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49ers Fall 20-9 to the Texans

Posted Aug 18, 2012

HOUSTON – Kendall Hunter’s friends and family were in the house Saturday night at Reliant Stadium. And in turn, they saw the second-year running back put on a show.

Hunter picked up 46 hard-earned yards on his first six carries, good for 7.7 yards per rush. Last year’s fourth-round pick also caught a 3-yard pass and also returned two kicks in the first half, averaging 28.5 yards per return.

Despite Hunter’s efforts, the 49ers fell short in his home state, losing 20-9 to the Houston Texans.

"It would have been even better to come out with a win, but it felt good to play in Texas though," Hunter said.

After his team dropped its first preseason contest of 2012, Jim Harbaugh said he didn’t have a great feel for how his team progressed from the game. However, there was no mistake about Hunter’s progress.

“Ran efficiently, had a nice kick-off return,” Harbaugh noted. “I thought it was real good night for Kendall.”

The native of Tyler, Texas, put on a show 220 miles from his hometown. Hunter’s family drove four hours south to see the second-year 49ers runner play in his home state for the first time of his career. Hunter didn’t disappoint.

“That’s a compliment to the offensive line,” Hunter said, who was also happy to have his best friend in attendance.

The young tailback’s development is a positive considering veteran free- agent addition Brandon Jacobs was injured early in the first quarter. Harbaugh said Jacobs is going to “miss a little time.”

Overall, Harbaugh felt like the 49ers needed to “keep climbing” and not be discouraged by the result.

Texans quarterback Matt Schaub completed his first six passes on the night and finished the game with 128 passing yards and a 9-yard touchdown to wide receiver Lester Jean which closed out the first half.

Houston added to its lead at the start of the fourth quarter thanks to an 87-yard punt return by return specialist Trindon Holliday. San Francisco’s only second-half score was a 55-yard boot between the uprights by Pro Bowl kicker David Akers.

Reserve players might have given up two touchdowns for the 49ers, but the first-team defense fared well against a talented Texans attack.

“Guys were competing against a good football team,” Harbaugh said. “There was good play.”

Harbaugh wasn’t discouraged to see his defense allow the opponent into San Francisco’s territory to start the game for a second consecutive week. If anything, he was encouraged that the Texans were held to a 48-yard field goal.

“They’re never in till they’re in,” Harbaugh said. “Our guys tightened up toward the red zone and held them to field goals.”

Schaub connected on three straight passes to start the initial drive and get Houston across the 50-yard line. Donte Whitner, however, tackled Arian Foster for a short gain on third down, forcing Shayne Graham to come on the field for a 48-yard field goal to cap a 7-play, 37-yard scoring drive.

The 49ers had a drive of firsts on their opening series; Frank Gore carried the ball for the first time of the preseason and picked up 14 yards. He was quickly replaced afterwards by Hunter. Randy Moss also made his first reception of the preseason, a 5-yard gain from Alex Smith.

Moss finished the game with a team-high three receptions for24 yards. Smith completed 5-of-9 passes for 49 yards and was sacked twice on two series that yielded three points.

Smith’s best throw of the game was a third-down pass on the opening drive that saw him roll to his right, buy time, and hit Ted Ginn Jr. down the field for a gain of 24 yards. After the 49ers allowed their second sack of the opening drive, Akers connected on a 50-yard field goal to end the 9-play, 44-yard scoring drive.

Following a Texans’ punt, Jacobs took a helmet to the knee on an 8-yard carry. The 260-pound back suffered a knee injury on the play and did not return to action.

“You hate to see guys get hurt,” Smith said, “especially in the preseason.”

Against the second-team defense midway in the second quarter, Houston’s starters picked up a 43-yard gain on a Schaub pass to Andre Johnson for his sixth straight completion to start the game. The Texans, however, walked away with no points when reserve kicker Randy Bullock pulled a 51-yard attempt wide right.

Colin Kaepernick entered the game on San Francisco’s third possession, but did so with the first-team offensive line. A no-huddle attack saw the team cross midfield rather quickly. After a few penalties on the drive, Akers connected on a 36-yard field goal to give San Francisco its first lead of the game. The kick capped a 7-play, 40-yard scoring drive led by the second-year quarterback.

Kaepernick finished the game 4-of-8 for 19 yards and was later replaced by Josh Johnson (4-of-6 for 64 yards) and Scott Tolzien (4-of-9 for 23 yards).

With Schaub playing the entire first half, second-year quarterback T.J. Yates entered the game to start the second half. On Yates’ second drive, Houston got across midfield, but 49ers rookie safety Michael Thomas, a Houston native, sacked Yates on third down. Bullock connected on a 49-yard field goal to make it a 13-6 game.

Johnson entered the game for San Francisco midway through the third quarter and hooked up on the team’s biggest passing play of the game, a 32-yard deep sideline pass to rookie wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who came up with a solid over-the-shoulder catch in front of the Texans sideline.

“It was great job on Josh’s part throwing the bal,” Jenkins said. “My job was easy. He put the ball in a position to where I could have a realy easy catch. All props go to him.”

The catch supplied 32 of the 37 yards on the scoring drive. Akers connected on a 55-yard kick to make it a 13-9 game.

Houston added to the lead thanks to an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown by Holliday. It took the former college track star 10 seconds to go 87 yards, and Andy Lee almost was able to push him out of bounds, but it was wise for the Pro Bowl punter to not risk injury by attempting a tackle.

Only Jacobs’ injury stands as the biggest loss in the team’s second exhibition game, but knowing the team’s resolve, they’ll be back to work for the all-important third preseason game against the Denver Broncos.

"There's always next week," said linebacker Parys Haralson, who made the start at outside linebacker along with Eric Bakhtiari for starters Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, respectively. "You never want to have a loss, but anytime you have a  chance to look at film from the preseason, you can get things corrected. You find things you can work on and you find ways to improve your technique."

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