Five things to watch for: UH vs Tulsa
Coming off its bye week, UH will enter Saturday afternoon’s game against Tulsa looking to get back on track after missing a chance to be alone at the top of the American Athletic Conference standings when it fell 31-24 to Tulane during its Homecoming game.
The Cougars abandoned their running game that had been the most significant aspect of their three-game winning streak. Junior running backs Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson combined for just 15 touches against Tulane. Sophomore quarterback Greg Ward ran 18 times while throwing 45 times in the loss.
Tulsa (2-8) has lost eight of its last nine, and its only wins are against Tulane (the first game of the season) and winless SMU. Here are five things to watch for in the Cougars’ home finale against the Golden Hurricane at TDECU Stadium:
1: UH must follow its winning formula
The 15 total touches for running backs Farrow and Jackson against Tulane won’t get it done. In their three prior games, the running game averaged 184 yards per game while averaging four yards a carry. This offensive identity not only paved the team’s way to three straight wins, but the Cougars also gave The Third Ward Defense rest, resulting in nearly 35 minutes time of possession.
2: Defense looks to overcome first mishap of season
UH’s uniforms during its Homecoming contest against Tulane were nice, but they weren’t the only things that were throwback. The defense allowed its second-most points of the season and let the Green Wave move the ball with ease.
Tulane converted 62.5 percent of its third-downs (10-16) and controlled the game throughout, complemented with clutch quarterback play and timely runs for first-downs in the trenches. If the Cougars are to become bowl eligible with their possible-sixth win of the season, the Cougars’ defense will have to play better than it did against the Green Wave.
3: Beware of Tulsa’s passing offense
Golden Hurricane receiver Keevan Lucas ranks No. 1 in the AAC in receiving yards (1,037) and touchdown receptions (11). The Golden Hurricane’s third-ranked passing attack in the conference will look to attack the UH secondary and try to match the success that Tulane quarterback Tanner Lee had. Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans will enter Saturday afternoon’s game with his 20 touchdown passes to his 12 interceptions.
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 get the team to its sixth win of the season and become bowl eligible with a win over Tulsa in the home finale.
5: Let Ward manage the game, not win it
In the Cougars’ three-game win streak before their loss to the Green Wave, quarterback Ward was averaging a combined 39 plays (passing and rushing), which gave the team balance with Farrow and Jackson rushing a relatively equal amount of times. If the Cougars are to achieve their sixth win of the season, it’d be smart to keep Ward in that 40 play-total (passing and rushing), unlike the 63 against Tulane where he threw for a career-high three interceptions.