Oct. 13, 2007
HOUSTON -Donnie Avery set four University of Houston and Conference USA records with 346 yards receiving and 427 all-purpose yards as the Cougars used a second-half comeback to knock off Rice 56-48 and retain the Bayou Bucket in front of 26,514, Saturday in Conference USA action on John O'Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium.
The Cougars (3-3, 2-1 C-USA) finished with 748 yards of total offense (274 passing, 474 rushing), the most in the five-year tenure of head coach Art Briles. A Briles-coached teams' previous best was 684 yards on Oct. 24, 2003. The total also ranks second all-time in C-USA history, behind only Louisville's 769 yards recorded on Nov. 14, 1998.
Rice (1-5, 1-1 C-USA) gave up a 48-35 fourth-quarter lead and saw its seven-game league winning streak come to a halt. In its last two games, the Owls have been outscored 44-0 in the fourth quarter.
After scoring 28 points in the first quarter, UH had five turnovers and was outscored 27-0 for the next 26 minutes. Anthony Alridge snapped the scoreless streak with an eight-yard touchdown run with 5:28 left in the third quarter, pulling the Cougars to within 40-35.
Justin Hill scored a seven-yard touchdown on Rice's next possession, pushing the lead to 48-35. It was the Owls last score of the night as UH's defense held them to just 52 yards and forced a pair of turnovers in four drives over the final 15 minutes.
Case Keenum, who started the second half, scored on a two-yard run 51 seconds into the fourth quarter bringing UH within six at 48-42.
Alridge closed out a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 33-yard touchdown scamper with 8:16 left, giving Houston a 49-48 lead. He added his fourth touchdown of the night six minutes later, sealing the game on a 50-yard run with 2:20 to go.
Alridge added 101 yards rushing in the fourth quarter alone, finishing the game with 214 total on 24 carries. He is the first Houston player to rush for four touchdowns in a game since Joffrey Reynolds did it against East Carolina on Nov. 9, 2002.
Avery finished with 13 catches for 346 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His total ranks fourth best all-time among NCAA Bowl Subdivision teams and is the 14th time in NCAA history a players has surpassed 300 receiving yards in a game. He bettered Elmo Wright's previous UH record of 262 yards, set on Nov. 22, 1969 and Southern Miss' Kendrick Lee's C-USA record of 260 yards set on Nov. 9, 1996 against the Cougars.
Avery added 81 return yards to tally 427 all-purpose yards, bettering his own records set against East Carolina on Sept. 29.
Joseph set career bests in the first half, going 11-18 for 318 yards and three touchdowns. Keenum finished 15-18 with 156 yards and an interception. He also added 30 yards rushing.
The teams combined for 42 points and 468 yards of total offense in the first quarter along with 15 first downs. Houston led 28-14 at the end of a wild 15 minutes.
Avery had three catches for 208 yards in the quarter, setting his third UH record of the night. He added a pair of touchdowns on catches of 77- and 67 yards. He also added a 64-yard catch that set up Alridge's first touchdown run of the game.
The Cougars were out to a 14-0 lead early, but Rice tied it up with 6:30 left in the quarter after a one-yard run from Marcus Knox and an 18-yard pass from Chase Clement to Jarret Dillard. Dillard's TD was set up after Teric Williams muffed a punt return. Rice's Andrew Sendejo knocked the ball out at the 22-yard line and recovered the ball on the UH 17-yard line.
UH's next scoring drive, a seven-play 65-yard affair for 3:08 was the first in the game that lasted over 70 seconds. Joseph completed a screen pass to Jeron Harvey who found the corner and took it 18 yards to the end zone. The drive featured runs of 22 and 14 yards from Alridge.
Rice went three-and-out on its next drive and UH needed just eight seconds and a 67-yard pass from Joseph to Avery to make it 28-14.
Clement finished 24-44 with 355 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 36 yards rushing. Dillard had seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown. Clark Fangmeier added two field goals, including a career-long of 46 yards.
The Cougars take on UAB next Saturday at 6 p.m. CDT at Legion Field.
Fans can hear the game live on 790 AM The Sports Animal with Tom Franklin calling the play-by-play action, Ted Pardee providing color analysis and Chuck Brown reporting from the sideline. The pregame show is slated to begin one hour before kickoff.
Fans also can follow live stats and video by clicking on the GameTracker and All-Access links at UHCougars.com.