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Volume 6, Issue 2                                    University of Houston

Cougars stranded in island paradise

Kolb hits Marshall for game-tying touchdown,
UH loses Hawaii Bowl in 3OT

By Keenan Singleton
Breaking News

HONOLULU -- The stars for Houston are usually aligned. Rex Hadnot, Brandon Middleton, Joe Clay and Kevin Kolb are the names most mentioned when highlighting the Cougars.

But some new stars twinkled for Houston on Christmas Day.

Names like Vincent Marshall, Chad McCullar, Eddie McCray and Jackie Battle shined brightly for the Cougars, contributing at a higher-than-normal clip. A mix of new and old stars wouldn’t be enough though, as UH fell 54-48 in triple-overtime to Hawaii on Thursday in the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu.

Although regulation ran more than three-and-a-half hours and featured an "ohmygod" 81-yard touchdown sprint from Marshall with 22 seconds left to tie the game at 34, the game did not truly begin until the clock read "00:00."

The teams scored on their first two possessions in overtime, driving the score to 48-48. Houston’s Will Gulley intercepted Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang’s two-point conversion pass at the goal line, giving Hawaii a 54-48 lead and the Cougars a chance to win had they been able to score a touchdown and convert a two-point try. (Division I-A rules mandate that teams attempt a two-point conversion after the second overtime).

On fourth-and-five at the 20-yard line Kolb was prematurely forced from the pocket and completed a two-yard pass to Marshall, ending Houston's season (7-6) and chances at winning their first bowl game since the 1980 Garden State Bowl (35-0 win over Navy).

"(We) probably should have gone for two at the end (of regulation), we had tremendous momentum," head coach Art Briles said. "We were the underdogs and I made a coaching mistake, should have tried to end it there, gotten on the plane and gone on happy.

"They did a great job today, all our guys did," Briles said. "Every game is another opportunity for someone to step up." Everywhere you turned the young stars were stepping up.

Battle was Houston’s Hawaii Bowl MVP. The 6-2, 250 pound freshman rumbled for 125 yards on 19 carries, scoring three touchdowns. McCullar carried the Cougars in the first half, catching four passes for 86 yards and a touchdown (the sophomore finished with five catches for 103 yards and a touchdown). McCray was in Hawaii’s backfield all game, totaling two sacks and four tackles for losses.

Marshall (seven catches, 157 yards, one TD), who led the Cougars in receptions this season, based mostly on short screen pass, may have eclipsed his teammates with his game-tying catch at the end of the game. "(The underclassmen) wanted to send the seniors out with a ring," McCray, a freshman defensive lineman, said.

McCullar and the Cougars took early advantage of Hawaii’s defense, who was without the services of the Western Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Travis LaBoy (academically ineligible), pounding the ball with backs sophomore Anthony Evans and freshman Battle on Houston's first drive of the game.

A 14-yard run from Kolb and 15-yard penalty (late hit out of bounds) set up the first score of the game. Kolb would find McCullar over the middle of the field for a 34-yard touchdown to put the Cougars up early 7-0 with eleven minutes, 43 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

McCullar nearly made it back-to-back touchdowns when he returned a punt 60 yards to the Hawaii 10-yard line. Kicker Dustin Bell’s 21-yard field goal put the Cougars up 10-0 with 9:05 remaining in the first quarter.

But before the luau could begin for the Cougars, Hawaii would reply with 10 unanswered points of their own.

Starting quarterback Jason Whieldon’s injury with 14:28 left in the second opened the door for the Warriors’ usual starting signal caller Chang (26-42, 475 yards, five touchdowns), who closed Houston’s lead on his first play from scrimmage on a 48-yard strike to Clifton Herbert.

Marshall’s over-the-shoulder 45-yard catch on a Kolb (19-34, 332 yards, two touchdowns) scramble placed Houston on the Hawaii 40-yard line. That catch set up a two-yard touchdown dive from Battle which put the Cougars up 17-10 with 11:16 left in the first half.

Hawaii carved into Houston's lead just before the half. The two teams jogged into their locker rooms with Houston up 20-13.

As a sign of holiday giving, the teams exchanged turnovers like gifts, committing four turnovers (two apiece) on five possessions in the third quarter. Cougar safety Jermain Woodard forced Hawaii receiver Se’e Poumele fumble, allowing defensive back Roshawn Pope to recover the fumble with 8:02 left in the third quarter. Kolb’s interception three plays later gave the Warriors the ball and ultimately their first lead of the game, 27-20, with 4:35 seconds left in the third quarter.

Hawaii scored the only points in the third quarter, shutting out the Cougars 14-0.

Those expecting an offensive shootout were not disappointed -- the teams combined for 1,158 yards of offense. Hawaii had two receivers with more than 100 yards receiving, Jason Rivers (143 yards, three touchdowns) and Jeremiah Cockheran (162 yards).

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