Houston beats West Virginia on 49-yard Hail Mary pass in wild finish

The Thursday college football matchup between the Houston Cougars and West Virginia Mountaineers ended in a thrilling and unforgettable fashion.

With just 3 seconds left on the clock and the Cougars trailing 39-35, Houston QB Donovan Smith made a remarkable play. He scrambled out of the pocket and launched a Hail Mary pass as the game clock expired. The ball was batted around by several defenders in the end zone until Houston receiver Stephon Johnson came down with it, securing the game-winning touchdown. The electrifying play sent the crowd at TDECU Stadium into a frenzy of excitement.

“We had practiced situations like that, and we always have a player prepared for the tipped ball,” Smith revealed. “We executed our plan perfectly.

Johnson admitted that the ball wasn’t intended to come to him, but he seized the opportunity and made an incredible play. He expressed gratitude for the team’s victory, saying, “I’m just thankful that we were able to pull off the win.”

With this triumph, the Cougars secured their first conference win of the season in their debut year as part of the prestigious Big 12. Johnson passionately shouted, “First Big 12 win… Let’s go,” to remind everyone on the sidelines of their accomplishment.

This game also carried special significance for Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen, as it marked the first time he faced his former team since serving as West Virginia’s head coach from 2011 to 2018. Holgorsen took over at Houston in 2019.

Although West Virginia had managed to take the lead with a go-ahead, 50-yard touchdown pass from QB Garrett Greene to Hudson Clement on fourth down, it ultimately wasn’t enough to secure victory. The game ended with Houston’s memorable Hail Mary play.

After the game, Holgorsen shared his emotional rollercoaster, stating, “(I went) from being as mad as I can possibly be to being as happy as I’d been in this profession in 32 years,” according to The Athletic’s Sam Khan Jr.

The Cougars’ record now stands at 3-3 for the season. Smith’s exceptional performance included 21 completions for 253 yards, four touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown of 34 yards. Johnson emerged as the leading receiver for the Cougars with four receptions for 96 yards.

On the other side, the Mountaineers’ record dropped to 4-2. Greene concluded the game with 20 completions for an impressive 391 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also contributed 47 rushing yards and two more touchdowns on the ground.

Reflecting on the wild ending, Holgorsen expressed, “I don’t know how that happened at the end. I guess the football gods were on our side today. We’ll take it. It’s good to get that first Big 12 win.”

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Houston beats West Virginia on Hail Mary pass as time expires


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