Sep 10, 2022; Lubbock, Texas, USA;  Houston Cougars running back Ta   Zawn Henry (4) rushes against Texas Tech Red Raiders defensive back Tyree Wilson (19) in the first half at Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech upends No. 25 Houston in 2OT, 33-30

Donovan Smith bounced back from a pair of interceptions to run nine yards for a game-winning touchdown in the second overtime as host Texas Tech defeated No. 25 Houston 33-30 on Saturday.

After Bubba Baxa’s 20-yard field goal gave the Cougars a 30-27 lead, Smith passed for a first down and ran for the winning score on second-and-7. He completed 36 of 57 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns.

Clayton Tune completed 20 of 39 passes for 266 yards with one touchdown and one interception for Houston (1-1).

Houston overcame a holding penalty and Tune threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Golden on the first possession of overtime.

Texas Tech (2-0) converted a fourth-and-20 before Tahj Brooks ran four yards for a tying touchdown.

Baxa kicked a 35-yard field goal to complete a 17-0 second-half run and give the Cougars a 20-17 lead with 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter. However, Smith drove the Red Raiders to Trey Wolff’s tying 47-yard field goal with 3 seconds remaining.

On the first play of the third quarter, Tune threw a 63-yard completion to Nathaniel Dell for a first-and-goal at the Texas Tech 4. Brandon Campbell’s 2-yard touchdown run cut the Red Raiders’ lead to 17-10.

Dell finished with seven catches for 120 yards.

Jayce Rogers intercepted a Smith pass and sprinted 54 yards for a touchdown that tied the score at 17 with 12:25 left.

On the first possession of the game, Texas Tech drove 68 yards in nine plays and Wolff kicked a 25-yard field goal that provided a 3-0 lead that carried into the second quarter.

Dell’s 35-yard punt return to the Red Raiders’ 19 set up a 25-yard field goal by Baxa that tied the score early in the second quarter.

Texas Tech responded on the ensuing possession with a 43-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Nehemiah Martinez I to take a 10-3 lead.

Smith and Myles Price connected on a 54-yard touchdown pass with 18 seconds left to increase the lead to 17-3 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; East Hartford, Connecticut, USA; Houston Cougars head coach Dana Holgorsen watches from the sideline as they take on the Connecticut Huskies in the second half at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Houston coach Dana Holgorsen agrees to extension

Houston and head coach Dana Holgorsen have verbally agreed on a multi-year contract extension, The Athletic reported Saturday.

Holgorsen, 50, guided the Cougars to a 12-2 record in 2021 that included a victory against Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl.

Contract details are still being finalized, per the report. Under the terms of his original deal signed in 2019, Holgorsen was due to make $4.2 million in 2022 and $4.3 million in 2023.

The original contract also contained a clause that required the school and Holgorsen to negotiate a raise should Houston be invited to join a Power 5 conference during his tenure. In September, Houston accepted an invitation to join the Big 12, a move that could happen as early as 2023.

Holgorsen is 19-15 in three seasons at Houston after compiling a 61-41 record in eight seasons at West Virginia (2011-18).

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; East Hartford, Connecticut, USA; Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) throws a pass against the Connecticut Huskies in the second quarter at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Clayton Tune helps No. 24 Houston cruise past UConn

Clayton Tune threw a season high-tying four touchdown passes to lift No. 24 Houston to a 45-17 victory over UConn in a nonconference game on Saturday afternoon in East Hartford, Conn.

Tune completed 21 of 30 passes for 301 yards for the Cougars (11-1), who carry an 11-game winning streak into next Saturday’s American Athletic Conference title game against Cincinnati.

Tune also threw four touchdown passes in Houston’s 44-37 victory over SMU on Oct. 30.

Nathaniel Dell reeled in two scores for his third multi-touchdown performance of the season. He had six catches for 62 yards before exiting with an undisclosed injury.

Jake Herslow had five catches for 111 yards and a touchdown and Jeremy Singleton reeled in five receptions for 100 yards and a score.

Alton McCaskill rushed for 54 yards and his team-leading 16th touchdown of the season before sustaining an undisclosed injury late in the second quarter. He did not return to the contest.

UConn’s Steven Krajewski completed 9 of 19 passes for 79 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 53 more. Micah Leon relieved Krajewski and went 10-for-13 for 62 yards before injuring his left leg for the Huskies (1-11), who lost their final four games of the season.

McCaskill opened the scoring early in the first quarter after using a jump cut before finding daylight as part of a 31-yard touchdown run. The rushing score was his 12th in his last eight games.

