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Late Game Drama Lifts Football over UTEP, 42-37

Nov. 22, 2008

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HOUSTON - Trailing for much of the game, the University of Houston football team got some late game heroics and a season-high 700 yards of total offense to notch a 42-37 come-from-behind victory over UTEP Saturday at Robertson Stadium.

Sophomore quarterback Case Keenum's one-yard touchdown plunge with just 41 seconds remaining in the game gave the Cougars the game-winning score. Keenum, topped the 300+ yard passing mark for the 12th straight game by completing 41-of-51 passes for a career-high 480 yards and three touchdowns.

The victory improves the Cougars overall record this season 7-4 and their mark in Conference USA to 6-1, setting the stage for the important Bayou Bucket game with cross-town rival Rice, who also owns a 6-1 league mark, next Saturday.

The Miners' first drive stalled after reaching the UH 37-yard line and visitors lined up for a long field goal. The attempt, however, was blocked by Wesley Scourten and brought back by the Cougars to the UTEP 48-yard line. The play was the fourth blocked kick by Scourten this season.

Houston's first drive would end in a similar fashion as the visitors, as a field goal attempt from Ben Bell was unsuccessful. Unlike the UTEP attempt, the Bell attempt was not blocked by a defender but instead banged off the left upright.

A kick attempt would not be result of UTEP's second drive of the afternoon as the Miners were able to drive 80 yards in 12 plays to put the game's first points on the board on a four-yard touchdown run from sophomore quarterback Trevor Vittatoe.

Vittatoe made it 14-0 UTEP on the second play of the second quarter as he connected with receiver Kris Adams on a 28-yard touchdown pass.

UH was finally able to break the ice on its side of the scoreboard as Bell converted a 36-yard field goal attempt with 11:35 left in the second quarter.

UTEP (5-6; 4-3 C-USA) was the benefactor of a fortunate bounce to put seven more points on that board before halftime, as a Vittatoe pass slipped through the hands of UH defender Brandon Brinkley and into the waiting hands of Adams to make it 21-3 Miners with 8:55 to play before intermission.

The Cougars rallied behind Keenum to close the gap to 21-9 as the sophomore quarterback engineered an eight-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off by a one-yard plunge from Keenum. The ensuing extra point attempt was blocked by the Miners.

Houston's last two drives of the second quarter put them in a position to inch closer to the Miners, but a Keenum fumble and a missed field goal off the foot of Bell left them still trailing 21-9 at intermission.

The Miners took advantage of a UH miscue to put seven more points on the board, midway through the third quarter, to open their lead up to 28-9. After driving down to the UH 18-yard line, the Cougars appeared to get a momentum switching interception from senior Kenneth Fontenette, but the pick was nullified by a off sides call against the Cougars. Three plays later, Vittatoe tossed this third touchdown pass of the afternoon to a wide open Jeff Moturi.

Houston's offense finally kicked into high gear late in the third quarter. In just four plays, the Cougars marched 62 yards in 52 seconds and scored on a 15-yard completion from Keenum to freshman running back Bryce Beall.

Sophomore wideout Tyron Carrier, who enjoyed his best game as a Cougar a week ago with three total touchdowns, got the Cougars within a score as he caught short pass from Keenum and eluded a slew of Miner defenders on his way to a 62-yard touchdown. The score cut the UTEP lead to 28-23 with 13:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Carrier was the Cougars leading receiver for the second straight week, ending play with 141 yards on nine receptions.

The Miners were able to regain the momentum with 10:37 remaining as Vittatoe and Adams hooked up for the third time on the game, this time a 42-yard scoring toss to extend the visitors lead to 35-23.

Beall regained the momentum for the Cougars on their ensuing drive as he broke loose for a 71-yard touchdown that closed the gap to 35-30 with 9:34 to play. The rookie rusher from Tatum, Texas, finished with 167 yards on 19 carries while also hauling in eight catches for 96 yards.

Houston appeared to complete the comeback with a 16-yard scoring pass to Kierrie Johnson that gave them a short-lived 36-35 lead, but on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, the Miners returned an errant Keenum pass all the way for a two-pointer of their own. The return regained the lead for UTEP at 37-36 with just 4:54 remaining.

Needing a big defensive stand to give the ball back to their offense, the Cougars got one as senior defensive end Phillip Hunt collected his 11th sack of the season on third-and-long to give the ball back to UH at the 2:35 mark of the fourth.

The Cougars made the most of the opportunity, driving 59 yards on nine plays to set the stage for Keenum's deciding score.

UTEP's Hail Mary attempt during the game's final second fell harmlessly to the grass in the back of the end zone.

 

 

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