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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Football

UH arrives in second half


Senior running back Michael Hayes netted his second multi-touchdown game of the season during the Cougars’ 48-23 win over UNT. UH ran and threw all over the new turf at Apogee Stadium, accumulating 690 total yards on offense. | Joshua Siegel/The Daily Cougar

Senior running back Michael Hayes netted his second multi-touchdown game of the season during the Cougars’ 48-23 win over UNT. UH ran and threw all over the new turf at Apogee Stadium, accumulating 690 total yards on offense. | Joshua Siegel/The Daily CougarLast week, the Cougars got off to a hot start. This week, they started slow. The kinks are still being worked out.

Maybe it’s a good thing that this year’s out-of-conference schedule is missing an Oklahoma State, Texas Tech or Mississippi State.

This is not a knock against North Texas. They threw their best punch and kept up with the Cougars (2-0) in the first half. But playing lesser opponents early allows the Cougars opportunities to make mistakes here and there without costing them the game.

While he seems to have shaken off the rust on the field, senior quarterback Case Keenum said there is still work to be done in his game preparation.

“I didn’t come in with quite the mindset,” Keenum said. “That obviously showed in the first half. I just settled down and needed to focus. It’s been a while. I need to get used to getting ready for games. As we go along, I’m going to get better at that and I think our team’s going to get better, too.”

Case and the offense are nothing to worry about. They are going to be fine — great, even.

The Cougars’ defense was the unit that caused concern coming into Saturday’s 48-23 win over UNT.

And granted, the Mean Green (0-2) are not the Oklahoma Sooners, but the UH defense was impressive, especially in the second half.

Senior cornerback D.J. Hayden ended the Mean Green’s opening drive by picking off UNT quarterback Derek Thompson. UH picked up a fumble towards the end of the first quarter.

Despite creating turnovers, the Cougars didn’t shine until the second half.

“I think in the first half we had a lot of mistakes,” senior defensive lineman David Hunter said. “I think in the second half, everybody just got it going and we said to ourselves we have to make more plays. And that’s what we did.”

The Mean Green were 0-5 on third down conversions in the second half and only gained 107 total yards.

More impressive, the Cougars held the Mean Green to just 46 rushing yards in the second half. The defense against the run was a major problem last season, and that didn’t change much against UCLA when they gave up 232 yards on the ground.

“I think we did a better job this week at stopping the run,” Hunter said. “Their running back is really good and I think we did a better job at stopping the run this week.”

The Cougars will go where their run defense takes them. The offense is a sure thing. Special teams had another stellar performance against UNT with a blocked kick for the second straight week. The run defense is the Cougars’ biggest area of weakness.

UH’s pass defense looked much improved as well. Hayden can play. He is fast, can cover and can tackle. He sticks with receivers well. He is an asset at cornerback that the Cougars did not have last season. The rest of the unit looked solid as well, holding the Mean Green to 5.1 yards per passing attempt for the game. It probably helped that they didn’t have to cover any ridiculous 6-foot-8-inch tight ends this week.

The season is young. The Cougars are making progress and next week against Louisiana Tech is another opportunity to work out the kinks for a team that has the potential to be a Conference USA champion.

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