Tune connected with Herslow on a 49-yard touchdown pass with 11:44 left in the second quarter before UConn answered just over five minutes later, courtesy of a 34-yard scoring reception by Kevens Clercius.

Undaunted, Houston cobbled together a nine-play, 58-yard drive that was capped off by Dell’s 6-yard touchdown reception.

Joe McFadden’s 25-yard field goal just before halftime trimmed UConn’s deficit to 21-10. However, Dell reeled in a 13-yard touchdown with 11:08 left in the third quarter.

Dalton Witherspoon’s 23-yard field goal and Tune’s 34-yard pass to Singleton staked the Cougars to a 38-10 lead late in the third quarter.

Houston pulled Tune to begin the fourth quarter, but Malik Dixon greeted Ike Ogbogu rudely by stepping in front of his pass and returning it 27 yards for a touchdown.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) drops back to pass against the Memphis Tigers  in the fourth quarter at TDECU Stadium. Houston Cougars won 31 to 13. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24 Houston visits UConn with big goals still in sight

No. 24 Houston aims to complete the regular season in style on Saturday afternoon when they visit UConn in East Hartford, Conn.

The Cougars (10-1) capped an undefeated season against conference foes for the second time since 1960 with a 31-13 win over Memphis last Friday. The victory notched Houston’s first 10-win season since 2015, the same year it won the American Athletic Conference crown.

“We are a good team,” Cougars coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We finished the American 8-0. We’ve won 10 in a row. It’s hard to win in college football. It’s hard to win every week … I’m very proud of this football team.”

And for good reason.

Let’s start with Clayton Tune, who threw for 264 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score versus the Tigers. Tune has completed 131 of 196 attempts for 1,742 yards with 15 passing touchdowns in his last six games.

“We just hammer through whatever adversity we are faced with,” Tune said. “Whatever challenges it is for that week, we keep hammering and playing. Don’t let outside noise and distractions get in the way of what we are trying to do. It just speaks to the character of this team and what we know we can do.”

Alton McCaskill has 11 rushing touchdowns in his last seven games while fellow running back Ta’Zhawn Henry has found the end zone in six of Houston’s last nine contests.

Meanwhile, cornerback Marcus Jones continued his scintillating play on the other side of the ball by setting a career high with two interceptions versus Memphis. Jones, who has five picks in his last four games, received AAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the fifth time this season.

“He’s the most versatile player in college football, you can’t deny that,” Holgorsen said of Jones. “He’s gonna win the Paul Hornung (Award). … He’s that kinda talent. He changes that game. … Defensively, he’s the best cover guy that I’ve been around and I’ve had corners get drafted high. He’s just special how he can feel the receivers and make plays on the ball.”

While Houston may ultimately have bigger fish to fry, UConn (1-10) likely will welcome the end of the regular season with open arms.

The Huskies, after all, went through an abrupt in-season coaching change that did little to change the fortunes of the club.

UConn has been outscored 137-37 during its current three-game skid. The Huskies surrendered the game’s first 28 points en route to a 49-17 shellacking by UCF last Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

“We had a couple of missed tackles, and we were watching rather than playing,” UConn interim coach Lou Spanos said. “Once we settled down, we were better. Then we got a little sloppy at the end.”

Nathan Carter provided a rare bright spot for the Huskies, rushing for 5.9 yards per carry while finding the end zone for the first time since a 24-22 loss to Wyoming on Sept. 25.

QB Steven Krajewski pushed his season total to 10 interceptions with three versus the Knights.

–Field Level Media

Oct 7, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) passes the ball against Tulane Green Wave during the first half at Yulman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Seeking 9th straight win, Houston visits upset-minded Temple

Since dropping its opener to Texas Tech, Houston has transformed into one of the best teams in the country.

The Cougars, ranked No. 17 in the AP Top 25, will be looking for their ninth consecutive victory and a berth in the American Athletic Conference championship for the first time since 2015 when they visit Temple on Saturday in Philadelphia.

Houston (8-1, 6-0 AAC) last won nine in a row in 2015. It won a wild 54-42 game last Saturday at South Florida.

“We’ve made progress this year,” Cougars head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We’re excited about playing another meaningful game in November.”

While Houston looks to be a heavy favorite against the reeling Owls (3-6, 1-4), nothing is guaranteed. That much was proven in the 12-point victory over the two-win Bulls.

“It’s hard to keep winning,” Holgorsen said. “You’re gonna get everyone’s best shot. You better prepare for the game.”

If Houston hopes to continue its winning streak, it will need to execute better against Temple.

The Cougars allowed 399 total yards to USF and also surrendered a pair of 100-yard kickoff returns.

