Trailing by nine points with 13:10 left to play, one of the nation’s top offenses still needed a spark in its conference opener.
Just like that, exactly 40 seconds later, Houston quarterback D’Eriq King breaks to the outside and turns on the jets for a 61-yard score untouched.
“I was just trying to keep them up and tell them to keep going,” the junior signal-caller noted after seeing the scoreboard. “I knew if our offense and defense started playing well [and] we started scoring, we’d have chances to win the game.”
The Manvel, TX native has now thrown at least three touchdown passes in every game this year although this one looked very different at the beginning.
The Tulsa Golden Hurricane came to Texas and grabbed a 10-0 lead in the first five minutes, seemingly showing signs of grabbing a second win in as many years over the Cougars.
Redshirt-freshman Seth Boomer was recently named the new starting quarterback and solidified the decision made by Head Coach Phillip Montgomery.
Although after a touchdown on the ground and through the air for King and plenty of moments for the brand, the halftime score was 17-13 in favor of the home team.
The Hurricane started to click on some plays with Boomer behind center and the visitors put up 13 unanswered points to take a 26-17 lead with 13:10 left in the game.
Houston Head Coach Major Applewhite noted that he knew the game had yet to be decided through only three quarters and he made sure his players knew that as well.
“My message was to just keep playing. These are two teams that are going to have a bunch of possessions. I looked at our team, and I see their whole team over there together all as one with their fours up like this is going to be a long one.
Let’s just conserve that energy and understand that there’s a lot of football left to play…Let’s not fire all of our shots with 13 minutes left, there’s a lot of ball left.”
His quarterback helped out a little bit, picking up a big chunk with only one shot that started to only unravel things on the other sideline.
After Dalton Witherspoon finished a hat-trick of field goals, Boomer attempted to make something happen out of the pocket but fumbled the ball for the Cougars to recover at the Tulsa 9-yard line.
King responded by throwing a touchdown pass to Romello Brooker on the next play.
When the Golden Hurricane got the ball back, the first throw from Boomer’s hand found a player in a red jersey instead and Houston took over at the Tulsa 23-yard line.
King responded by throwing a touchdown pass to Marquez Stevenson two plays later.
Coach Montgomery knew it was going to be a back and forth affair coming into it just with the history of these two teams.
“It’s a really good rivalry. It doesn’t matter what the records are, when these two teams get together it’s going to be a dogfight but I don’t think the score truly reflects that” he started.
“King had a great run right down the sideline. It lit him up and then we had a turnover. Next thing you know the game is in a different spot. You can’t let a game get away from you in the fourth quarter. We did that tonight, and we have some things we need to work on,” Montgomery said following his team’s decent to 1-4 on the season.
Those thoughts were echoed by the quarterback making his debut on the college scene in Boomer who finished with 227 yards on 13 completions.
“That was a pretty tough one to swallow…I felt like we were the better team through three quarters, but we have to finish the game,” he said. “We’re taking steps, but I’m tired of taking steps. We just have to win ball games.”
The win moves the Cougars’ record to 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the American Athletic Conference but most importantly, serves as the taking back of rightful property and avenging last year’s 45-17 loss.
When asked what kind of message he had been sending all week, Coach Applewhite referenced the 1995 movie “Friday,” portraying his team as the big man (Debo) interacting with a smaller individual (Red).
“We talked about it all week to go get your bike back. They stole your bike and go get it back,” Applewhite said with a smile. “I was proud of the way they played, but it’s over and it’s time to get ready for East Carolina.”