"If we play as good as we can play," Houston Cougars head coach Kevin Sumlin said last week, "I think everybody will be happy."
Saturday, the Houston Cougars played as good as they could play, and they pulled off the upset of the college football weekend, defeating the then fifth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys by the score of 45-35.
Junior quarterback Case Keenum seemed to treat the Oklahoma State defense like a cat treats a mouse, playing with his various toys and just doing whatever he wanted as he was 32-for-46 for 366 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for another touchdown, and he appeared to be in total command the entire game.
The Cowboys came in riding the high of a week-one defeat of Georgia and their highest ranking of the coach Mike Gundy era. But the Cowboys offense, which had no difficulty stopping the Georgia Bulldogs, just couldn't shut down the Houston offense, giving up a total 512 yards.
Senior Carl Barnett, the team's anchor on the offensive line, gave a glimpse of the team's thinking last week when he expressed confidence in their ability to handle Oklahoma State. "The key [to handling OSU defense] is we have to change up our looks like coach said," Barnett said. "And their defense is more of a run-stop defense, so, I mean Georgia really played into their system....[but] we spread it out on them, open up the field, let Case run down the field and dump it off, then our running game will open up."
The Cougars racked up 146 rushing yards with sophomore Bryce Beall accounting for 80 of those yards on 18 rushes. Beall also ran for a touchdown, then made the spectacular end zone catch off of the Oklahoma State deflection to put the Cougars up 38-35 with 6:42 left in the game.
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The win wasn't an easy for the Cougars. Though the team jumped out to the 24-7 halftime lead, as was the case when they played the Cowboys last season, the Cougars allowed 21 third-quarter points to go into the fourth quarter trailing 28-24. The defense made some adjustments in the fourth, making some key stops as well as intercepting Cowboy QB Zac Robinson late in the fourth and returning the ball for the final TD to make the score 45-35.
"We feel that we can compete with this team," Barnett said last week. "Our opportunities that we have against them are real high, and we should be able to execute to our plays, and we should do real well against them." Barnett was right in every way.
The Cougars competed. They had the opportunities, and they executed their plays. And getting the 45-35 upset win was evidence that the Cougars did do real well against Oklahoma State. The Cougars get this next weekend off, then return to play on Saturday, September 26 when they host the Texas Tech Raiders on a nationally televised game on ESPN 2 with kickoff set for 8:15 p.m.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS COUGAR NOTES: The AP rankings came out yesterday, and the Cougars were in the number 21 spot -- for those interested, the Houston Chronicle's Steve Campbell is an AP voter and he put them at 14. This is the first time the Coogs have been in the AP rankings since September of 1991....This win was the Cougars' first against a top five ranked team in 25 years (a defeat of third-ranked Texas in 1984). This win was the team's first after 11 straight losses to teams ranked in the top five....Case Keenum was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation Offensive Player of the Week. This was the 15th time in his collegiate career that Keenum has thrown for 300-plus yards in a game....The leading tacklers for the Cougars were linebackers Marcus McGraw (14 tackles) and C.J. Cavness (12 tackles)....The loss dropped Oklahoma State to 16 in the rankings, and Texas continues to be rewarded for playing absolutely nobody by being ranked second in the country.