Roundtable: Who needs to step up against Tulsa?
Football suffered a heart-wrenching 46-40 defeat to the Navy Midshipmen last weekend, but will try to put the untimely loss behind them with a victory this Saturday against the Tulsa University Golden Hurricane.
The Cougars’ fourth American Athletic Conference matchup of the season will be in TDECU Stadium. In order to get back to their winning ways, the team will need great performances from some of their notable players.
Here is who The Cougar sports staff believes needs to show up in a big way on Saturday:
Sports editor Reagan Earnst
In order for the Cougars to come away with a victory on Saturday, I think that senior linebacker Steven Taylor needs to have a big game.
Tulsa has one of the most difficult offenses to defend in the American Athletic Conference, so a strong defensive performance will be pivotal.
Taylor missed last week’s game against Navy due to a violation of team rules. I expect him to come out ready to play on Saturday.
The senior defensive stopper currently leads the team with 5.5 sacks and is just three away from the nation’s best. Taylor is fourth on the team in tackles with 27 despite missing last week’s game.
To stop Tulsa’s run-first offense, the Cougars will need its linebackers to plug up the gaps on the line. Taylor must led this effort as he has faced the Golden Hurricane since his freshman season.
If Taylor can stop the run up the middle it will allow other players to get into the backfield for a tackle for loss or possibly a sack. Being able to neutralize Tulsa’s spread offense will be of utmost importance to win on Saturday.
Overall, I expect Taylor to make up for the time he missed last week. Many expect him to be a solid pick in next year’s NFL draft and I believe he will show why on Saturday.
Assistant sports editor Jonathan Valadez
The person that needs to have a breakout game isn’t necessarily one person, but a committee.
Since redshirt sophomore Duke Catalon has been out with a concussion, the running game hasn’t been as threatening. Junior Dillon Birden and freshman Mulbah Car have to step up in his absence.
It is no secret that senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. had an uncharacteristically awful game against Navy. The running backs need to help ease him back into the game.
Birden had one of his best games versus Navy, but he still only ran for a meager 3.9 yards per carry.
Birden and Car need to form a one-two punch that can alleviate the pressure Ward faces from week to week.
As of now, Car has yet to live up to the expectations placed on him after finishing his career at Reagan High School in Austin with 4,833 yards. Birden, meanwhile, is a walk-on who has exceeded his forecast, but hasn’t necessarily dominated.
It is important for both backs to get off to a strong start for the Cougars’ offense to be effective. The duo should be able to have a breakout performance against a University of Tulsa team that is allowing 155.4 yards per game on the ground.
Birden is the likely starter and will get chances to move the sticks, but Car also needs to seize the opportunity to shine against a less-than-stellar defensive front.