The expectation of success and history of winning was a big factor in the Cougars’ 39-17 victory over UAB on Saturday, head coach Tony Levine said.
“We’ve got some guys who are used to winning and understand how to win. We’ve also got some guys that might have been around or seen it but are now understanding that as well,” Levine said. “Our guys know what it takes to win and I think you have seen that a little more these past two weeks.”
UAB does not have a player on its roster who has been a part of a winning college team, UAB head coach Garrick McGee said.
UH’s experience may have helped when the momentum shifted early in the game.
UAB redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Brown tossed a 16-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jay Davis tying the score at seven early in the first quarter. Consequently, junior running back Charles Sims fumbled in UH territory at the 34 on the Cougars’ next drive where UAB took over.
The Blazers could not pick up positive yardage on the drive, eventually yielding the ball on downs after sophomore defensive end William Moore sacked Brown for an eight-yard loss.
UH offense answered with two drives resulting in field goals, while its defense forced two punts and an interception by senior linebacker Phillip Steward on the next three.
The Cougars offensive fluidity continued throughout the game putting up 556 yards. Sims rushed for 134 yards and junior receiver Shane Ros finished with 114 on seven receptions. Ros is the fourth different receiver to lead the Cougars in receiving yards.
UH started the game with a touchdown on its first offensive drive for the second consecutive week. Redshirt sophomore quarterback David Piland, who passed for 362 yards, connected with Ros three times on the initial drive, including the 25-yard reception.
For Ros, being prepared to step allowed him to get involved in the offense the past two games when injuries occurred.
“Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve just been paying attention. Even though I might not be starting, I’ve been paying attention on the field and paying attention in meetings,” Ros said. “Knowing what your job is so when you’re given the opportunity, you know what to do.”
The Cougars had problems scoring touchdowns in the red zone and senior kicker Matt Hogan cleaned up, setting a UH and Conference USA record of six completed field goals. Hogan didn’t know he set a school record until he exited the field.
“It’s all actually very surprising,” Hogan said. “I just go out there when I’m told, but it’s always nice to get a three when possible.”
On defense, Steward put pressure on Brown, sacking him eight times.
Steward had 13 tackles and spent a lot of time in the Blazer’s backfield with two and a half sacks and three tackles for loss. UH allowed only 35 yards rushing.
Steward said his energy early helped fuel the defense.
“I know a lot them aren’t early morning people, so I feel like when I go out there and start playing hard everybody wakes up then they start playing hard,” Steward said.