HOUSTON (AP) — No. 13 Houston was coming off of its first loss and the Cougars were close to making it two in a row with Tulsa driving in a tie game late in the fourth quarter on Saturday night.
It was then that Houston’s defense responded with two huge plays to give the Cougars a 38-31 victory .
The game was tied at 31-31 when Emeke Egbule returned a fumble 24 yards for a touchdown with 1:21 remaining. Garrett Davis knocked the ball out of the hands of quarterback Dane Evans. Egbule scooped it up and dashed into the end zone for the score.
“I just knew I had to do something with it to keep us in the game,” Egbule said.
Tulsa (4-2, 1-1 American) had a chance to tie it, but Jesse Brubaker was stopped just short of the goal line after a reception on the last play of the game to seal Houston’s victory. The play was reviewed and upheld.
“He was really close … I don’t think you can get any closer than what it was,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said.
It was a close call for the Cougars (6-1, 3-1) a week after Navy beat them 46-40 after a 5-0 start.
“We got the taste out of our mouth,” Houston coach Tom Herman said.
Tulsa never led, but had twice rallied from 14-point deficits to tie the game. The second time came when James Flanders scored on a 3-yard run with 3:31 left.
“This is one of those games that’s tough to swallow,” Montgomery said. “It really didn’t feel like we lost the football game, it felt like we just ran out of time.”
The Golden Hurricane forced a punt after that, but the fumble by Evans came two plays later.
Houston’s Dillon Birden ran for 82 yards and three touchdowns playing in place of starter Duke Catalon, who missed his third straight game with a concussion.
Herman thought this game was another good reminder for his players that they can’t take any team lightly.
“You’re going to get their best shot. You’ve earned that,” he said. “Everybody on your schedule is going to play you with their ‘A’ game. We’ve got to understand that and understand that even when we’re up 17-3 we can’t take our foot off the gas.”
TULSA: The Golden Hurricane ran out of late-game magic after overcoming a 31-point deficit, which was the largest in school history, to beat Fresno State 48-41 in double overtime two weeks ago before getting a 43-40 win over SMU in overtime last week.
HOUSTON: The Cougars need to start playing more like the team that beat Oklahoma instead of the mistake-prone team that lost to Navy last week and struggled this week to get into the conference title game.
HOUSTON: The Cougars could move up a couple of spots after No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 9 Tennessee and 12th-ranked Mississippi all lost on Saturday. However, some poll voters might penalize Houston for struggling against an unranked team.
ED’S EFFORT: Freshman defensive tackle Ed Oliver had another big game for the Cougars, piling up a season-high 12 tackles after finishing with 11 last week. He also batted down two passes to give him five for the season, had two tackles for losses and a quarterback hit.
TULSA: The Golden Hurricane host Tulane next Saturday.
HOUSTON: The Cougars visit SMU next Saturday.