Matt Miller" />
side bar
Sunday, October 1, 2023


UH FOOTBALL: Cougars anticipating UCF’s best shot

The No. 13 Cougars took Tulsa’s best punch and did not fall, escaping with a 46-45 victory last Saturday.

UH (8-1, 4-1 Conference USA) expects Central Florida (5-4, 3-2) to give a similar effort when the teams square off at 11 a.m. Saturday at Bright House Networks Stadium in Orlando, Fla. With both teams battling for a spot in the C-USA title game, head coach Kevin Sumlin knows the Knights are desperate for a win.

‘The more you win, the bigger the game is, because the stakes are bigger,’ Sumlin said. ‘This week is no different. UCF is a very dangerous team. They have a lot to play for just like we have a lot to play for. It will be a really good game.’

The Cougars may be the most battle-tested team in C-USA this year, but the Knights have also faced stiff competition.

UCF’s only home loss of the season came in a 27-7 decision to then-No. 9 Miami. Last week, the Knights fell to No. 2 Texas, 35-3, in Austin.

Sumlin said those experiences should prevent UCF from being intimidated by UH’s ranking or record.

‘They’ve lost some close games,’ Sumlin said. ‘From their standpoint, they’re probably not worried about us coming in there. It’s their Homecoming, and they have a lot of pride. (Head coach) George O’Leary will have them prepared and sound all across the board.’

The Cougars’ offense will face a stern test Saturday as the Knights sport C-USA’s top total (316 yards per game) and scoring (21 points per game) defense. UCF defends the run (85.4 yards per game) more effectively than the pass (267.6 yards per game) because it prefers to attack the ball.

‘They’re one of the top teams in the country in pressuring the quarterback. That ought to tell you something about their philosophy,’ Sumlin said. ‘When you start looking at total defense and averaging out those numbers, they’re still tops in our league.’

After engineering game-winning drives in UH’s last two games, quarterback Case Keenum is emerging as a serious Heisman Trophy candidate. But the junior from Abilene appears to be more concerned about the Knights’ pass rush than his Heisman resume.

‘My goal right now is to beat UCF. My goal is not to win the Heisman or break records,’ Keenum said. ‘Any individual award is a team award. If you’re not being successful and winning games, those accolades are not going to come your way.’

Defensive ends Jarvis Geathers and Bruce Miller, who each have nine sacks this season, will attempt to apply pressure and disrupt Keenum’s rhythm. Keenum, however, believes his offensive line will continue to provide sufficient protection.

‘UCF has some talented defensive linemen,’ Keenum said. ‘I’m going to be confident in my offensive line. They do a good job every week.’

Keenum’s performances have allowed UH to win in spite of a young defense that has struggled lately. Southern Miss and Tulsa each torched the Cougars for more than 500 yards and 40 points, but defensive tackle David Hunter said the defense is not allowing these lackluster numbers to create a negative attitude.

‘Whenever we come out to practice, everyone tries to put forth quality work and the best effort we can,’ Hunter said. ‘I have never lost any confidence in the defense because I know how hard everyone works.’

Like many teams, the Knights are battling through injuries to key players.

Quarterback Brett Hodges (ribs) and running back Brynn Harvey (ankle) were held out of last week’s matchup with Texas, but returned to practice this week. The Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday that both players are expected to suit up against the Cougars.

UH remains in a tie with SMU (5-4, 4-1) atop the C-USA West Division, but the Cougars hold the tiebreaker. A win Saturday would put them in prime position to earn a spot in the conference championship game, considering their last two opponents are Memphis (2-7, 1-4) and Rice (0-9, 0-5).

For Sumlin, however, it simply boils down to earning another road win against a conference foe.

‘We have to go on the road and play well this week,’ Sumlin said. ‘The guys have that sense of urgency. They’re excited and looking forward to this weekend.’

[email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑
  • Sign up for our Email Edition

  • Polls

    What about UH will you miss the least this summer?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...