HOUSTON — With six minutes left in the first half Friday, Southern’s defense stood with its back 15 yards from the end zone.
Houston was threatening again. A play earlier, the Cougars’ No. 2 quarterback, John O’Korn, misfired and sailed a throw over the head of receiver Deonte Greenberry.
At that point, the Jaguars only trailed 13-6. Had they held their Football Bowl Subdivision opponent to a field goal, they might have stemmed momentum and allowed the Southern offense to cobble together a rally.
It failed. Running back Ryan Jackson cut once, hit a backside hole on a power play and scampered into the end zone: Houston 20, Southern 6.
One possession later, the Cougars recoverd a muffed punt at the Jaguars 12 and converted it into a score on a 10-yard touchdown pass. It took 55 seconds. And Houston’s next two scoring drives each needed less than 60 seconds to turn a reasonable deficit into a rout by the end of the third quarter at Reliant Stadium.
Yet, the Jaguars’ 3-4 scheme tried to stiffen early.
On Houston’s second drive, cornerback Virgil Williams provided tight coverage on a post route, shutting down what would’ve been a potential 24-yard touchdown pass from David Piland on second-and-15. A play later, Piland scrambled by was tackled four yards short of the first down, forcing the Cougars to settle for a 30-yard Richie Leone field goal to lead 10-0 with 5:09 left in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars stalled a Houston drive on the cusp of the red zone to open the second quarter. Williams dropped running back Ryan Farrow for a 1-yard loss at the 21 on second down. A play later, on third-and-11, Piland rolled right but was headed off by linebacker Anthony Balancier.
Leone came on and hit a 38-yarder to push the lead to 13-0. Southern scored on the next drive, but the defense couldn’t fend off the Cougars again.
Cougars building new home
With their new stadium set to open in August 2014, the Cougars will play in three Houston venues this year.
UH will play five home games at Reliant Stadium, one at the Houston Dynamo’s BBVA Compass Stadium and another at Rice Stadium.
The new stadium, which is being built at the same site of Robertson Stadium, will hold 40,000 seats in 2014, with the hope of growing to 60,000 in the future.
The construction is estimated to cost $105 million, with naming rights still being worked out. The field will feature synthetic turf and also host high school football games and other sports.
Cougs from the Bayou
Houston might be getting a toehold in Louisiana for recruiting. The Cougars have seven players from Louisiana on their roster, all of whom arrived in the past two recruiting classes.
The group includes one starter: sophomore free safety Trevon Stewart of Patterson High.
Two other players from Louisiana are listed on the Cougars’ two-deep — freshman cornerback Brandon Wilson from Calvary Baptist and redshirt freshman defensive tackle B.J. Singleton from Destrehan.
The rest of the Louisiana contingent consists of two freshmen from Evangel Christian, running back Javin Webb and offensive lineman Josh Thomas, as well as two other freshmen, wide receiver Donald Gage III from Zachary and linebacker Caleb Tucker from Ouachita Christian.
Friday marked Houston’s first game in the American Athletic Conference, formerly known as the Big East. ... Southern is now 0-7 against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, a streak dating to a 1980 loss to Nevada.
Les East and Matt Samuels contributed to this report.