Houston Outlasts UTEP, 34-31

    Anthony Aldridge scampers after eluding UTEP defenders during the first quarter. (AP Photo/Victor Calzada)
    Anthony Aldridge scampers after eluding UTEP defenders during the first quarter. (AP Photo/Victor Calzada)
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    Oct. 28, 2007

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    EL PASO, Texas -- Senior running back Anthony Alridge rushed for 204 yards to help lead the University of Houston football team to a 34-31 win over Conference USA rival UTEP on Saturday at the Sun Bowl.

    Alridge recorded his third 200-yard rushing game of the season and the fourth of his career to guide the Cougars to their first win over the Miners in El Paso. With his impressive total, he moved over the 1,000-yard mark for the season with at least four regular-season games remaining.

    In a game that featured two of the most potent offenses in C-USA, the Cougars came out on top, racking up 520 yards of total offense, including 306 rushing yards. It marked the second straight game that the Cougars posted at least 300 rushing yards after tallying a season-high 335 yards in a 49-10 win at UAB on Oct. 20.

    Meanwhile, the Cougar defense answered the call, especially late in the game. After the Miners grabbed a 31-27 lead midway through the final period, the Cougar defenders allowed only 12 more yards in seven plays the rest of the way to seal the win.

    With the win, the Cougars improved to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the C-USA West Division. The win pushed the Cougar division lead to one game over Tulsa and 1.5 games over UTEP with the tiebreaker to the Cougars.

    UTEP dropped to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in C-USA West.

    The two teams battled to a 17-17 tie at the halftime break, thanks to senior kicker T.J. Lawrence's19-yard field goal with only one second remaining in the first half.

    Coming out of the locker room, the Cougars struck first in the third period when Lawrence's 21-yard field goal gave the Cougars a 20-17 advantage with 10:58 remaining in the frame.

    UTEP took over midway through the period at its 34-yard line and marched to the Cougar 19 before quarterback Trevor Vittatoe hit Jeff Moturi on a 19-yard touchdown strike with 3:02 remaining in the third period.

    In the fourth quarter, the Cougars regained the lead, thanks to a 17-play, 80-yard drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock. Quarterback Case Keenum led the Cougars to the UTEP 5-yard line and, facing third-and-goal, scrambled away from Miner pressure and hit Perry McDaniel in the back of the end zone for a 27-24 Houston lead.

    But the Miners answered on the ensuing possession. Taking over at their 20-yard line, the Miners marched to the Cougar 35-yard line and regained the lead at 31-27 when Jeff Moturi caught a pass from Vittatoe and raced 35 yards down the sideline with only 8:57 remaining.

    Once again, the Cougars rallied with an impressive scoring drive of their own. After a UTEP penalty on the initial kickoff and then a kick that sailed out of bounds, the Cougars took over on their 40-yard line. With Alridge rushing the ball three times for 22 yards and Keenum connecting on three passes for 36 yards, the Cougars drove to the UTEP 1-yard line and grabbed the lead for good on Terrance Ganaway's plunge into the end zone with 7:01 left in the game.

    UTEP took over on its 35-yard line when the Cougars' ensuing kickoff bounced just out of bounds. But the UTEP offense managed only three yards and was forced to punt after only three offensive plays.

    On its next possession, the Cougar offense managed only 13 yards but forced the Miners to use a timeout and consumed nearly four minutes to take the clock down to the 2:06 mark.

    Again, the Cougar defense answered the call, surrendering only seven yards to set up a fourth-and-1 on UTEP's 35-yard line. Rolling to his right, Vittatoe floated a pass to Lorne Sam, but cornerback Brandon Brinkley broke up the play, sending the Cougar sideline into hysterics.

    UTEP running back Marcus Thomas led the Miners with 178 rushing yards on 28 carries, while Vittatoe finished with 134 yards and three touchdowns on 8-of-23 passing. Moturi posted four catches for 94 yards and two touchdowns to lead the UTEP aerial assault.

     

     

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