While the wins keep adding up, there is a massive room for improvement.

“Defensively, we didn’t play our best game,” Holgorsen said. “We didn’t get to the quarterback. … What happened on the kickoff returns was unacceptable. It’s been a real problem and we’ve got to get it fixed.”

However, quarterback Clayton Tune continued to excel, completing 21 of 26 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns.

“I’ve just kind of learned to tune out the noise and not really worry about what people are saying because it doesn’t really matter,” Tune said. “What matters is what the team thinks and what I think and the ability that I know that I have.”

Temple will hope to avoid a fifth consecutive loss when it faces Houston.

Following a thrilling 34-31 victory over Memphis on Oct. 2, the Owls have been outscored 180-27 in losses to No. 2 Cincinnati, South Florida, UCF and East Carolina.

Temple was crushed 45-3 last week against the Pirates as it missed two early field goals, fell behind 21-0 and never recovered.

Despite the struggles, head coach Rod Carey insists that the team remains focused.

“We’re in this together and they understand that,” Carey said. “We’ve had these discussions and they’ll continue to stay together. They’re a pretty bonded group.”

The youthful Owls were expected to endure some growing pains this season. Just not to this degree.

All they can do is regroup and attempt to pull off a stunning upset against the ever-improving Cougars.

“As you go through it, I don’t make excuses,” Carey said. “We have to coach them better. There’s a lot of youth. Even with the older guys back there’s a lot of youth and inexperience. We have to coach them better and get them moving in the right direction.”

It’s unclear who will start at quarterback for Temple — D’Wan Mathis or Justin Lynch. Mathis is banged up and wasn’t on the practice field Monday.

Both quarterbacks struggled mightily against East Carolina.

“We’re going day by day,” Carey said. “We’ll plan for him (Mathis) being available. Justin has to prepare and get ready as well.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 30, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune (3) looks for an open receiver during the first quarter against the Southern Methodist Mustangs at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Houston stuns No. 19 SMU on 100-yard KO return in final minute

Marcus Jones produced a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 17 seconds remaining and the Houston Cougars knocked the 19th-ranked SMU Mustangs from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 44-37 victory on Saturday at TDECU Stadium.

Jones recorded his ninth career special-teams touchdown, and fourth this season, to answer a 45-yard field goal from SMU kicker Blake Mazza that pulled the Mustangs (7-1, 3-1 American) even 13 seconds earlier.

Jones’ kickoff return was the second of the game, as Bryan Massey opened the second half with a 100-yard return that gave the Mustangs their first lead at 27-23.

Houston (7-1, 5-0) extended its winning streak to seven consecutive games despite blowing a 17-point lead, the largest deficit of the season for the Mustangs.

Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune passed for a career-high 412 yards and four touchdowns, with Houston receiver Nathaniel Dell producing career highs in receptions (nine), receiving yards (165) and touchdowns (three).

Tune and Dell connected for the third time with 9:22 left in the third quarter to answer the Massey kick return and push the Cougars back ahead 30-27. Tune answered another SMU touchdown with a 4-yard pass to KeSean Carter for a 37-34 lead that held until the Mazza kick.

Tanner Mordecai passed for 305 yards and three touchdowns for SMU, but the Cougars held off the Mustangs by controlling the time of possession (35:25) with three scoring drives of 10-plus plays from the end of the second quarter into the third.

Houston scored on each of its first four possessions yet, after the Cougars turned over the football on downs when SMU defensive end Elijah Chatman forced a fumble at midfield, the Mustangs closed to within 20-14 when Mordecai hit Tre Siggers on a wheel route for a 50-yard touchdown with 7:28 remaining in the first half. Less than five minutes later, SMU pulled even.

After SMU safety Chace Cromartie forced a fumble that linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia recovered at the Houston 35, Mordecai found Rashee Rice for a 6-yard touchdown on fourth down.

But Gleson Sprewell blocked the ensuing PAT to prevent the Mustangs from grabbing their first lead and the Cougars followed by covering 62 yards in 12 plays before Dalton Witherspoon booted a 30-yard field goal as the first half expired to give Houston a 23-20 lead.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars running back Alton McCaskill (22) runs the ball during the first half against the Grambling State Tigers at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Surging Houston hits road to face Tulane

Houston and Tulane are heading in opposite directions as they prepare to meet Thursday night in an American Athletic Conference game at New Orleans.

The Cougars (4-1, 2-0) have won four games in a row and are coming off a 45-10 thrashing of host Tulsa last Friday.

