|Monday, November 2, 1998||
Volume 64, Issue 50
|Coogs sink Pirates
UH takes home down-to-the-wire win against ECU
By Anna Sivadasan
Before Saturday afternoon's game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, East Carolina head coach Steve Logan said that he expected a close, physical contest between his team and the Houston Cougars.
After all, the Pirates and Cougars played a terrific, back-and-forth game a year ago at Robertson Stadium in which East Carolina pulled off a win by the slimmest of margins in a 28-27 victory.
So it was only fitting that the Cougars return the favor Saturday on ECU's home grass. UH earned a come-from-behind 34-31 victory in a game that wasn't decided until the final second -- literally.
"They won the game for themselves," Cougar head coach Kim Helton said of his team. "I thought it was as good an effort as you could ever ask a bunch of young men to give."
The game was tied at 24 at the end of the third quarter, and it seemed like whichever team had the ball last would come out victorious. Well, it turned out that the team that had the ball second-to-last came out with the victory.
In one of the best games of the season, UH trailed 31-27 with only 2:35 left to go in the contest. The Cougars had no timeouts and needed to drive 65 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. To make things worse, tailback Ketric Sanford was on the sideline with a hip injury.
It didn't look good for the road team, but three plays and 1:09 later, Sanford's replacement, Mike Green, was in the end zone celebrating with his teammates. On first-and-10, at its own 35, UH set up a screen pass for Green, and he ran for 57 yards on the play, taking the ball all the way to the ECU 8-yard line. After Leif Penn's 7-yard run, Green finished the drive that he started with the game-winning 1-yard TD run.
"We don't throw a lot of screen passes," Helton said. "But I thought the offensive line did a great job of protecting the quarterback. You could see their defensive line trying to give us more and more line stunts. I thought we had a chance to pop the screen pass. But there were a lot of big plays. That was not the only big play."
That's where the Cougar defense and a wild and frantic finish came in. If it was going to hold on for the win, UH had to have a stop defensively. The Pirates started their drive in a good field position at their own 35-yard line after Mike Waddell's kickoff went out of bounds.
ECU had 86 seconds and two timeouts to work with and only needed a field goal to tie and force overtime. But on ECUis first play, quarterback David Garrard was sacked for a 10-yard loss by linebacker Ahmad Charles. After a false start made it second-and-25, Garrard completed a 22-yard pass to set up a third-and-3 in which he avoided UH tacklers and scrambled for 19 yards down the sideline to the Cougar 39-yard line.
But ECU called its last timeout of the game, which proved to be costly. Another 6-yard completion by Garrard took the ball to the UH 33, where Garrard spiked the ball to stop the clock. Facing a third-and-4, wide receiver Marcellus Harris made a 3-yard reception, but in doing so he stayed in-bounds and kept the clock running.
The Pirates, with no timeouts remaining, rushed their field-goal unit onto the field to attempt a 47-yard kick. But it came up short just as time expired, giving the Cougars the three-point win. "A lot of credit goes to East Carolina. They're a very physical talented team," Helton said. "In the end, the team that prevailed made the last play."
The Cougars would not have been in position to win the game had it not been for some big plays in the first half that helped take them to a 21-10 halftime lead. In the first 30 minutes, the Cougar special teams blocked two punts, both of which set up the UH offense inside the ECU 40-yard line.
The first blocked punt by Percy Forman led UH to its first TD of the game and tied the contest at seven points apiece. Louis Hampton got the second block, setting up another scoring drive that gave UH a 14-10 lead. "That's a tribute to our players," Cougar special teams coach Chad O' Shea said. "They take a lot of pride each week in trying to get to the punter and kicker."
In addition to the two first-half blocks, Patterson Owens added another block on an extra point in the second half. "It wasn't anything in particular we saw on their kicking or punting. I think we just got some guys who have a knack for getting to the block point," O'Shea said.
The Cougar defense gave the team a lift in the first half as well. With ECU trailing 14-10 in the second quarter, the Pirates moved the ball to the UH 3-yard line, and it looked as though they were going to cash in for a touchdown. On first-and-goal, Pirate running back Jamie Wilson carried it to the 1-yard line. But the Cougar defense forced a fumble, and the only TD on the play ended up going 99 yards the other way as David Williams picked the ball up and returned it for a UH TD, which completely changing the momentum of the game. Williams' return turned out to be the third-longest TD play in UH history, and it set a school record for the longest fumble returned for a touchdown.
With the victory, the Cougars have won consecutive games for the first
time since defeating Cincinnati and Louisville last season. UH improves
to 3-5 overall and 2-1 in Conference USA. The Cougars will next face C-USA
rival Southern Miss in their Homecoming game Saturday at Robertson Stadium.
Reach Sivadasan at