By Bill McCaughey
For The Fort Bend Star
Just when the Cougars’ season was starting to swirl down the drain, the players who are expected to make plays, finally made some plays, and the University of Houston came back to defeat the University of Central Florida 31-24 Saturday.
UH was behind 24-3 with 13:05 to go in the third quarter before they took advantage of three UCF turnovers to pull out the victory.
The comeback started when Greg Ward Jr. scored on a 1-yard keeper after the Cougars went 75 yards on eight rushing plays, including four straight rushes by Dillon Birden accounting for 54 yards. With the score 24-10, Brandon Wilson intercepted a pass at the UCF 29 yard line, and four plays later, Ward tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Romello Brooker to make the score 24-17 at the end of the third quarter.
A minute into the fourth quarter, Garrett Davis recovered a UCF fumble at the UCF 24-yard line. It took Duke Catalon only three rushes to tie the score at 24. After UCF went three and out, UH started on their own 41 yard line. During the 9-play drive, Ward threw twice to Tyler McCloskey and once to D’Eriq King, Birden ran twice and Catalon rushed three times, before Ward scored on a 14-yard keeper to put the Cougars ahead 31-24 with 7:27 to go in the game. UCF made it to the UH 38-yard line before turning it over on downs, and the Cougars ran out the clock to claim the victory.
“This is one of the biggest wins if not the biggest win in our program’s history. We were reeling and being able to come out swinging in the second half should give us a lot of confidence, Coach Tom Herman said. “We grew up immensely today. Effort is never a question with our team, it was how do we do our jobs when faced with adversity.”
Ward was 26-37 for 240-yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
“The main thing I focused on was taking care of the ball in the second half. In the first half, I didn’t play very well,” Ward said. “I just put the first half behind me. I think this game was a great team win. It was a confidence booster.”
Catalon had 19 carries for 91-yards and one touchdown, and seven receptions for 40 yards. Birden had 11 rushes for 76 yards.
On defense, D’Juan Hines had nine tackles, and Khalil Williams and Steven Taylor had eight each.
“We try to go out there and get a 3-and-out every time,” Taylor said. “We came out in the second half and responded, and good things happened.”
Brandon Wilson had three tackles, one sack for 12 yards and oneinterception.
“I was just out there doing my job,” Wilson said.