Houston proved to be the real deal this past college football weekend, beating No. 3 Oklahoma, 33-23, in resounding fashion.
It wasn’t a fluke win — the Cougars are really that good — and Tom Herman and his team lived up to the hype. They put up 410 yards and forced Oklahoma into two turnovers.
Dynamic quarterback Greg Ward Jr. completed 23-of-40 passes for 321 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Sophomore running back Duke Catalon caught four passes for 29 yards and a touchdown. Senior tight end Tyler McCloskey added a touchdown of his own and kicker Ty Cummings went 4-for-4 in field goals with a long of 47.
It was an impressive performance from the #HTownTakeover, and we’ve yet to even mention junior wide receiver Steven Dunbar.
Big No. 88 was an absolute star against the Sooners, catching seven of Ward’s passes for 125 yards. He didn’t get a touchdown, but his presence was felt in a big way. He averaged 17.9 yards per catch and had a long of 32. Five of his catches were for first downs, and he also drew a big pass interference call early in the game that set up a field goal. It was third and nine from the Oklahoma 37. Dunbar drew a (somewhat ticky-tacky) call on Oklahoma’s Dakota Austin. That play gave Houston a first down at the Oklahoma 22, and four plays later the Cougars capitalized for three points.
Dunbar collected a few highlight-reel catches and put on a clinic with Ward, executing the back-shoulder pass-and-catch to perfection.
— David Nuño (@DavidNunoABC13) September 3, 2016
In a statement win for the Cougars, Dunbar made a statement of his own. The rest of college football — especially the rest of the AAC — has been put on notice. He’s a legitimate No. 1 receiver, and it will be hard for any team to slow him down in 2016. OU couldn’t slow him down on Saturday.
Last season, Houston relied on Demarcus Ayers as its top pass-catcher, and he came through with 98 receptions for 1,222 yards and six touchdowns. Ayers went on to the NFL. Houston’s second-leading receiver in 2015, Chance Allen, caught only one pass for five yards against Oklahoma.
Dunbar was Houston’s third-leading receiver in 2015, catching 31 passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns. He was obviously productive for Houston in his sophomore season, but 2016 looks primed to be his breakout. He’s now clearly Houston’s No. 1 option downfield.
No offense to the rest of the AAC, but Dunbar made Oklahoma — one of the best teams in college football — look silly. With that in mind, what will he do against the likes of Cincinnati, UConn, Navy and the rest of the schedule?
“Obviously, what it comes down to is we just got outplayed,” Oklahoma cornerback Jordan Thomas said after the game. “They made every play that they were supposed to, we had stupid penalties here and there, we couldn’t get off the field on third down, the offense couldn’t convert.”
Outplayed is one way to put it when looking at the general feel of the game, but when it came to Dunbar, he was a flat-out mismatch.
That’s what teams look for in a No. 1 receiver, and Dunbar has it.