Houston Cougars make history in late 35-34 comeback win over Pittsburgh Panthers
(FORT WORTH, TEX) “Finally.”
That was the one word needed from Houston senior defensive tackle Joey Mbu to describe the Cougars’ (8-5) 25 point comeback to defeat the Pittsburgh Panthers (6-7) 35-34 in front of 37,888 fans, at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas. The comeback was the largest in Armed Forces Bowl history, the largest in any FBS game this season, and the third largest in bowl history.
For such a dramatic finish, it was a slow start in the game, with neither team able to score points in the first quarter. The Panthers struck early in the second quarter, when sophomore running back James Conner capped a 15 play, 92 yard drive with a one-yard TD run wit 14:02 remaining in the game.
The Cougars responded with their own touchdown, when junior running back Kenneth Farrow scored on a two-yard TD run with 5:40 remaining in the second quarter. That would be the last time that Houston would score, allowing Pittsburgh to score 10 unanswered points, giving the Panthers a 17-6 at the end of the first half.
Things started to get chippy in the third quarter, with 60 of the game’s 144 penalty yards taking place in the third quarter. At this point in the game, momentum was at its tipping point.
“We talked a lot about trying to keep our composure, and what we’re doing. I thought one penalty was a block that kind of happened late. I thought it was part of the play,” Pittsburgh interim head coach Joe Rudolph said. “This game meant a lot to both teams, and I think you some emotions kind of come out.
Emotions that went both ways, with two interim head coaches, and 30 seniors combined between the two teams, tempers were bound to flare up. It also took the Cougars out of their gameplan.
“We didn’t play very well on third down today,” Houston interim head coach David Gibbs said. ” We weren’t getting those stops in the fourth quarter obviously. made them kick a field goal one time. But the onside kicks gave us the possessions that we needed to win the game.
The Cougars scored 29 of their 35 points in the fourth quarter, and 22 of those came in the last 03:41 of the fourth quarter. For Farrow, who finished the game with 22 carries for 113 yards, and two touchdowns, the game was all about closing out the game, and getting the win.
“Personally, I was out of the game three plays and it resulted in three losses on the last play of the game,” Farrow said. “So to finally get out there and finish, it was definitely special for the team.”
Farrow accounted for 155 total yards from scrimmage, and eclipsed the 100-yard for the seventh time this season, and also has three career touchdowns in a bowl game, which is sixth in school history. He also recovered the last onside kick that eventually led to the win.
The team had been practicing for this moment since the first practice of the bowl season.
“We made a decision that day at practice that if it came down to the end of the game, we were going to go for two no matter what,” Gibbs said. “We started practicing the two-point play the very first practice. So we’ve probably run that play, I don’t know, 25, 30 times in practice.”