The Cougars retained possession of the Bayou Bucket last Saturday, defeating crosstown rival Rice in a nail-biting 31-26 victory. The Cougars comfortably led 31-10 early in the fourth quarter, but the Owls then made things interesting. They scored a touchdown, blocked a UH field goal attempt and returned it for a score, and then recovered a Sportscenter-worthy onside kick with about a minute remaining. The Cougar defense then had to step up to preserve the victory, which they did when Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue's fourth-down pass sailed incomplete.
The Good: Greg Ward, a true freshman quarterback from Tyler, made his debut in this game, periodically spelling starting (and fellow true freshman) QB John O'Korn, rushing nine times for 80 yards, and passing three times for 48 yards. O'Korn, for his part, completed 15 of 33 passes for 281 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Receiver Deontay Greenberry had a good afternoon, catching six passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.
The Bad: Rice started out strong and led 13-7 at the end of the first quarter. But the Coogs made adjustments that shut the Owls down until late in the fourth quarter, when two special teams mistakes - an allowed block on a field goal attempt (that was returned for a touchdown) and then a failed recovery of the ensuing onside kick - put the game's outcome in doubt. The Cougars (players as well as coaches) need to learn how to put games away such that late rallies like this do not occur in the future.
The Ugly: Some members of my tailgating group purchased a brand-new pop-up tent from Academy, complete with the new UH "Cougar" logo on the canvas. When we returned to our tailgating area at Reliant Park after the game, we discovered that the tent's canvas had been taken. Maybe some thug walked off the street to take it, perhaps a disgruntled Rice fan took it, or maybe a UH fraternity took it as a prank. Regardless, theft is theft, and whomever took the canvas is truly a douche.
What it means: The Cougars are now 3-0, and retain possession of the Bayou Bucket for the third straight season. With the near-term future of the Bayou Bucket rivalry in doubt - the Coogs and the Owls will probably meet again at some point, but it night take awhile - this was an important "bragging rights" game against a decent opponent (Rice defeated Big XII member Kansas a week ago). Up next for the Coogs is a road trip to the Alamodome to face a highly-motivated UT-San Antonio squad.