Tulane or bust
UH football ready to repeat winning history against the Green Wave by Zaneta Loh
The Cougars will kick off Conference USA play against Tulane at 6 p.m. Saturday in New Orleans.
The defending C-USA champions know they will likely be a prime target for every other team in the league.
The Cougars (0-1) wouldn’t want it any other way.
"Conference championships are hard to win. You fight hard to maintain that," head coach Art Briles said. "It’s a mark on us, an ‘X’ on our back that we want and we cherish. Now we have an opportunity to defend it."
Briles realizes that every school in C-USA wants to play well against his team.
"From an opponent’s standpoint, it’s a big deal because we’re defending conference champs. Everybody in Conference USA is going to get ready to get after Houston," Briles said. "We know people are going to play up against us. We’re not going to sneak up on anyone, but that’s good. It makes us play better. When somebody’s fighting hard, you fight back just as hard, and when they fight easy you maybe fight back a little easier."
Senior running back Anthony Alridge agrees.
"They want what we’ve got, but we can’t let them have it," Alridge said. "It’s ours, and it’s ours to keep."
Senior offensive lineman Jeff Akeroyd sees it as an advantage for the Cougars.
"We’re looking forward to it. Whenever people are playing their best, it forces you to play your best," Akeroyd said. "We want to raise our level of competition and we want to play at that level every week."
The Cougars have defeated Tulane in the last four meetings between the two, including a 45-7 victory over the Green Wave last year at Robertson Stadium. Alridge rushed for two touchdowns in the rout.
First-year Tulane head coach Bob Toledo is counting on the Tulane defense to contain the Cougars this time around.
"The thing they do is they run all these different formations and substitution groups. They’ll put tackles way out there and receivers in here – they do a lot of crazy things and it causes you to have to line up correctly," Toledo said in a press release. "If you don’t, that’s when they make some big plays."
Tulane forced two turnovers in Saturday’s season-opening 38-17 loss to Mississippi State. Linebacker James Dillard led the defense with a career-high 16 tackles.
Because Tulane has played only one game, the Cougars have little to go on.
First year head coach Bob Toledo hungry for first win by Jong Lee
The last bowl appearance for Tulane football was in 2002 when Tulane went to the Hawaii Bowl and beat up Hawaii 36-28.
The Green Wave has struggled since, whether it’s on the field or off. First-year head coach Bob Toledo was brought in to change things for Tulane.
Toledo has enjoyed much success in his coaching career spanning 13 years as head coach with 13 bowl appearances. His first Conference USA challenge will be against the defending C-USA champions.
"We need to bring in people here who are, again, good football coaches that can motivate these defensive players to play with great intensity and great effort from snap to whistle. Our goal right now is to win the fourth quarter," Toledo said in a press conference in December.
Saturday’s game will mark the second consecutive season for both Houston and Tulane’s opening conference game to be against each other.
The Cougars knocked around the Green Wave 45-7 in last year’s conference opener.
Toledo also said this week might not be the best time to catch Houston.
"They have had a bye and they’re preparing for us. They got a chance to rest up," Toledo said at a press conference. "They’ve got a couple receivers that can flat out go with it. They can take it to the house. They’re going to be difficult to stop and we’re going to try and slow them down and try and keep the ball away from them. We have to do a better job of not letting them have the ball."
Tulane will have to pay close attention to senior running back Anthony Alridge after allowing 290 yards rushing against Mississippi State on Sept. 8.
"You look at Alridge and like I said – he is explosive," Toledo said. "It’s not a complex running game, but it’s a very efficient and effective running game."
The Green Wave also has a feature back who could cause trouble for the Cougars. Running back Matt Forte rushed for 859 yards on 163 carries last season, and could hurt Houston on the ground.
"There’s no question we want to get (Forte) more touches. We tried to throw him the ball and do some things, but we only had 46 snaps (on offense against Mississippi State)," Toledo said at a press conference. "So we just didn’t have the ball enough to utilize him and to utilize the game plan… but there’s no question he’s going to get the football and he’ll get it a lot through the course of the year."
Toledo’s era did not start off too well, as Tulane opened its season with a 38-17 loss to Mississippi State.
"Obviously, we were disappointed in losing the football game, but I don’t think it was because of a lack of effort and that’s one of the things I’ve kind of preached to our football team. I want great effort and intensity from start to finish and I thought they did a good job, particularly early," Toledo said at a press conference.
Toledo sees Saturday’s game as the first opportunity to turn things around at Tulane.
"I think winning a game – hopefully beating the conference champion at home – would give us a lot of credibility. It’s easy to say, but you’ve got to go out and do it," Toledo said at a press conference. "I think it’s going to happen eventually. When? I don’t know. But yes, I think it’s important that we win… hopefully soon."