After his team drove the length of the field to score with 28 seconds remaining in the season opener, Houston Tigers coach Chris Edwards had a decision to make: go for a two-point conversion and the win or a tying PAT.
Edwards went for the win, and the Tigers were stopped.
Sophomore quarterback Kyle Jones, who directed the final drive with the poise of a veteran, was stuffed on the 1-yard line and Houston was dealt a difficult 20-19 loss Friday to rival Cabool.
Three days after the stinging defeat, Edwards stood by his choice.
“I don’t regret the decision at all. I think it was the right decision,” he said. “If you’re asking me if I’d do it again tomorrow? The answer would be yes.”
Edwards said his decision was an easy one based on the Tigers’ previous PATs. The first badly missed and the second – with a new kicker – cleared the crossbar by just a few feet.
On the conversion attempt, Edwards called for Jones to roll out of the pocket with the option to run or pass. Jones rolled to his right and with no open receivers, tucked the ball and ran. He was tacked at the 1-yard line.
“When (the previous PATs) look like they did and you’re moving the ball, you feel like you have some momentum,” Edwards said of the two-point conversion attempt. “It is what it is. You can’t go back in time and change anything you do.”
The season opener was one of mistakes and missed opportunities for the Tigers (0-1, 0-1 SCA).
Houston started strong – gaining a 6-0 lead when Jones hit tailback Justin Schmidt with a 30-yard score and holding Cabool to minus-1 yards of offense in the first quarter. But big plays helped the Bulldogs take a 20-6 advantage into the fourth quarter. Houston twice moved inside the Cabool 20 and failed to score.
Jones was up-and-down in his first varsity start. He connected on 4-of-7 passes early, highlighted by a perfectly placed pass to Schmidt out of the backfield for a score. He then misfired on 10 consecutive passes as the Bulldogs (1-0, 1-0 SCA) built a 14-point advantage.
Jones recovered late, hitting Jesse Setters with a bubble screen for a 13-yard gain to begin the final drive that started on the Tigers’ 33 with 1 minute, 34 seconds left. After two incompletions, Jones found Schmidt in stride down the left sideline for 34 yards. Two plays later, he drilled a strike to Joe Wallace over the middle, and he scooted 19 yards into the end zone to make it 20-19.
Jones finished 10-of-32 passing for 143 yards and two scores. He also ran for 44 yards on 12 carries.
Edwards said he and Jones would spend time this week breaking down film of his pre-snap reads.
“Kyle did a good job of coming back and not letting his mistakes get him down. He kept playing through it,” Edwards said. “When you start a sophomore quarterback, you’re going to go through some ups and downs. He came back and with very little time drove us down the field and threw a touchdown pass.”
Cabool’s Lucas Dotson scored twice, including a 50-yard swing pass out of the backfield late in the third quarter, to make Eric Sloan a winner in his first game as head coach. Dotson also had a 9-yard rushing score.
Schmidt ran for 84 of his 100 yards in the second half and led the Tigers with two catches for 64 yards. Houston out-gained the Bulldogs 287-217 and had nearly double as many first downs (13-7).
Cabool took its first lead on Dotson’s 9-yard score with 3:57 left in the first half. It was set up by a partially blocked punt and 15-yard horse collar tackle penalty that gave the Bulldogs possession on the Houston 41.
On its next possession, Cabool got a 64-yard scamper from speedster Donovan Baker and scored two plays later on Preston Eagleman’s 4-yard run.
Schmidt’s 36-yard run midway through the third quarter moved Houston into the red zone. But he fumbled on the ensuing play, and the Bulldogs scored their 20th unanswered point when Dotson took a short pass 50 yards to paydirt.
Schmidt kept the Tigers’ hopes alive by carrying the ball seven times during an 11-play drive in the fourth quarter. His 2-yard plunge with 5:17 to go pulled Houston within striking distance at 20-13.
“If you watched him run, he was lowering his shoulder and moving his feet,” Edwards said of Schmidt. “That’s something we’ve really been working on. He fought for extra yards and really did a nice job.”
Despite three possessions, Cabool was unable to milk the final five minutes off the clock. Pearson, making his first start as a freshman, was sacked for a 12-yard loss on fourth down to set up the Tigers’ last drive.
“I was really discouraged for 2 1/2 quarters. I didn’t feel like we were competing to our highest ability on the field,” Edwards said. “But the kids came back in that fourth quarter and showed what they are capable of. Now we’ve got to learn to play an entire game.”
CABOOL 20, HOUSTON 19
Cabool 0 13 6 0 – 20
Houston 6 0 0 13 – 19
HOU – Schmidt 30 pass from Jones (kick failed), 3:16.
CAB – Dotson 9 run (Pearson kick), 3:57.
CAB – Eagleman 4 run (kick failed), 1:20.
CAB – Dotson 50 pass from Pearson (Pearson kick), 3:00.
HOU – Schmidt 2 run (Case kick), 5:17.
HOU – Wallace 19 pass from Jones (run failed), 0:28.
First downs 7 13
Total yards 217 287
Rushes-yards 35-120 37-144
Passing 97 143
Punt returns 3-6 2-13
Kickoff returns 2-26 2-73
Comp-att-int 8-19-0 10-32-0
Sacked-yards lost 2-18 1-7
Punts 7-32.4 7-28.4
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties-yards 6-30 7-65
RUSHING – Cabool, Baker 7-81. Eagleman 8-34. Dotson 5-26. Tate 2-9, Parle 7-(minus 6), Pearson 6-(minus 24). Houston, Schmidt 24-100, Jones 12-44. Case 1-0.
PASSING – Cabool, Pearson, 8-17-0 97. Eagleman 0-2-0. 0. Houston, Jones 10-32-0 143.
RECEIVING – Cabool, Dotson 2-55, Baker, 2-18, Rutz, 3-16, Eagleman 1-8. Houston, Schmidt 2-64, Wallace 2-34, Miller 4-26, Setters 1-13.