The weather was unbearable. The game wasn't pretty at times. But coming off last weekend's debacle in Pasadena, the Cougars did what they needed to do: get a win.
First, the heat: according to the weather app on my Droid, at kickoff the temperature was 90 and the "feels like" temperature (factoring the humidity) was 95. Inside Robertson Stadium, an enclosed place full of concrete and aluminum that reflects heat, the temperature at kickoff was doubtlessly about 100. Although the game was officially a sellout (32,007), many fans clearly did not use their tickets because of the heat (as well as a 30 percent chance of rain, which mercifully waited until after the game was over). A large percentage of fans who did show up left during or right after halftime; I even had Lori come and pick up Kirby at the half because he was wilting in the oppressive heat.
As for the game itself: true freshman Terrance Broadway got his first start as a college quarterback and did decently, completing 19 of 28 passes for 174 yards and rushing 11 times for another 21 yards. He led the Cougars to a 28-14 lead at halftime. However, Broadway also threw an interception and fumbled twice; his ability to run gives the offense an added weapon but the coaching staff needs to work with him on his ball handling abilities. Houston's star offensive player was running back Bryce Beall; he gained 124 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries.
Nevertheless, the Cougars stalled in the second half and allowed the Green Wave to get back into the game. Midway through the fourth quarter the Cougars were holding on to a precarious three-point lead. But the Coogs stepped up when they needed to do so: Beall broke off a 25-yard touchdown run late in the fourth to give the Cougars some breathing room, and cornerback Loyce Means intercepted Tulane quarterback Kevin Moore twice - one of the two picks he returned 42 yards for a touchdown - to seal the 42-23 win.
There were still some problem points for the Cougars: Tulane RB Albert Williams ran through the Cougar defense at will, gaining 83 yards on 14 carries, and the UH secondary was burned for touchdown passes of 13, 36 and 9 yards. One of the reasons why the Cougars stagnated on offense through most of the second half was because Tulane's defensive line was dominating Houston's offensive line. Houston's playcalling was rather "vanilla" - and therefore relatively easy to defend - as well, but that certainly had to do with the fact that an inexperienced young quarterback was running the offense.
All in all, though, this was a crucial win for the Cougars. They now head into a much-needed bye week with a 3-1 overall record and a 2-0 record in their division. Furthermore, now that UCLA has upset Texas in Austin, last week's catastrophic loss doesn't look quite so, well, catastrophic.
And let's face it: while a win over Mississippi State two weeks from now at home would be nice, it really isn't that important right now as an out-of-conference game. The Cougars' most important games - Rice, SMU and Tulsa - are coming up afterward.