Thursday, December 29, 2022

Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl: Houston 23, Louisiana-Lafayette 16

The Cougars ended their football season with a 7-5 record, as I predicted last month. What I got wrong was the way they arrived at that record; instead of losing to a 7-3 East Carolina team on the road, the Coogs played their best football of the year and dismantled the Pirates, 42-3. And instead of defeating a 4-7 Tulsa team at home, they opened up a massive can of quit on Senior Day and got embarrassed, 37-30.

The team's reward for going 7-5 was a trip to Shreveport to face the 6-6 Ragin' Cajuns in a frigid Independence Stadium. The game did not start out well for Houston, as ULL led 16-6 at the half. But the Cougars rallied in the second half to pull off the win and bring their all-time bowl record to 13-16-1.

The Good: QB Clayton Tune and WR Tank Dell could have opted out of this game to prepare for the NFL draft. They chose, instead, to play their final game of their UH careers with their teammates. Tune passed for 224 yards (including a 41-yard pass to KeSean Carter on 1st and 30!), rushed for 55 more, threw three touchdowns and had no interceptions. Two of those TD passes were to Dell, including the go-ahead score with 20 seconds remaining. It was a fitting end to both of their tenures in UH jerseys.  

The defense struggled in the first half but stepped up in the second half, keeping the Cajuns from scoring as well as recovering three turnovers.

The Bad: The Cougars started out slow, allowing the Cajuns to score on their first drive of the game and jump out to a 16-6 lead at halftime. The Cougars didn't even find the endzone until 3 minutes left in the second quarter, and kicker Kyle Ramsey missed the extra point. The Coogs also allowed the Cajuns to go three-of-three on fourth down attempts and were flagged 7 times for 61 yards.

What It Means: The Cougars began the 2022 football season with a a top 25 ranking and realistic expectations for a conference championship and New Year's Six bowl. They end it with a bowl win over a .500 Sun Belt team after a 7-5 regular season. To say that the season was a disappointment would be an understatement. Things don't get easier from here, either, as the Cougars now join the Big 12 conference for the 2023 season. Could this be their last bowl appearance for awhile?

The Cougars are now 7-3 all-time against the Ragin' Cajuns, going all the way back to 1946 when the UH program played its very first game against what was then known as Southwestern Louisiana Institute. 

The Cougars will open the 2023 season against the UTSA Roadrunners at TDECU Stadium on Saturday, September 2, 2023.

Andy Yanez has more.

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