PHILADELPHIA -- Houston's Richie Leone booted five field goals and Ryan Jackson's 10-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown spelled the difference in the Cougars' 22-13 victory over Temple in the American Athletic Conference football debut for both teams before 27,328 at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday.
Houston (2-0 overall, 1-0 AAC) had its troubles in the red zone, going 1-for-8 without scoring a touchdown, but the Cougars' defense rose to stave off a Temple drive when Adrian McDonald intercepted a pass with 1:06 left to play that preserved the victory.
Temple had its red-zone problems, too. With 37-seconds remaining in the third quarter, Paul Layton missed a 25-yard field goal attempt wide left that could have given Temple a 16-15 lead.
Houston, however, didn't help itself, with four personal foul calls, which led to one Cougar being ejected and prolonged two Temple drives.
Jackson finished with a game-high 109 yards on 22 carries, and Cougars true freshman quarterback John O'Korn completed 23 of 31 passes for 233 yards.
Temple took a 13-9 lead into halftime and never scored again. Houston's defense clamped down to hold the Owls offense to hold them to 105 yards of total offense in the second half and six first downs.
With 1:29 left in the opening quarter, Temple took a 6-3 lead on the first of Kenny Harper's two first-half touchdowns, a one-yard plunge. The score culminated a 15-play, 91-yard drive -- which was nudged along by a personal foul by Houston red-shirt freshman linebacker Steve Taylor, who was ejected from the game.
On a fourth-and-four play at the Houston 22, Taylor came bursting through the middle and nailed Temple quarterback Connor Reilly on a helmet-to-helmet hit. Reilly completed the pass to Ryan Alderman for an 18-yard gain, which brought the ball to the Houston 4-yard line. The Taylor penalty moved it to the Houston two. Three plays later, Harper's touchdown gave Temple its first lead this season.
Temple answered Leone's third field goal, which gave Houston a 9-6 lead with 4:40 left in the half, with an 11-play, 75-yard drive punctuated by Harper's three-yard scoring run.
That drive was aided by a personal foul on Houston linebacker Trevor Harris hitting Reilly out of bounds. It was a debatable call, since replays showed Reilly was still in bounds when Harris delivered the shot. Nonetheless, the call pushed the ball to the Houston 32, and eight plays later, Harper put Temple ahead a second time.
Houston was flagged for three personal fouls in the first half. Cougars' coach Tony Levine stuck with rotating his quarterbacks, starting junior quarterback Dave Piland, and replacing him with O'Korn.
After Piland went 6-for-17 in the first quarter and didn't seem to be moving the Cougars, O'Korn came on and he promptly connected on six of his first seven passes that led to a pair of Leone 19-yard field goals. But the Cougars were 0-for-3 on touchdowns in the red zone in the first half. Cougar coach Tony Levin stated after the game Piland also suffered an injury and was not able to return.
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