Cougars switch gears for Tulsa
Houston’s Homecoming win against Tulane has Cougar fans celebrating, but with Saturday’s game against Tulsa on the horizon, all celebration must quickly turn to focus and hard work.
With their latest victory the Cougars (5-4, 4-1 C-USA) are just one game shy of clinching a sixth win and bowl eligibility. Defeating Tulane gives the Cougars the momentum they’ll need as they collide with conference rival Tulsa (8-1, 5-0 C-USA) on Saturday.
The Cougars hit all four cylinders coming out of the gate in the 42-14 victory over Tulane at Robertson Stadium. The clich’eacute; is as old as the game itself, but when referring to Houston’s first half offensive numbers, it’s brand new.
Known as a fourth quarter team or comeback squad this season, the Cougars tried a new technique in Saturday’s contest by driving down the field three times for touchdowns while collecting 333 yards of offense in the first 30 minutes.
This time, it wouldn’t take an inspiring, locker-room speech by head coach Kevin Sumlin to rally the team into scoring. This time, Houston would put the game out of the Green Wave’s reach early, using the fourth quarter not as an opportunity for a comeback but as a time to bask in its early success.
The combination of passing and the rush hoisted the Cougars to victory as they exploited the Green Wave defense for 693 yards. Steady scoring ensured Houston’s victory. After freshman running back Bryce Beall put Houston’s first points on the board, running it in from 15 yards with 2:27 in the first quarter, the Cougars flipped the switch and poured it on their opponents over two quarters, scoring twice in the second quarter and three times in the third.
The Cougar defense made things even easier for the offense by giving Houston a nice cushion to work with throughout the game.
Tulane had only two scoring drives in the game, both from freshman running back Nathan Austin, who ran it in from 11 yards early in the second quarter and punched it in from 1-yard out with the clock winding down in the fourth quarter.
Tulane tried to push the ball through the air as Houston’s defense held the running game in check, holding the Green Wave to only 61 rushing yards and 268 total yards in Saturday’s game.
Although the defense was able to limit all three of the quarterbacks Tulane put into the game, Tulsa senior quarterback David Johnson, who has thrown 33 touchdown passes this year and averages 331.4 passing yards a game, will be a more difficult force to stop.
Houston will also need to limit costly turnovers and penalties against Tulsa. Officials threw the yellow rag 12 times for 143 yards against the Cougars, and Houston did not help its own case with two lost fumbles against Tulane, one of which resulted in a Green Wave touchdown.
Houston sophomore quarterback Case Keenum finished with 384 yards on 29-of-41 passing, but was intercepted by junior linebacker Travis Burks late in the second quarter to keep the Cougars from scoring before the end of the half.
These offensive hiccups didn’t hurt Houston this week, but will certainly need to be resolved if the Cougars hope to defeat Tulsa.
The Cougars’ postseason fate hangs in the balance and may be determined by Saturday’s game against Tulsa. Houston’s win over a struggling Tulane team may not seem like a big deal, but with bowl eligibility on the line and the chance to contend for a Conference USA championship, every game is crucial.