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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Football

Road contest at UAB next test for UH


Senior linebacker Marcus McGraw and the Cougars (8-0, 4-0 Conference USA) will defend their spotless record against the UAB Blazers at Legion Field on Saturday in Birmingham, Ala. | Brianna Leigh Morrison/The Daily Cougar

The comfort of the Cougars’ three-game homestand is over.

Three of the last four games on the schedule will be played away from Robertson Stadium, and UH will control its own destiny on the road.

“It has been forever since we played on the road,” quarterback Case Keenum said. “We haven’t played great on the road when you look at the past few games but I think we’re at a different point in the season. Teams grow and change as you grow.”

The No. 14 Cougars (8-0, 4-0 Conference USA) have had plenty of learning experiences to grow from.

Come-from-behind victories against Louisiana Tech and UTEP on the road and the defense’s growing pains have built some character to a team often considered to be offense-oriented.

“Even from my time in high school we always started the year as a relatively inexperienced team, but by the time you got to playoffs you’re a new team,” Keenum said. “A lot of guys on the team pretty much have a whole season of experience under their belt now. We’ve grown and matured as a team.

“We’ve gotten better at dealing with changeups as far as having to deal with playing on Saturdays and Thursdays. It’s all about adapting to change and new environments.”

The Cougars ninth opponent is Alabama-Birmingham (1-6, 1-4), and a win would mark the best start in program history. The Blazers are led head coach Neil Callaway, who is in his fifth year at UAB.

UAB owns a 4-3 overall record against UH and are 3-1 when playing at Legion Field. The last time the two teams met, the Cougars won 45-20 in 2008 at Robertson Stadium, giving head coach Kevin Sumlin a 1-0 record against the Blazers.

Not much has gone right for UAB this season.

The Blazers dropped their first six games, beat Central Florida 26-24 for their first win and returned to their losing ways last weekend with a 59-14 loss to Marshall.

The Cougars were ranked No. 13 in the latest BCS standings. Keenum is coming off back-to-back games where he shattered the NCAA total offense and touchdown records.

Five days after playing UAB, the Cougars will head east to New Orleans to play Tulane. Both UAB and the Green Wave may be at the bottom of the C-USA standings, but they are still mandatory obstacles to clear if the Cougars want to stay in contention.

“We try not to look at the big picture too much,” Keenum said. “We obviously know that there is something special out there, but a lot of these guys were around in 2009 when we got up pretty high in the rankings and fell off towards the end of the year.

“We know that was fun, but we also know there is a lot more out there. We’ve been to this point and fell off so we know the importance of taking it one week at a time and we know the importance of winning. That’s what’s important to us. In August, we felt like we were going to be a good football team and we still feel that way. Our goal of winning the conference championship is still in front of us and that’s what we wanted at the beginning of the year.”

The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network and will be broadcast on 790 AM. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. in Birmingham, Ala.

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