Cougars Battle SMU And The Weather, Get The Win

The Houston Cougars stopped the SMU Mustangs on their first drive. The Cougars then took the ball and scored a touchdown to go up 7-0 with about half of the first quarter left to play.

Then came the thunder and lightning to join the rain and, just like that, there was no more football for two hours and twenty minutes. SMU returned to the field after the weather delay and tied the game at seven. Alas, for the Mustangs, this was the last time that they would be in the football game.

The Cougars, coming off last week's disappointing loss to the Rice Owls, scored the next 10 points to make it 17-7, and as the abbreviated half rolled around, the score was 24-10 Houston.

SMU scored first in the second half, making the score 24-17, but that's when Tyron Carrier went to work for the Cougars, taking the SMU kickoff 91 yards for the touchdown and putting the Cougars up 31-17 -- you probably didn't see this play as it was at about this time that CBS College Sports, in its infinite wisdom, cut away to another game, leaving Houston fans without a viewing option for the game.

The final score was 45-20 as the Cougars put together, without a doubt, their best game of the season, coming off, perhaps, their most disappointing loss of the season. That the Cougars won the game was important in that they had already lost two straight games and didn't want to have a losing record. But in defeating SMU, the Cougars not only have a winning record at 4-3, they're now 3-1 in C-USA play and tied with SMU for first place in C-USA's West Division.

"I couldn't be prouder of these guys, how they've handled adversity last week," Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin told radio sideline reporter Chuck Brown after the game. "A lot of people down on us, and how we came out and played on the road today. It's a great team win. We made plays on defense. Obviously made plays on offense. And the special teams came up big for us tonight, too."

And there was perhaps no play more important for the Cougars than Carrier's TD return for a touchdown. Not only did that answer a SMU score that had brought them to within seven points, but Carrier's TD gave the momentum back to the Cougars, and they did not relinquish that momentum the rest of the game.

The offense, which had trouble clicking in the first half against Rice, fired on all cylinders for the entire game as they employed a balanced attack that saw running backs Bryce Beall and Michael Hayes both rush for 87 yards and both score two touchdowns. Freshman QB David Piland continued to justify Sumlin's faith in him as he went 19 for 32 with a touchdown to Patrick Edwards and no interceptions.

"He's been coming along every week," Sumlin said of Piland. "We just haven't gotten any breaks, to be honest with you. We've got to help him, too. And I think we're doing that. We've got to turn into a complete football team instead of just waiting for our quarterback to win games for us. As I said two or three weeks ago, this thing is not very easy, but I think we're developing as a complete football team. And if we can do that, in the end we'll be better."

SMU's offense was able to put 445 yards on offense, including 318 through the air, but the defense was able to stop SMU when needed. The Ponies were thus just never able to catch up to a Cougar team looking to quiet critics and to restore their own confidence.

"This is a great win for us, on the road, and it puts us back in the race," Sumlin said. "We truly can only handle one week at a time. What we have to do, with this football team, is remember how we prepared, what gave us the ability to win this game, and that starts on Monday. It doesn't start Friday, and it doesn't start in the second half of a game. It starts on Monday."

Today starts the preparation for the Cougars next game, where they will play the Memphis Tigers who are 1-6 (0-4 in conference) for the season. And if the Cougars play on Saturday anything like they did against SMU, then the Tigers are really not going to stand much of a chance.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES: Tyron Carrier's kickoff return for the TD was the sixth of his career. That leaves him one short of the NCAA record of seven set by C.J. Spillers when he was with Clemson. The kick return TD was his first since the Armed Forces Bowl on New Year's Eve....Carrier now has 5,033 career all-purpose yards. He's only the third Cougar to eclipse this mark....Bryce Beall's two-TDs give him 32 rushing TDs for his career, which is a UH record. It was also his fourth multi-TD game this season....This was Houston's fifth straight win against SMU, and they have won seven of the last eight. They are 15-9-1 all-time against SMU, including a record of 8-3 in Dallas.

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