The Houston Cougars dropped just their second game of the season last week and fell behind the Central Florida Knights in the AAC title race in the process. Now stuck in a three-way tie for second place behind UCF, the Cougars are a long-shot to steal the conference title this season. If they hope to become a legitimate contender down the line, however, Houston has to learn to finish out games better than they have been.
In two losses this season, Houston has been in position to win and let the victory slip through their fingers. In a shootout against the BYU Cougars earlier this season, UH held a 46-41 lead late in the game before the defense gave up their fourth touchdown pass of the day to Taysom Hill with just 1:08 to go in the game, leading to the 47-46 loss. Against UCF last week, down 19-14, Houston drove down to the Knights’ 10-yard line with a chance to punch it in for the win. But John O’Korn failed to connect on back-to-back passes into the endzone, including one off the fingertips of Deontay Greenberry, and Houston turned the ball over on downs with 14 seconds left as UCF held on for the win.
In both instances, Houston had the game in front of them to win and failed to seize it. This week, they travel to face the No. 20 Louisville Cardinals in a game that could end their shot at a conference title for good in 2013. If the Cougars are going to pull off a win against Louisville, it’s going to have to come late in the game with a big play either on offense or defense to seal the win. When Houston has been pushed this season by good teams late in games, they have not answered the challenge.
Houston has done better than anyone could have expected in 2013, but they have the opportunity to really be great if they finish the season strong. To do that, they need to find a way to finish games and take wins when they are available to them.