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Volume 71, Issue 10, Friday, September 2, 2005

Sports

Hunter becomes hunted

Cougars' halftime lead turns upside down

By Tony Hernandez
The Daily Cougar

Houston's lead evaporated in the second half of Thursday's season opener against Oregon, where the Cougars fell 38-24 in front of 19,981 fans at Reliant Stadium. 

The Cougars munched on some Duck meat, taking a 21-17 lead in the first half, but Houston's new defense seemed like it couldn't keep up with Oregon's new spread offense.

"I thought the guys played hard," head coach Art Briles said. "I thought Oregon had a pretty good football team coming in. They weren't the second winningest program in the Pac-10 over the last 15 years for no reason. 


Sophomore wide receiver Ricky Wilson looks for some open field to help the Cougars put points on the board during the season opener against Oregon.
Gregory Bohuslav/The Daily Cougar

"I appreciate our fans. I thought we had a great crowd tonight. They made a big difference for us there."

All but three of Houston's 24 points were scored in the first quarter, but it was the Ducks who put points on the board after Oregon's Paul Martinez kicked a field goal from the Houston's 22-yard line. 

Sophomore Ricky Wilson answered the next play with a 74-yard kickoff return, which put the Cougars on Oregon's 12-yard line. Four plays later, senior Anthony Evans ran six yards to give Houston a 7-3 lead.

After the Ducks responded with a second field goal, just less than five minutes later, junior quarterback Kevin Kolb connected with sophomore Donnie Avery for a 70-yard touchdown, the longest touchdown of the receiver's career.

Still, the Ducks kept up with the Cougars after Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens hit Demetrius Williams with a three-yard touchdown. After a successful two-point conversion, Oregon tied the game. 

The first quarter ended with a 62-yard Cougar touchdown pass to sophomore Anthony Alridge, who scored his first career touchdown, putting the Cougars up 21-14.

"I thought we came out there and sleepwalked a little bit on defense in the first quarter," Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti said. "But at halftime we said we lost the first half, but we're going to win the second half."

And that's what they did. The Ducks racked up 304 total offensive yards in the second half and scored 21 points. Houston's offense tried to keep up, but long Oregon drives kept the Cougar defense on the field most of the second half. Houston's offense finished with a total of 412 yards to Oregon's 554.

Kolb finished the night completing 24 passes on 43 attempts. His 70-yard touchdown in the first quarter put him over the 6,000 career-yard mark. He's now the fifth Cougar to reach this milestone, finishing the game with 6,209 career yards. Despite this, Kolb remained dissatisfied with his performance. 

"I wasn't real consistent," Kolb said. "We had some stuff; we just didn't execute well. From an offensive standpoint, that's what is so frustrating."

It seemed that the Cougars' strategy didn't play out to their liking.

"We felt like our best chance to win was to throw the ball against Oregon," Briles said. "We liked our matchups and we felt like we could take the ball down the field on them.

"It proved pretty good early; we just couldn't sustain it. We'll be more balanced after the season goes along, but it depends on the people we play, too."
 

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