Instant Replay: Big 12 Newcomer Wins First League Game On Hail Mary Pass

Oct 12, 2023, 9:21 PM

Big 12 Football, Houston Cougars, Hail Mary...

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 12: uarterback Donovan Smith #1 of the Houston Cougars looks for a receiver against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the first half at TDECU Stadium on October 12, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY – One thing we’ve learned about Big 12 football this year: expect the unexpected.

Thursday night’s league matchup between Houston and West Virginia lived up to that billing.

The Coogs, one of four Big 12 newcomers this season, won their first league football game on the final play with a Hail Mary pass.

Many felt it was unlikely that Houston, who came into the game winless in league play, would defeat undefeated West Virginia. Then, the likelihood of victory became even less when West Virginia connected on a 50-yard touchdown pass from Garrett Greene to Hudson Clement with 12 seconds remaining.

Houston Cougars complete Hail Mary to defeat West Virginia

Houston was down 39-35 with seven seconds remaining. They completed an eight-yard pass to Dalton Carnes to get them in West Virginia territory. Then, with three seconds left, Houston quarterback Donovan Smith let it fly from WVU’s 49-yard line down to the end zone. The tip drill was in full effect and it landed in the hands of Houston wide receiver Stephon Johnson Jr.

It was one of the wildest finishes to this point of the college football season. Watch for yourself.

Houston and West Virginia combined for 42 points in the fourth quarter.

The win is a big one for Houston. Not just because it’s a Big 12 game, but it comes against Houston coach Dana Holgorsen’s old team. Holgorsen coached at West Virginia from 2011-2018.

First Big 12 football win from a newcomer over legacy member

Houston’s victory is the first from a Big 12 newcomer this season against one of the legacy ten members in the conference. Fellow Big 12 newcomers BYU and Cincinnati will look for wins against TCU and Iowa State this weekend. UCF is on a bye.

Houston improves to 1-2 in Big 12 play and 3-3 overall, while West Virginia drops to 2-1 in the conference and 4-2 at the midway point.

The lone undefeated team remaining in the Big 12 is Oklahoma.

Listen to KSL Sports’ weekly Big 12 football show, “First & 12,” on Sundays on KSL NewsRadio and the KSL Sports Zone from 10 a.m. to noon (MT). First & 12 is also available wherever you get your podcasts.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Instant Replay: Big 12 Newcomer Wins First League Game On Hail Mary Pass