Oct 12, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars wide receiver Matthew Golden (2) runs the ball back for a touchdown on a kick off during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers  at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

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Hail Mary TD pass on final play lifts Houston over West Virginia

Donovan Smith hit Stephon Johnson Jr. with a 49-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass on the game’s final play to lift Houston to a 41-39 win over visiting West Virginia on Thursday in a wild Big 12 Conference game.

The scoring play came after the Mountaineers’ Garrett Greene found Hudson Clement on a 50-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 12 seconds to play.

Smith had just seven seconds to work with after a kickoff return to the UH 43. After an 8-yard completion, Smith threw to the end zone as time expired, where Houston’s Joseph Manjack IV leaped and tipped the ball to Johnson, who fell across the goal line for the winning points.

The Cougars (3-3, 1-2 Big 12) won their first game as a member of the Big 12 Conference after two league losses to begin their inaugural season in the conference. Smith finished with 253 yards and four touchdowns passing.

Greene ended up passing for 391 yards and two touchdowns and added 47 yards and two scores on the ground as West Virginia (4-2, 2-1) had a four-game winning streak snapped.

The Mountaineers struck first on a 27-yard field goal by Michael Haynes at the 4:16 mark of the first quarter. Houston needed just 13 seconds to respond, the time elapsed in a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Matthew Golden.

West Virginia went back to the front with a 5-yard scoring run by CJ Donaldson with 13 seconds to play in the opening quarter. Houston’s offense finally broke through on Smith’s 2-yard TD run that gave the Cougars a 14-10 lead with 28 seconds to go until halftime.

Greene hit Traylon Ray with a 35-yard scoring pass on the Mountaineers’ opening possession of the third quarter to push West Virginia to a 17-14 advantage. Houston answered with a 15-yard TD pass from Smith to Manjack with 5:15 to play in the third.

West Virginia made it 24-21 with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Greene with 14:16 remaining in the game.

A Smith 5-yard scoring throw to Samuel Brown with 12:02 left pushed the Cougars into the lead, 28-24, and a 21-yard Smith-to-Johnson TD pass with 7:28 to play added to the advantage.

But West Virginia responded, cutting the lead to three points, 35-32, on an 8-yard touchdown run by Greene and a two-point conversion pass from Greene to Ray with 3:42 to play, setting the stage for the furious finish.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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