By Bill McCaughey
For The Fort Bend Star
Major Applewhite’s head coaching career started out strong as the Cougars took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, and led at halftime 10-6.
The second half was another story as San Diego scored 28 points to win the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl, 34-10.
Ty Cummings kicked a 31-yard field goal, and Greg Ward scored on a 2-yard run for the Cougars’ only points.
The momentum shifted in the third quarter as Ward threw three interceptions on the Cougars’ first three series. UH survived the first turnover as San Diego had to punt. The second interception resulted in Donnel Pumphrey running 32-yards for a touchdown, giving San Diego a 13-10 lead. The third interception was returned 54-yards for a touchdown by Ron Smith making the score 20-10 after three quarters.
With 9:03 to go the fourth quarter, the Cougars went for it on fourth down and 1 on their 31-yard line. Ward was tackled for a 3-yard loss, and San Diego scored on the next play, a 28-yard pass from Christ Chapman to Curtis Anderson.
The Cougars again went for it on fourth down with 2:57 to go in the game. This time Ward was sacked for an 8-yard loss on the Houston 21 yard line. Four plays later, San Diego’s Juwan Washington scored on a 7-yard run.
“Obviously, the game didn’t go the way we wanted. It came down to turnovers. We didn’t take of the ball in the third quarter,” Applewhite said. “We will spend our next three weeks recruiting players and coaches, so we can look to next season.”
San Diego’s Donnel Pumphrey rushed for 115 yards, breaking the NCAA career rushing record. His 6,405 rushing yards passed Wisconsin’s Ray Dayne previous record of 6,397.
The Cougars’ were held to 25 yards rushing, but had 229 yards passing, but they could not overcome four interceptions.
Ed Oliver had five tackles and finished the season with 23 tackles for-a-loss, the third highest in UH history.
The Cougars finished the season with a 9-4 record.
After the game, Todd Orlando announced he was leaving UH to be the defensive coordinator for Tom Herman at the University of Texas – Austin.