UH in position to make another powerful run against UTEP
Houston played its cleanest game of the season in last weekend’s 49-10 win over Alabama-Birmingham.
The Cougars (4-3, 3-1 Conference USA) will have to do the same against Texas-El Paso on Saturday at the Sun Bowl to capture another conference win.
"The UAB game was probably as complete a game as we played this year," Houston head coach Art Briles said. "I think all three teams (offense, defense and special teams) did a good job helping get the total team win, and that’s the name of the game."
The Cougars are 1-3 all-time against the Miners (4-3, 2-1). Houston picked up its first win in the series by taking a 34-17 decision last season at Robertson Stadium.
"UTEP this week is a big football game; it’s going to be a good atmosphere," Briles said. "It’s a game we’re exited about. We have a lot of respect for (UTEP head) coach (Mike) Price, and we’re going to be out there fighting hard for 60 minutes to defend our conference championship."
The Cougars’ defense turned in a near-perfect performance against UAB. Houston held the Blazers to only 224 total yards and 12 first downs and pitched a shutout in the second half. The Cougars also recorded four interceptions.
The Houston offense also did its part, scorching UAB for 540 total yards and 33 first downs. And more importantly, the Cougars protected the ball well, committing only one turnover.
The latter stat was a vast improvement for Houston, which committed 20 turnovers (nine fumbles, 11 interceptions) in its first six games.
"The defense set the tone for the game, and our experience on offense is getting better. Our quarterbacks and running backs are holding onto the ball and putting us into good situations,"
senior defensive end Phillip Hunt said.
Senior free safety Rocky Schwartz had two of Houston’s four interceptions against UAB. Three of which led to touchdowns.
"We made (UAB) turn it over, which turned into offense instead of us feeding off the offense," Schwartz, who was named C-USA Co-Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, said.
Briles said that the Cougars are maturing as a team at a critical point in the season. Houston has five regular-season games left, four against C-USA teams.
"What I like about our team is how… we’re getting right at the right time," Briles said. "Every time we step on the field, we understand how to play better as a team, what it takes to win as a team, and that’s where we need to be at this phase of the season."
Schwartz said that other C-USA teams are motivated to play Houston, but the Cougars are united in their efforts to defend their championship.
"Everybody’s out to beat us. Everybody brings their A-game when they play conference champs," he said. "If we keep doing what we do, we’ve got a real good team. If we play together, there aren’t many teams out there that can beat us."