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Friday, September 29, 2023


Offense can make additional improvements


The Cougar rushing attack accounted for 268 yards on the ground against Tulsa. | Navid Parsa/The Cougar

Although football has met tough competition lately, the Cougars’ offense continues to perform remarkably. Saturday night’s win over the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane came down to a timely defensive stand, but it was the offense that impressed throughout.

The ground game was most notable, as it accounted for over 268 yards. Senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. led the way with 142 rushing yards to go and 254 yards through the air. It was his runs that set up junior running back Dillon Birden for a record-career night with three touchdowns.

However, from an outside perspective, it is clear that the offense did not play as well as they used to.

Senior tight end Tyler McCloskey sees firsthand what Tom Herman’s offense is capable of when clicking on all cylinders. McCloskey has been successful after transitioning from full back to tight end, but he understands that the offense has work to do.

“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” McCloskey said. “We did some good things, we had a bunch of yards. We scored 31 offensive points, but there’s always room to get better. We’ve got to execute better. Not turn the ball over, obviously. We can’t have penalties that hurt us. Can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. Just the little things.”

Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, along with Herman and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, is a crucial part of the three-headed monster that is the Cougar coaching staff.

The trio know the importance of a win regardless of how it’s obtained. Although satisfied to find the win column, Applewhite echoes McCloskey’s sentiment that the team has areas in need of improvement.

“They were giving us a lot of runs on the quarterback read game and Greg (Ward) did a great job of keeping the ball,” Applewhite said. “We left some balls out on the field, some touchdowns on the field so we’ve got to do better in terms of making those big plays.”

Despite playing a great game against Tulsa, Ward finished without finding the end zone —something the Cougars have not had to deal with this season. The Tulsa Golden Hurricane proved to be a tougher conference foe than how the media painted it.

McCloskey remained on-point with the Cougars’ goal to win the American Athletic Conference despite meeting struggles in the last two weeks.

“We were just focused on getting that taste out of our mouths,” McCloskey said. “We were 100 percent focused on Tulsa. They were a great team and we had to prepare really hard to have a chance to beat them. There’s still so much to play for. We’ve got the whole half the season left.”

Following the win, the Cougars have now switched their attention to the Southern Methodist University Mustangs for a matchup in Dallas.

The Mustangs are coming off a bye week, which gives them an extra week of preparation for the game.

Regardless of what the Mustangs’ record may show, the Cougars are focused on returning to the conference championship game. Even with solid performances statistically, cleaning up mistakes in every area of the game will give the team their best shot at reaching their goal.

“Coach Herman talked to the offense about ball security,” Applewhite said. “Talked to the defense about third down conversions. Talked to the special teams about making momentum changing plays and then just executing. That was really the whole message, just playing cleaner ball.”

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