Houston spoils Sumlin return, pounds winless Wildcats

HOUSTON — Houston quarterback D’Eriq King and the rest of the Cougars‘ offense made it a miserable homecoming for Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin.

King threw for four touchdowns and rushed for two more as the Cougars hammered Arizona 45-18 on Saturday, dropping the Wildcats to 0-2 in Sumlin’s first season.

King, who finished with 246 passing and 31 rushing yards, connected with Marquez Stevenson on a 24-yard TD pass, scored on a 1-yard run, then hit tight end Romello Brooker for a 52-yard score and it was 21-0 Houston after one quarter.

Arizona, playing uphill the rest of the game, never recovered.

Houston (2-0) scored twice more before halftime — on a 35-yard field goal from Dalton Witherspoon and on King’s 13-yard pass to Bryson Smith for a 31-0 lead.

“I thought our offensive staff and players did a great job today,” Houston coach Major Applewhite said. “Getting out to a big lead was huge. It allowed us to get some other guys in the game.”

Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver, an All-American, gets a lot of hype but the Cougars’ offense has a clear identity after the first two weeks. It’s up-tempo and efficient. The Cougars are quick between plays, giving opponents little time to set up. On Saturday, it took Arizona some time to adjust.

“Defenses get tired with our fast offense,” Brooker said. “I think it’s really effective. We are improving on offense, too.”

Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, who has been mentioned in the Heisman Trophy conversation, looked sluggish at times, but finished the game strong, completing 24 of 45 passes for 341 yards and two interceptions and a scoring run. He tweaked his ankle in the first half but remained in the game. Sumlin said he and his staff checked on Tate throughout the game.

Tate said the ankle injury affected him a little, but that he still felt like his team did what they were trying to do.

“You get bumps and bruises,” he said. “We were still able to follow the game plan.”

Arizona avoided the shut out, scoring its first points in the third quarter on a 49-yard field goal from Lucas Havrisik. Running back Darrius Smith scored on a 1-yard rush with 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give the Wildcats their first touchdown. With just over 11 minutes left in the game, Tate scored his only touchdown of the day on a 2-yard run.

The Wildcats looked much better in the second half, but it was too little, too late.

“We didn’t start fast, we got behind and it took too long to get things going,” said Sumlin, who coached the Cougars from 2008-2011 before leaving for Texas A&M. “We have to start faster.”

Arizona ran 100 total plays in the game and finished with 531 total yards (381 passing, 150 rushing.) Houston finished the game with 551 offensive yards (297 rushing, 254 passing).

THE TAKEAWAY

Sumlin is off to a slow start as he takes over the program. The Wildcats could use a confidence game and they should get that next weekend before the Pac-12 slate begins. Tate has been good, but not good enough to make up for a defense that is giving up 36.5 points per game.

UP NEXT

The Wildcats are at home on Saturday against Southern Utah.