Kevin Sumlin’s homecoming was a dud.
Returning to Houston, where his head-coaching career began, Sumlin hoped to turn around an Arizona Wildcats season that started slowly.
Instead, Arizona took a step backward.
The Wildcats lost to the Cougars 45-18 in front of an announced crowd of 32,534 at TDECU Stadium on Saturday.
Arizona is 0-2 for the first time since 1981. BYU beat the UA 28-23 last week.
Arizona, Kevin Sumlin blasted for ‘debacle’ vs. Houston, ‘horrific’ start
Khalil Tate, who appeared to be limited after injuring his left ankle or calf in the first quarter, completed 24 of 45 passes for 341 yards. He rushed only seven times for seven yards. Rhett Rodriguez, the son of fired UA coach Rich Rodriguez, quarterbacked the team on the final drive. The Catalina Foothills High School product completed 4 of 5 passes for 40 yards.
Tate said the ankle injury affected him a little, but that he still felt like his team did what they were trying to do.
“You get bumps and bruises,” he said. “We were still able to follow the game plan.”
Down 38-0 early in the third quarter, the Wildcats made it somewhat interesting midway through the fourth. They scored 16 unanswered points and had first-and-goal at the Houston 1-yard line.
Arizona couldn’t score. Four running plays – two by Darrius Smith and one apiece by Tate and Gary Brightwell – netted zero yards. The Cougars regained possession with 6:41 remaining.
Even then, the Wildcats didn’t quit. On the next play, Colin Schooler and Finton Connolly tackled Mulbah Car in the end zone for a safety. That made it 38-18.
But Arizona could get only one first down on the next possession. On fourth-and-9 from the UA 45-yard line with five-plus minutes remaining, Sumlin elected to punt. Houston then drove and scored.
“We didn’t start fast, we got behind and it took too long to get things going,” Sumlin said. We have to start faster.”
Quarterback D’Eriq King led Houston offensively, completing 17 of 34 passes for 246 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed five times for 31 yards and two touchdowns.
Arizona returns home to face Southern Utah next Saturday.
–The Associated Press contributed to this report.