Most viewers figured the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl would be one of the more forgettable games of the college football postseason. A noon game between two programs that entered a combined 13-11 and without their head coaches, this wasn’t a contest highlighted by many to be one of the bowl season's best.
Yet Houston and Pittsburgh provided enough dramatics to help hold football fans over until the Jan. 12 national championship game (or at least Saturday’s NFL playoff games). Trailing Pitt by 25 in the fourth quarter, the Cougars’ 35-34 win represents the largest fourth-quarter comeback in bowl history, eclipsing the 24-point comeback orchestrated by Texas Tech against Minnesota in the 2006 Insight Bowl.
It was over when: Tyler Boyd, one of the ACC’s top playmakers, dropped a pass on third down that would have put the Panthers in position for a game-winning field goal. Boyd was open down the middle of the field but the ball hit his hands and fell to the ground. The Panthers still had a fourth-down play left, but they never had the chance, as Houston pressured quarterback Chad Voytik and he had no time to throw.
Game ball goes to: There are a few to go around after what could be the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in bowl history. The first goes to running back Kenneth Farrow, whose 100 rushing yards and two scores were rendered footnotes this afternoon. Farrow was the one to recover a second straight onside kick attempt from Houston kicker Ty Cummings.
Speaking of Cummings, he gets a game ball, too. Houston scored to cut the lead to 34-20, but there was only 3:41 remaining. Cummings and the Cougars’ special-teams unit, which gets the final game ball, executed a perfect onside kick. The Cougars scored to cut the lead to a score, and then Cummings helped Houston recover a second onside attempt. When Houston scored off of that onside kick, they went for two and won the game.
How the game was won: Houston won because of the dynamic between quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and receiver Deontay Greenberry on the game-winning drive. It began with a 38-yard completion to the Pitt 19 on the first play following the onside kick recovery. A penalty and two plays that netted negative yards put Houston in a third-and-16 situation, but Ward found Greenberry wide open in the middle of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. Instead of tying the game at 34 with a PAT, the Cougars went for the win. Ward rolled out right and initially couldn’t find anyone open. However, Greenberry freed himself up in the corner of the end zone and went up to catch the go-ahead conversion.
Stat of the game: Three-fifths of a percentage point, or 0.7. That was the probability of a Cougars win when they trailed by 21 points with about five minutes remaining and facing a third-and-long play.
Best play: Here’s the video of Greenberry and Ward hooking up for the Cougars’ final touchdown and the ensuing two-point conversion to complete arguably the greatest fourth-quarter comeback in bowl history.