Big 12: James Cleveland

Houston appears focused early in the game

September, 26, 2009
9/26/09
9:44
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin


I saw Houston notch the most significant victory in the school's recent history with an impressive triumph at No.5 Oklahoma State two weeks ago.

It's only human nature for a team to get a little chesty about that kind of victory, especially when the win puts it back in the Top 25 for the first time in more than 18 seasons.

I was wondering what kind of effect that would have on Houston's psyche coming into Saturday's game, especially with the largest crowd ever jammed into Robertson Stadium.

If the first five minutes of the game are any indication, the Cougars are ready.

An early fumble recovery by David Hunter after his own sack of Taylor Potts set up the Cougars in outstanding field position. Eight plays later, Case Keenum hooked up with James Cleveland on a 6-yard TD pass and the Cougars had an early lead.

If you missed the early score, don't worry. Something tells me we'll see a lot more before the game finishes.

OSU can't sustain high ranking -- again

September, 12, 2009
9/12/09
10:25
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
AP Photo/Brody Schmidt
Oklahoma State Coach Mike Gundy, right, was not buying into the SI jinx after the Cowboys' 45-35 loss to Houston.

STILLWATER, Okla. – So much for the displays of national sports magazines that highlighted Oklahoma State’s quick ascent into the national title hunt after only one week this season.

Coming into stores across Stillwater earlier Saturday, fans were buying anything that had a Cowboy on it in a moment of exultation and pride for the long-suffering program.

The national attention – along with the top five national ranking after last week’s convincing victory over Georgia – was hopefully going to mark this season as different. So much different than all of those long previous years in the football wilderness.

But all of that excitement was punctured a few hours later after the kind of loss that has typified Oklahoma State so often during its football history.

On a dank, gloomy day that matched Coach Mike Gundy’s post-game attitude, Houston claimed a 45-35 victory that will cease most of the early buzz about Oklahoma State.

“Now, they get to see the other side of it,” Gundy said. “Everybody’s been telling them how they’ve been and how good they are. They’re going to see the other side of it.”

Oklahoma State has been ranked in the top five of the Associated Press poll five times previously. Four of those times, the Cowboys had lost their next game to fall out of the high ranking. And in the other instance, they lost after two weeks.

Excitement after the season-opening triumph over Georgia and all of the resulting media attention would be an easy rationalization for Gundy. But he wasn’t buying any of it.

“I don’t believe in the SI jinx and I don’t believe in being ranked really high and everybody telling them they are good and then not preparing,” Gundy said. “I thought this team prepared well. I was disappointed that we made mistakes and turned it over. And I think Houston played a good football game.”

The Cowboys were victimized by four turnovers and 81 yards in penalties that repeatedly popped up at inopportune times.

And after what appeared to have been a breakthrough defensive effort last week, the Cowboys were gashed for 512 yards and 6.2 yards per snap by Houston.

An explosive Houston offense keyed by a smart, gritty quarterback like Case Keenum and fleet receivers like Tyron Carrier, Patrick Edwards and James Cleveland just seemed more explosive than Georgia last week.

“It was just a totally different style of offense (compared to Georgia) with the speed sweeps and the zone reads,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “It was assignment football and we just didn’t play nearly as sound as we would have liked to.”

The Cowboys played without Big 12 rushing leader Kendall Hunter for most of the game. Hunter appeared to injure his right ankle early in the second quarter and was sidelined for the rest of the game.

Hunter, who rushed for 29 yards on nine carries and accounted for Oklahoma State’s lone first-half touchdown, appeared along the sidelines later in the game in street clothes. His immediate playing status is unknown.

“I’m sure he was hurt,” Gundy said. “How severe? I didn’t get that information.”

He’ll likely need him back if the Cowboys have any hope of winning their first Big 12 South Division title – which seems a more immediate goal than getting back into the top five anytime soon.

“We still have a chance to win the Big 12,” Oklahoma State cornerback Terrance Anderson said. “We’ve got to keep that in mind. It’s still all out in front of us. We can’t let this beat us down. ”

Good fortune helps spark Houston's upset

September, 12, 2009
9/12/09
9:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

AP Photo/Brody Schmidt
Houston quarterback Case Keenum got some bounces to go his way in an upset victory over Oklahoma State.

STILLWATER, Okla. –- Coming into the game, Houston quarterback Case Keenum was looking for any break he could find.

So when a teammate bragged in the locker room before the game that the Cougars wouldn’t need any luck to beat No. 5 Oklahoma State, Keenum told running back Bryce Beall that he would accept any good fortune.

“They were saying we wouldn’t need it,” Keenum said. “But I told Bryce I wouldn’t mind having a little luck.”

The premonition played out a few hours later when Beall and Keenum were involved in a play that helped propel them to a 45-35 victory over the Cowboys.

Beall snagged a tipped fourth-down pass from Keenum that ricocheted off the hands of Oklahoma State defensive end Ugo Chinasa. Keenum saw a wide-open James Cleveland flashing open in the back of the end zone. He fired it hard, hoping it would get to his receiver. But instead, in bounced high before resting in Beall’s hands for what would end up as the game-winning score.

“You’re sitting in your hotel thinking about game-winning situations and game-winning runs. But I never would have thought about a game-winning tipped pass,” Beall said, chuckling at the memory of his big play. “It was just fun to be a part of it.”

The Cougars added the clincher when Jamal Robinson returned an interception that glanced off Dez Bryant’s hands 26 yards for the score.

Two tipped passes. Two touchdowns. Added together, they helped spark the biggest stunner of the day.

But the Cougars’ victory over Oklahoma State wasn’t just a matter of good fortune. They jumped out on the Cowboys and claimed a 24-7 halftime lead. They were able to withstand 21-straight OSU points and briefly reclaimed the lead.

Houston players had enough gumption to put the game away because of the heady leadership of veteran players like Keenum and Beall.

Luck didn’t play a part in Keenum torching the Oklahoma State defense for 366 yards. Only a pair of turnovers deep in the Cowboys’ territory late in the first half kept them from blowing the game open even wider before the break.

“The question was where was our leadership going to come from on defense and special teams when there was about nine minutes of ‘Oh no!’ there,” Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Fortunately, this year, we just had more depth.”

In the process, the Cougars were able to strike with a huge victory for the Houston program.

Jack Pardee was roaming the sidelines the last time the Cougars had claimed a victory over a top 10 team when they beat No. 10 Wyoming, 34-10, on Nov. 12, 1988. And it was Houston’s first win over a top-10 team on the road since Bill Yeoman defeated No. 3 Texas, 29-15, on Nov. 10, 1984.

“We’ve still got a whole bunch of football to go, but anytime you can go on the road and beat a top 10 team, it really helps your confidence as a program and it helps your pride as a university,” Sumlin said. “So from that standpoint, that’s more important to me than what’s happened in the last hundred years.”

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