UH’s defense shows growth from last season
For the second consecutive game, the Cougars have won with their defense making a stand.
In their Sept. 7 contest at Temple, the Cougars’ defense secured a win with a game-clinching interception by sophomore safety Adrian McDonald. This time, it was a team effort as the defense forced a turnover on downs with 1:11 remaining in the game, surviving a hellacious comeback attempt by the Owls to reclaim the Bayou Bucket 31-26.
“(Our) defense has to keep doing what they’re doing,” said sophomore safety Adrian McDonald. “(Rice) needed a touchdown to win, and it was going to be fourth down territory wherever the ball was marked, so it was a tough time.”
Early in the fourth quarter, the Cougars held a comfortable 31-13 lead after receiving touchdowns by sophomore running back Ryan Jackson and sophomore receiver Deontay Greenberry.
However, UH fans may have started to sweat when they saw their team’s lead deteriorate.
The Cougars’ defense surrendered a touchdown to the Owls that narrowed the lead at 31-20 with 10:52 remaining. Later in the fourth quarter, the Cougars moved the ball down the field, but came to a halt when they were faced with a fourth-and-three. The Cougars attempted to kick the 40-yard field goal to make it a two-touchdown game.
However, senior kicker Richie Leone’s attempt was blocked and recovered by Rice linebacker Alex Lyons, who scooped up the fumble and scampered for 62 yards back for a touchdown that cut the score to 31-26 with 2:19 remaining.
Bend but don’t break
Although they gave up 463 yards on offense, only 160 of them were surrendered in the second half as the Cougar defense buckled down. The defense had two sacks and often hurried the Owls’ quarterbacks and forced them to throw errant passes, including the final fourth down stop that gave the Cougars a victory.
“While our defense gave up some yards, they did what we had to do for 60 minutes to win that game,” said head coach Tony Levine.
This season, the Cougars have given up 52 points, the smallest combined total through three games since 1999.
Last year, the Cougars had trouble making defensive stops at significant times in a game. In their last two contests, they’ve shown they can finish those close games with facets other than their potent offense.
“These close games can go either way, but for us to come out on top is big for our development,” Levine said. “To be 3-0 right now is outstanding, and again, to win games like this — close — helps you throughout the rest of the season.”