For the third consecutive year, the Houston Cougars will own the ‘ugly trophy’.
Freshman quarterback John O’Korn, making his first career start, shook off an early injury to throw for 281 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Cougars overcame an early deficit to defeat the Rice Owls 31-26 at Reliant Stadium in the 2013 Bayou Bucket game.
Deontay Greenberry hauled in 6 catches for a game high 146 yards. He broke free for a 61 yard reception in the first quarter that set up a 1 yard touchdown run by Ryan Jackson, and then broke free again for a 28 yard touchdown in the third quarter when the Cougars took control of the game.
The 34,381 fans in attendance, most of whom were wearing Cougar red, were feeling uneasy in the first quarter as the owls jumped out to a 13-7 lead early. The Owls scored on a 57 yard touchdown pass from running back Luke Turner to Turner Petersen to jump on the board first, then answered a Cougars scoring drive immediately when Charles Ross punched it in from one yard out after a 29 yard pass from Taylor McHargue to Klein Kubiak set up a 1st and goal at the 1.
However, Ross would have only 1 carry after the first quarter due to injury, and the Cougar defense began to settle in. Stalled Owls drives resulted in long field goal attempts for kicker Chris Boswell, who missed from 50 and 55 yards.
The Cougars offense, meanwhile, got a huge boost off the bench from quarterback Greg Ward Jr. The freshman, making his first appearance in a collegiate game, rushed 9 times for 81 yards, and was a perfect 3-3 passing for 48 yards. He showed great athleticism and elusiveness with the ball in the open field and demonstrated he could be a weapon for the Cougars going forward. Three straight touchdown passes by O’Korn spanning the end of the second quarter to the beginning of the fourth were part of 24 unanswered points by the Cougars that saw them take a commanding 31-13 lead
The Owls made a game of it late. Taylor McHargue’s 1 yard touchdown run got the Owls within 11 at 31-20, but the offense began to sputter again. The Cougars appeared to be lining up a 40 yard field goal with under 3 minutes remaining to push the game out of reach, but Alex Lyons blocked the kick and returned it 62 yards for the touchdown to get the Owls within 4 at 31-26.
The subsequent onside kick was recovered by Rice, but the drive fell short when McHargue, under pressure from Tyus Bowser, was unable to connect with Dennis Parks on a 4th down and 4 from the Cougar 36, effectively ending the game.
The Cougars improved to 3-0 for the second time in three years, and are now 29-11 all time vs Rice. The Owls fell to 1-2.