Houston responds to West Virginia comeback with tipped Hail Mary in bonkers finish

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 12: Houston Cougars wide receiver Stephon Johnson (12) hauls in a late second half touchdown reception as West Virginia Mountaineers safety Marcis Floyd (24) defends during the football game between the West Virginia Mountaineers and Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium on October 12, 2023, in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
What a way for Houston to get its first Big 12 conference win. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

West Virginia put together one of the wildest comebacks of the season against Houston and their old coach Dana Holgorsen on Thursday.

Then Houston did something even more stunning.

The fun began with West Virginia down 35-24 with fewer than four minutes remaining in the game. The Mountaineers capped off an 11-play drive with a seven-yard drive to cut the lead to five, then pushed the margin to a field goal with a successful two-point conversion.

West Virginia kept Houston from ending the game on the next drive, but only after burning 2:17 of game clock, leaving 1:17 to score a touchdown and take the lead or kick a field goal to tie it.

The Mountaineers reached the end zone in 1:05 to go up 39-35. Those 12 seconds left ended up being pretty important.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed back the ensuing kickoff, giving Houston the ball on its own 43-yard line with seven seconds left.

Houston quarterback Donovan Smith completed an eight-yard pass to Dalton Carnes to reach midfield, then uncorked a Hail Mary into the end zone as time expired. The ball was batted away from running back Jaylen Anderson … and into the arms of Stephon Johnson.

Ballgame, Houston. Cue the field rush.

That’s the wildest college football comeback since, well, last week, and a pretty fun way to get your first conference win as a member of the Big 12.

Smith finished the game with 21-of-27 passing for 253 yards and four touchdowns. 57 of those yards came on the final two plays. Johnson had four catches for 96 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

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