The Green Wave (1-4, 0-1) opened the season by playing Oklahoma to the wire, but have lost three in a row, including Saturday’s 52-29 loss at East Carolina in their conference opener. Tulane has been outscored 141-71 in consecutive losses to Ole Miss, UAB and East Carolina, and now it takes on a Houston team that has outscored its last four opponents 162-37.

Houston has allowed just four touchdowns during its four-game winning streak and head coach Dana Holgorsen called the performance against Tulsa “complete dominance.” The Cougars had a smothering run defense, intercepted three passes (returning one for a touchdown) and recorded four sacks.

“We hope we made a statement,” said safety Gervarrius Owens, whose 45-yard interception return for a touchdown came in the first minute of the second half, making the score 35-3. “We showed how exciting and dominant we can be when we’re clicking on all cylinders.”

Cougars freshman Alton McCaskill scored three times against Tulsa and already has eight total touchdowns this season.

Tulane, meantime, has not led in a game since an easy 69-20 victory against Morgan State on Sept. 11.

“We can’t let negativity sink in. We can’t let outside things creep in,” said Green Wave running back Cameron Carroll, who had 147 all-purpose yards and a rushing touchdown against East Carolina. “We have to just stay focused and stay positive. We can’t get down on ourselves. We constantly have to lift each other up.”

Tulane fell behind 24-0 to East Carolina and gave up 612 yards, including 310 rushing. The Green Wave committed four turnovers, two of which led to Pirates touchdowns.

“You’ve got problems when you dig a hole as big as we did,” said Fritz, whose team has its worst record after five games in his six seasons as head coach.

The quick turnaround for the Thursday game didn’t leave much time for Tulane to dwell on its most recent loss.

“I like it,” linebacker Dorian Williams said. “You always like to play big Thursday night games on ESPN. We just have to get going and get back into the groove.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars cornerback Marcus Jones (8) celebrates his touchdown during the second quarter against the Grambling State Tigers at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Seeking fourth straight win, Houston takes on Tulsa

Houston will look to extend its winning streak to four games when it visits Tulsa in an American Athletic Conference game on Friday night, making for a short week for both teams.

“You take what you’re dealt, and you make the most of it,” Houston coach Dana Holgorsen told reporters. “We’ve got a plan. We haven’t snapped the football a ton, and we haven’t left the city. We’re healthy and that’s all I can ask for.”

The Cougars (3-1, 1-0 AAC) are coming off a 28-20 win over Navy to open conference play last Saturday. Marcus Jones scored on a 73-yard punt return and a 47-yard reception, and the Cougars rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit.

Ta’Zhawn Henry’s 2-yard touchdown run with 3:16 left in the third quarter pulled Houston to within 17-14. Houston took the lead for good on its next possession when Jones caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from Clayton Tune seven seconds into the fourth quarter for a 21-17 lead.

After opening with a 38-21 loss to Texas Tech, the Cougars have outscored their next three opponents — Rice, Grambling and Navy — by a combined score of 117-27. Houston has opened with three wins in its first four games for the first time since 2018.

Jones, who had a 48-yard punt return for a touchdown against Grambling on Sept. 18, became the fifth player in program history to score multiple punt return TDs in a season. His two punt returns for touchdowns are tied with Boise State’s Stefan Cobbs for the national lead.

Tune has gone 75-for-105 passing for 729 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions. Alton McCaskill leads the rushing attack with 233 yards and four scores on 51 carries, with Nathaniel Dell posting a team-high 25 catches for 342 yards and three touchdowns.

Tulsa (1-3, 0-0) ended a three-game losing streak with a 41-34 victory over Arkansas State in a nonconference game on Saturday. But the Golden Hurricane are looking to avoid their first 1-4 start since 2018.

Davis Brin went 17-for-25 passing for 355 yards with three touchdowns and an interception Saturday. Shamari Brooks rushed for 155 yards and a score on 22 carries and Josh Johnson caught nine passes for 127 yards against Arkansas State.

“I think it’s going to carry us with some momentum and going into conference (play),” Brin said. “But like we always say, we want to go 1-0 every week. And we’re going to keep focusing on that.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars cornerback Marcus Jones (8) celebrates his touchdown during the second quarter against the Grambling State Tigers at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Houston looks to ride momentum into clash vs. Navy

Two American Athletic Conference programs that got off to vastly different starts to the season will kick off their conference slates when Houston hosts Navy on Saturday night.

After a season-opening loss to future Big 12 rival Texas Tech, Houston (2-1) demolished its next two opponents, Rice and Grambling, to carry momentum into AAC play. Picked fourth in last month’s AAC preseason poll, Houston still can present a challenge to No. 8 Cincinnati atop the conference.

