Beall meets familiar foe; defense seeks improved effort
It’s hard to imagine senior Bryce Beall as anything besides a running back. He has the most rushing touchdowns in UH history and the fifth-most yards.
But some of Beall’s favorite moments on the field came not as a ball carrier, but as the guy knocking them out as a safety at Tatum High School.
“I loved it,” Beall said. “It was fun, some of the best years of my life. I still think today I can go out there, switch sides and play linebacker.”
The move to defense was made because the top spot in Tatum’s backfield was occupied by its all-time leading rusher, current Louisiana Tech senior Lennon Creer, and Tatum head coach Andy Evans had to figure out a way to get Beall on the field.
“In high school he was a monster, probably the best back in the state,” Beall said.
“I didn’t know why because I had never played anything except running back. They found a way to put me on defense because they said with my athleticism and my skill, I could play something.”
With Creer in the backfield and Beall in the secondary and doubling as his backup, Tatum won back-to-back state titles in 2005 and 2006.
Beall and Creer played football together since third grade and grew up down the street from each other.
“There’s a lot of familiarity in this game,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “You’ll have Lennon and Bryce on the field and they’ll probably have something to try to prove to each other. They have plenty of talent.”
Through two games, Creer has rushed for 230 yards and four touchdowns. Stopping him will be the top priority for a Cougars defense that held North Texas running back Lance Dunbar to just 62 yards the week before.
Sumlin said after last week’s slow start against the Mean Green, the Cougars learned from their performance about how to prepare better for road games.
“Frankly, I didn’t make a big deal out of it,” he said. “Maybe that was my mistake. I thought we were ready to play. I didn’t sense any sleepwalking or zombie-like attitude. I don’t think our guys felt very good about how they played Saturday because you’re not judged for a quarter of play, you’re judged for your whole performance. That gives us a lot to build on this week.”
Defense continues to gel
The Cougars’ secondary has improved and is less of a liability with the play of junior cornerback D.J. Hayden and sophomore Zach McMillian.
“Our two corners have been playing very, very well,” Sumlin said.
Hayden is third on the team with 12 tackles, one for a loss, one interception and four passes defended.
Sumlin is also pleased with how junior safety Chevy Bennett has continued to settle into his new role after moving over from cornerback.
“He’s coming along,” Sumlin said. “What Chevy is a bigger guy that we haven’t had. He’s a 6-foot, 200 pound guy who can tackle.
“He has great range and is a great open-field tackler. It’s amazing to me how much your tackling improves when your athleticism improves.”
Sumlin cautioned that Bennett is still learning the nuances of the position.
“We all want things to happen overnight,” he said. “The guy has played two games at that position in major college football.”
Another defender who has shown consistent play for the Cougars is junior defensive tackle Dominic Smith.
“Although he has not made a bunch of plays on the stat sheet, I think there’s a definite difference,” Sumlin said.
Case chases former Bulldog great
Senior quarterback Case Keenum continues his ascent into the NCAA’s all-time record books.
Keenum is one touchdown behind former Louisiana Tech quarterback Tim Rattay for the fourth-most passing touchdowns in NCAA history.
“It’s awesome,” Keenum said. “Any of that stuff is really cool.
“I’m not focusing on it, but hopefully one day I’ll be able to look back on it and enjoy it a little more.”
Keenum’s counterpart this weekend is 17-year-old Nick Isham.
“I look back at when I was redshirting that first year, thinking about going in playing and there’s no way I was ready,” Keenum said. “Different people mature faster than others. Look at David Piland last year.
“I have to give it to him for coming in and playing. There’s guys that can do, and then there’s guys that shouldn’t do it. I was actually one of those guys that shouldn’t have done it and was glad I didn’t.”
After sitting out last weekend’s game, sophomore running back Charles Sims will be back in action.
Sophomore defensive lineman Zeke Riser will also play after being shaken up against UNT.
Kickoff is at 6 p.m. Saturday. The game will be streamed on ESPN3.com and will be broadcast on 790 AM.