NCF Nation: David Hunter
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
STILLWATER, Okla. -- It started raining just as the first half ended, making the mood even darker and gloomier for Oklahoma State fans who have seen the No. 5 Cowboys fall into an early 24-7 hole against Houston.
Here's a quick look at how the first half played out in a game where Houston could be ahead by a larger margin considering their two turnovers deep in Oklahoma State territory.
Turning point: David Hunter's crunching tackle forced a fumble by Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter at the Oklahoma State 16-yard line to conclude the Cowboys' first possession. Houston quarterback Case Keenum scored on a 16-yard keeper on the next play and the Cougars have never been behind since then.
Stat of the half: Houston has produced 322 yards on 42 plays -- an average of 7.7 yards per snap. That offensive proficiency is the main reason why the Cougars haven't been forced to punt in the first half. The only time the Cougars have been stopped came on two drives ended by turnovers.
Best player of the half: Keenum was sharp from his opening possession. He has completed 19 of 25 passes -- including 11 straight completions at one point -- for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Keenum also added a 16-yard touchdown run on his only carry.
Best call: Houston singed an Oklahoma State blitz when Keenum hooked up with wide receiver Tyron Carrier on a 32-yard touchdown pass with 30.3 seconds left. The big play -- Houston's largest gain of the first half -- boosted the Cougars' halftime lead to 24-7. Keenum stood up to the maximum blitz by Oklahoma State linebacker Donald Booker before hitting Carrier barely past the line of scrimmage.
What Houston needs to do: Keep doing what it has so far, especially on offense. The Cowboys haven't had an answer for Dana Holgorsen's innovative combination of passes and runs. The defense will be challenged by Oklahoma State's high-powered offense, so better pressure will be necessary. And the Cougars have done a nice job on special teams, picking up an onside kick that set up their final drive.
What Oklahoma State needs to do: The Cowboys need to flush away the memories of their first-half struggles -- and quickly. The Cowboys defense, which looked so promising last week against Georgia, needs to get more pressure on Keenum. The Houston quarterback has barely been touched in the first half. And it would behoove them to get into their offense as quickly as possible because they likely will have to win this game in a shootout if their defense continues to struggle.