Round table: Cougars continue winning, but toughest tests are ahead
In this week’s round table, The Cougar sports staff breaks down the close win over the University of Cincinnati and the chances for a conference championship.
Were you impressed with the Cougars’ win over Cincinnati?
Senior staff writer Shardanna Jones: The fact that the Cougars responded well to the adversity as a team and found a way to win the game is what impressed me. That is what makes a winner—the mentality. They never let up or give in.
Senior staff writer Michael Calderon: Cincinnati may be having a down season by its standards, but they still have one of the best offenses in the country. For the Cougars to come out with a win after a performance in which the Bearcats offense was rolling on all cylinders is very impressive. UH’s play was far from flawless, but it is still a win regardless of style.
What was the biggest area of concern you took away from the game?
Sports editor Bryce Dodds: The play calling was my biggest concern. I know the rain may have affected the plan, but the constant “three yards and a cloud of dust” run-game right up the middle was frustrating to no end. Once the Cougars opened up a lead, they looked like they were playing not to lose, not playing to win, and that’s no way to play at all.
MC: The secondary has to be a concern after they gave up 523 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Cincinnati’s Gunner Kiel may be one of the better quarterbacks in the NCAA, but allowing him to torch them at times doesn’t bode well for the Cougars chances at facing better competition. This unit has been good at creating turnovers throughout the season, but it is dangerous to depend on getting them regularly.
What do you think of the Cougars’ chances to win out or clinch a conference title?
SJ: There is a chance. At the start of the season, I predicted the Cougars’ biggest challenge to be Navy, but they are only a challenge just as other teams are. It is not impossible to beat them, and it is also not impossible for the Cougars to clinch the AAC title.
BD: Right now, I’d give the Cougars an 50 percent chance of winning the conference. This team isn’t a fluke, they showed they can win, but two of their last three games came against two of the top-four teams in conference. The University of Memphis is of course the immediate worry, and the team needs to play better than they did against Cincinnati if they want to win, but I think this team definitely has a chance to run the table.
How will the Cougars fare against Memphis next week?
SJ: Just fine as long as they stick to their set culture, play with energy and play with passion. They prepare for every game, with the mission of being 1-0 at the end, and that is what they will do. I know that Memphis will be out for blood after losing to Navy, but the Cougars can handle it.
MC: Many, including myself, have had this game circled from the beginning of the season. Until Saturday night, it looked like this was going to be a matchup of unbeaten teams, but that may make the Tigers even more dangerous. Memphis is a good team in all phases of the game and still pose the biggest threat on the Cougars’ schedule. I expect this game to go down to the wire and require a lucky bounce or two from the winner.