CABOOL – The Houston Tigers were just six yards away from completely wiping away a 19-point deficit.
Instead, another turnover put an abrupt end to the team’s comeback bid.
Quarterback Kyle Jones’ third-quarter pass into the end zone was picked off and Cabool scored a pair of late touchdowns to pull away for a 34-13 victory Friday night in the 2010 season opener.
Houston’s first game was a comedy of errors early. The Tigers (0-1, 0-1 SCA) gave up a touchdown on the game’s first play and lost fumbles on two of their first four plays. But despite those miscues, Houston pulled within six points early in the third quarter and was driving for another score when Jones’ pass between a pair of wide receivers was picked off by Cabool’s Preston Eagleman.
“That was the turning point in the game in my mind,” said first-year Houston coach David Williams. “If we score there, who knows what might happen.”
Williams, who is coaching at his fifth different school in the SCA conference, said in the preseason that his team needed to be more consistent. He saw extremely positive and many negative moments in the opener.
The bad? Houston lost three fumbles — all in the opening 12 minutes — and committed four turnovers. The Tigers also had 10 penalties and special teams gaffe on a punt attempt that led to an easy touchdown.
The good? A momentum swing of 13 consecutive points and another long drive that put Houston in position to take the lead. The Tigers had five more first downs than Cabool and had a 185-159 rushing advantage.
“Right now, you look at the score and it looks bad. It feels bad,” said Williams. “But everything that happened to us is fixable.”
Houston senior Jacob Case, who carried the ball 16 times for 88 yards, had a pair of rushing touchdowns. Jones had 23 rushes for a game-high 99 yards. He was also 5-of-16 passing for 69 yards and an interception.
Eagleman had 73 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Bulldogs (1-0, 1-0 SCA). Donovan Baker added 68 yards and two scores.
After receiving the opening kickoff, Cabool coach Eric Sloan opened the new season with a nifty trick play. After taking a pitch and running toward the right sideline, Baker stopped and as the Tigers’ defense pursued him, lobbed a pass to wide receiver Sam Roberts. He raced 59 yards untouched for the score.
Williams said the Tigers’ coaching staff had emphasized shutting down the Bulldogs’ wide rushing plays.
“You’ve got to hand it to them. That was a good call on their part,” Williams said. “The next two scores were the ones that really hurt. That one, it’s one play into the game and a lot of game was left.”
That’s when Houston’s problems began. On the Tigers’ first offensive play, Jones was sacked and fumbled. Cabool recovered and two plays later, Baker scooted into the end zone from 5 yards away to make it 13-0 just 49 seconds into the game.
On Houston’s third offensive play, Jones again fumbled and Cabool took over at the Tigers’ 25. Five plays later, Baker took a pitch around the right corner for a 9-yard score to make it 19-0 at the 7:22 mark.
The Tigers lost fumbles on two of their first three plays. The Bulldogs scored touchdowns on two of their first three plays.
“The beginning of the game was kind of like a nightmare. A bad dream,” Williams said. “Everything that you could imagine going wrong went wrong.”
Houston didn’t get its initial first down until fullback Adam Neugebauer had consecutive runs of 9 and 2 yards with 2 minutes, 19 seconds left in the first quarter. The drive ended when a shotgun snap hit Jones, who was watching the clock, in the chest and was pounced on by the Bulldogs.
Case gave the Tigers their first points when he capped a nine play, 66-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter. Momentum swung in Houston’s direction.
The Tigers received the ball to begin the third quarter and easily marched 86 yards, highlighted by a 32-yard pass from Jones to Brian Hunter. Case capped the drive with a 5-yard run to pull Houston within 19-13.
After forcing a punt, the Tigers again drove down the field and were on the Cabool 5 after Jones gained 12 yards with a nifty run on fourth-and-10. But two plays later, his pass into the end zone was intercepted.
“He threw a bad ball, and he knew it the minute he did it,” Williams said of Jones. “He came over and said, ‘Coach, I messed up.'”
Eagleman had a pair of 9-yard rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs, who overcame 15 penalties for 150 yards, topped Houston in the season opener for the second consecutive season.
“The thing I liked about what happened tonight was the effort we gave to get back into the game,” Williams said.
“It’s a long season. It’s just one game.”
CABOOL 34, HOUSTON 13
Houston 0 7 6 0 — 13
Cabool 19 0 0 15 — 34
CAB — Roberts 82 pass from Baker (Eagleman kick), 11:46.
CAB — Baker 5 run (kick failed), 11:11.
CAB — Baker 9 run (run failed), 7:22.
HOU — Case 6 run (Case kick), 4:09.
HOU — Case 5 run (kick failed), 8:24.
CAB — Eagleman 9 run (Loman run), 6:16.
CAB — Eagleman 9 run (Eagleman kick), 4:36.
First downs 16 11
Total yards 254 250
Rushes-yards 43-185 40-159
Passing 69 91
Punt returns 0-0 0-0
Kickoff returns 5-76 2-43
Comp-att-int 5-19-1 4-6-0
Sacked-yards lost 1-4 1-9
Punts 1-52.0 3-31.3
Fumbles-lost 5-3 3-2
Penalties-yards 10-65 15-150
RUSHING — Houston, Jones 23-99, Case 16-88, Neugebauer 3-12, Barker 1-(minus-14). Cabool, Eagleman 16-73, Baker 10-68, Loman 6-16, Manning 6-7, Tate 2-(minus-5).
PASSING — Houston, Jones 5-16-1 69. Cabool, Baker 1-1-0 59. Loman 3-5-0 32.
RECEIVING — Houston, Hunter 2-38, Bell 2-23, Wheeler 1-8. Cabool, Roberts 1-59, Eagleman 3-32.