Houston’s incompletion on their final drive of regulation stops the clock
Speaking of Houston drives that began in Tech territory, the Cougars were gifted their final points of regulation, three points that would stake them to a 20-17 lead with well under a minute to play. Thanks to an awful interception by Smith and the subsequent return of that pick, the Cougars would start the drive at the Red Raider 20 with just 57 seconds left in the 4th quarter.
Now, Tech did have all three of their timeouts left so it was going to be impossible for Houston to run the clock all the way down without picking up a first down. However, on second down, the Cougars, and specifically receiver Matthew Golden made another critical mental mistake.
Facing a 2nd-and-9 after running the ball on first down causing Tech to burn a timeout, the Cougars would defy convention and attempt a pass. Granted, it was a short pass but still, any pass has the chance to fall incomplete and that’s what this one did.
The play was a tunnel screen to the short side of the field. It was one that Houston scored on later in the game meaning they were rather confident in that play in a critical moment as they tried to pick up some yards to make a potential field goal try more manageable.
The throw was right to Golden’s hands. However, in the classic case of a player turning his eyes upfield and not looking the ball all the way in, he would drop the pass thus stopping the clock and saving Tech a critical time out.
A play later, Houston would run the ball again to force Tech to burn timeout No. 2 of the half. Still, the Red Raiders left this defensive possession with one timeout in their pocket and that would prove to be big.
That’s because the extra timeout would do two very important things for Tech on the final drive of regulation. First of all, it would allow the Red Raiders to run a QB keeper to center the ball in the middle of the field on the play prior to the game-tying FG attempt. Had Tech not had that timeout to burn, they wouldn’t have been able to do that.
Also, the timeout prevented Tech from having to rush its kicking unit onto the field. College kickers are shaky enough as it is so trying to scramble the kicking unit into position and get a kick away in under ten seconds is a recipe for chaos and a miss. But because the Cougars left Tech with one timeout to play with, it made the final sequence of regulation far more manageable for the home team.