard run up the mid­dle, and King added a 16-yard catch. El­lis Jef­fer­son capped off UH’s long­est drive of the sea­son — 10 plays and 95 yards — with a 3-yard touch­down.

In the first quar­ter, King added his third touch­down in as many games since re­turn­ing from a knee in­jury, tak­ing the ball around the 16-yard line, fak­ing SMU safety Rod­ney Cle­mons and run­ning un­touched into the end zone.

The Cougars played the game with­out lead­ing re­ceiver Linell Bon­ner, who suf­fered a head in­jury dur­ing prac­tice ear­lier in the week. Mul­bah Car added nine car­ries for 67 yards in place of Dil­lon Bir­den, who was held out of the game with an undis­closed in­jury.

SMU quar­ter­back Ben Hicks fin­ished 41-of-58 for 397 yards and a touch­down. Trey Quinn had 17 catches for 156 yards and a touch­down, and Court­land Sut­ton, a pro­jected top-10 pick in next year’s NFL draft, had 11 for 160 yards. joseph.duarte@chron.com twit­ter.com/joseph_­d­uarte

Joe Bu­vid

UH run­ning back Duke Cat­alon, right, gave SMU’s de­fense fits Satur­day night, rush­ing for a ca­reer-high 177 yards to go with two touch­downs at TDECU Sta­dium.

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