Thursday, October 02, 2008

Houston 41, (23) East Carolina 24

I certainly didn't see this coming.

The Cougars snapped their three-game losing streak in grand fashion last Saturday, upending the #23-ranked East Carolina Pirates, 41-23, before 43,641 stunned fans in Greenville, North Carolina. In doing so, the Cougars notched their first win over a ranked opponent since their defeat of Southern Mississippi in 1996 and their first defeat of a ranked opponent on the road since they upset #3-ranked Texas in 1984.

Quarterback Case Keenum struggled early on, fumbling the ball twice and throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown. He also got sacked three times. But once he got himself together he was unstoppable. He ended the day completing 36 of 44 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns. Furthermore, the Coogs managed to rack up 222 rushing yards on 40 carries. Freshman RB Bryce Beall came into his own, carrying 22 times for 132 yards, and Case Keenum scrambled for 23 more. East Carolina was most flummoxed, however, by direct snaps to backup quarterback Blake Joseph, who carried five times for 31 yards.

But the story of the day was the defense. They held the Pirates to 275 yards and a 1-of-13 effort on third downs. They also recovered an East Carolina fumble and intercepted the ball twice.

That's not to say that the Cougars' performance last Saturday was flawless. The team committed four turnovers, and special teams struggled through three failed field goal attempts. Given all the mistakes the Cougars made early on, the fact that they handily defeated ECU is even more impressive.

No doubt about it: this was a huge win for the University of Houston, and was exactly what the team and its fans needed after the struggles of the last few weeks. With a much-needed bye week this weekend and a winnable home game - their first in over a month - against Alabama-Birmingham one week from tonight, the prospects for the season just got a lot brighter.

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