It wasn’t all positive takeaways from the Cougars’ 45-0 blowout of Grambling on Saturday. Starting quarterback Clayton Tune left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. Coach Dana Holgorsen revealed the junior sustained the injury in the previous week and missed two days of practice because of it.

“I own that. It’s my responsibility to get those guys ready,” Holgorsen said Monday. “When the backup hasn’t taken hardly any snaps in games, you kinda lean towards doing what you gotta do to get your starter out there.”

Ike Ogbogu subbed in for Tune against Grambling and passed for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Tune’s availability against Navy will depend on how he progresses through practice this week.

Houston gets the conference’s first crack at Navy (0-2), owner of arguably the worst offense of the young college football season. No FBS team has averaged fewer points per game than Navy (5.0); its 233 yards per game also ranks fourth-worst in the nation.

It will be Navy’s first game since athletic director Chet Gladchuk fired longtime offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper — then re-hired him to serve as quarterbacks coach after Ken Niumatalolo asked him to reconsider. Niumatalolo will assume full-time play-calling duties; the 14th-year head coach revealed he called Navy’s plays as recently as Week 1 against Marshall.

Niumatalolo said Navy’s open date last week came at a good time, allowing the offense to return to fundamentals at practice.

“I was encouraged by just the leadership of this team,” Niumatalolo said. “Nobody’s quitting. … Our guys continue to keep working. That’s all you can do right now. There’s so much flips and changes in a season.

“With all that we have still to play for, it’s a long season. We’ve got to keep going, got to keep grinding.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars head coach Dana Holgorsen waits with the team before taking the field against the South Florida Bulls at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Houston, Dana Holgorsen take aim at Texas Tech in opener

Two old conference foes who could wind up being league opponents again are set to get the new season rolling Saturday on the national stage with plenty of storylines in tow.

Houston and Texas Tech square off at NRG Stadium in Houston, a high-profile game between two programs that have slipped off the radar a bit the last few seasons.

Both teams are guided by third-year coaches who likely need their teams to show some progress this fall: the Cougars’ Dana Holgorsen and the Red Raiders’ Matt Wells.

The two old Southwest Conference foes are among a group of teams somewhat in limbo after the bombshell news that Texas and Oklahoma are leaving the Big 12 Conference for the SEC.

Whether Houston and Texas Tech wind up together again remains to be seen, but this season revives their series for just the fifth time since the end of the SWC after the 1995 season.

Holgorsen said his team is already fired up for a new season, especially after a 2020 campaign perforated by COVID-19. Add in some other elements — including a handful of Cougars who transferred from Texas Tech and some connections between the coaching staffs — and there is plenty of intrigue.

“You throw a Texas school in there, a Big 12 school in there, and you expect them to be excited,” said Holgorsen, who has guided Houston to 4-8 and 3-5 records in his first two seasons.

The Red Raiders have been slightly better under Wells, going 4-8 in 2019, 4-6 in 2020. But this will be a new-look team in a lot of ways with 20 transfers and a Big 12-leading 12 super seniors, those players who are taking advantage of the NCAA’s decision to give them another year after 2020 was derailed by COVID.

“The thing that gives me confidence is the amount of games played by the guys that we’re playing with on both sides of the ball, whether here at Texas Tech or at other schools,” Wells said. “I would say we do have an older presence. We have a veteran team. A lot of guys have played in big games — Division I games — and that’s what I draw confidence on.”

Most prominent among the list of newcomers for Texas Tech is an experienced starting quarterback.

Tyler Shough made the move to Lubbock after starting all seven games last season for Oregon and passing for 1,559 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is the front-runner of arguably the deepest collection of passers the Red Raiders have had since Patrick Mahomes left after his junior season in 2016.

“He’s everything you could hope for, and the big thing is he’s fit in very well with his teammates,” Wells said.

Shough has company in the group of newcomers. Left tackle T.J. Storment was an All-Big 12 player at TCU. Receiver Kaylon Geiger is in scarlet and black after catching 141 passes and scoring eight touchdowns at Troy, and safety Marquis “Muddy” Waters started 35 games in four seasons at Duke.

While Houston didn’t load up as much in the transfer market, the Cougars are also leaning on a veteran quarterback to engineer Holgorsen’s version of the Air Raid offense. Clayton Tune passed for 2,048 yards and 15 scores in eight games last fall.

“Clayton is a guy we know we can rely on because he knows the offense,” Holgorsen said.

No argument from Wells.

“He’s accurate, throws a good ball, throws different kinds of balls,” Wells said. “He’s got arm strength to throw it down the field, so I think those are the things that make him good.”

–Field Level Media