Five things to watch for: UH vs Tulane
UH will enter Saturday afternoon’s game against Tulane seeking its fourth consecutive victory after a 27-3 domination over South Florida last weekend, which put the Cougars in a five-way tie for first place in the American Athletic Conference.
The Cougars have won four of the last five and are playing their best football of the season, largely accredited to an overwhelming defensive unit and a stable offense that has been playing fundamental, turnover-free football.
Tulane has lost four of five and has been inconsistent in all areas. The Green Wave is expected to have a tough time moving the ball against the Cougars’ defense, as well as trying to slow down their potent running attack that has proven dangerous since the insertion of sophomore quarterback Greg Ward.
Here are five things to watch for in the Cougars’ Homecoming game Saturday on ESPNU:
1: UH will try to establish running game early, often
Defenses have had nightmares about trying to slow down the Cougars’ rushing attack, which consists of a myriad of rushing formations and zone reads orchestrated by elusive, yet accurate passing from sophomore quarterback Greg Ward. They have rushed for seven touchdowns while averaging more than four yards per carry in the last three games.
Junior running backs Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson have consistently been a step ahead of defensive linemen and linebackers due to Ward’s speedy presence of keeping the ball himself on the zone read plays.
2: Short, high percentage passes from Ward should equate success
The Cougars’ sophomore quarterback has completed 73 percent of his passes and has allowed for the offense to control the game. The offense has completed 44 percent of its third downs since Ward took over, compared to just 34 percent before he did.
3: Tulane’s defense is just as tenacious
The Cougars’ Third Ward Defense ties the conference lead in turnovers again with 24, but Tulane’s is right up there with 21. Tulane freshman defensive back Harry Nickerson has been the anchor in that department with four interceptions. The Green Wave defense is in the middle of the pack in total defense, but its strength, like UH, has been taking the ball away from offenses.
4: The faster, the better
The Cougars are 9-1 after winning the first quarter with Travis Bush as the offensive coordinator, compared to their 1-9 record when they don’t.Numbers don’t lie, and a good start could provide enough momentum to ride the Cougars to their fourth consecutive win of the season.
5: Short down and distances will be key for Tulane
If Tulane has any chance in this contest, it’ll be important for its offense to gain success on third-down. So far, it hasn’t. Tulane’s third-down conversion rate is near the bottom in the nation (112th) at just 33 percent.
Also, part of its offensive scoring struggle has been because of unproductive field goal kicking, an area the Green Wave is a dismal 4-10, a percentage that is second to last in the nation.