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Thursday, September 28, 2023


UH looks to young players

Even though the Cougars began their season with a 52-point victory against Southern, head coach Kevin Sumlin said Houston needs to improve some things before traveling to Stillwater, Okla. to face Big 12 opponent Oklahoma State on Saturday.

"We need to eliminate some pre-snap penalties that we had, and we need to take care of the ball better on offense," he said. "It was disappointing how a couple guys took care of the ball. We can’t put the ball on the ground like that."

Against the Jaguars, the Cougars had seven penalties for 65 yards. Although the Cougars were able to make up for the loss of yards thanks to sophomore quarterback Case Keenum (33-of-34, 392 yards, 5 TDs), it would be hard to overcome a similar obstacle against the Cowboys, who held Washington State to just 196 yards on Aug. 30.

Four of the night’s penalties were false starts, including two from senior offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers. Sumlin said players must take responsibility and not let those penalties happen Saturday.

"Those are misalignments or jumping offsides, and things like that the players control. We need to eliminate those," Sumlin said. "(We’ve) been getting in some second-and-long and third-and-long situations where we didn’t have to be in."

Cougar offense will rely heavily not just on Keenum, who scored five times with three different receivers on Saturday, but also on younger players who made an impact against Southern.

"We were able to bail ourselves out (of situations caused by penalties)," Sumlin said. "We played a lot of guys. I saw some guys do things and actually get better as the game went along, and you like to see that, especially out of freshmen."

Sumlin was referring to freshmen running back Bryce Beall and safety Jackie Hinton Jr. Sophomore running back Andre Kohn led Houston in rushing with 54 total yards on 11 carries, but Beall was right behind him with 53 yards on six carries for an average of 8.8 yards per carry. Hinton Jr. added another 33 on seven carries.

"Those guys are going to have a role. Those guys are adding to our depth, and we’re going to need a lot of them as the season goes on. It’s a long season, and… that experience will pay off down the road," Sumlin said. "There’s no substitute for experience."

That was certainly true of the offensive line. Senior Sebastian Vollmer played the entire game after senior Michael Bloesch exited the game early after being roughed up, and he will need to lead the line in protecting the quarterback to give the Cougars chances to score.

Vollmer said he was just glad to get the season started.

"It’s good to get out there, finally. We’ve been practicing for eight months. (Now we) get to shake off the rust and get going. It’s good to be back."

The Cougars lead the overall series with the Cowboys 9-8, but are just 4-4 on the road. The two teams have not faced each other since 2006, when Houston defeated OSU at Robertson Stadium 34-25.

Kickoff is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Saturday. The game will be broadcast on KBME-AM and live updates will be posted online at The Daily Cougar’s Web site throughout the game.

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