Cougars’ run game too much for Mustangs
Catalon rushes for career-high 177 yards, adds two touchdowns
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. email@example.com twitter.com/joseph_duarte
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.