The University of Houston football team put on a cleansing performance against Rice, taking care of business against the Owls in what seemed like an uneven matchup from the opening kick in the Bayou Bucket.
All eyes were on quarterback Clayton Tune, to see how he bounced back after the brutal, four-interception performance against Texas Tech last Saturday, and he was able to put together a much better outing, tallying 236 passing yards and throwing two touchdowns in the win.
“I’m very proud of him for blocking out all the noise from the media and people on the outside,” Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “This team believes in Clayton Tune. I believe in Clayton Tune … He played his ass off.”
The 6-3 quarterback also rushed for an additional 49 yards. Tune’s No. 1 target on the night was wideout Nathaniel Dell who caught seven passes for 89 yards.
“He’s been good,” Dell said. “He wasn’t worried about what the outside was saying. We were just focused on us.”
UH (1-1) also found a spark in the running game with freshman running back Alton McCaskill, who scored three touchdowns, two of which came on the ground, and had 40 rushing yards.
“He’s a complete back,” Holgorsen said. “I’ve been saying that for a while … I think that is just the start of what he is going to become.”
While the team had a much better offensive performance than last Saturday against Texas Tech, not everything went smooth for the Cougars, mainly in the second quarter when the offense only managed three total yards of offense.
“I’m not putting that second quarter on Clayton Tune, ” Holgorsen said. “We forgot to block.”
The head coach said he felt anxious heading into the locker room after the second quarter, but he challenged his offense to turn things around and they responded.
The UH defense was instrumental in building the initial 17-0 cushion that did not slip away in this game.
The defense, which was aiming to set the tone and dominate the Owls, defensive coordinator Doug Belk said during the week, did just that. UH safety Hasaan Hypolite’s diving interception of Rice quarterback Luke McCaffrey’s throw in the first quarter set the stage for how the game played out.
The defense held Rice to only 86 passing yards, and intercepted quarterback Luke McCaffrey three times throughout the night, including a pick six by junior cornerback Alex Hogan on the final play of the game.
UH pummeled Rice 44-7. The team suffered one brutal blow during the game, losing defensive lineman Sedrick Williams to some type of lower leg injury. Holgorsen said he will be out for the rest of the season.
“I really felt like we felt completely energized,” UH defensive lineman Logan Hall said. “Considering how we came out in the second half last week, that was just an aberration for us and [the win] felt really well, really good.”