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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Football

SMU presents unique challenge to Houston


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Senior defensive end Cameron Malveaux says that the Mustangs run an offense that is similar to that of Tulsa’s last week. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

The Cougars will seek to start a new winning streak Saturday when they take on the Southern Methodist University Mustangs in Dallas. SMU is currently sitting at the bottom of the American Athletic Conference West Division with a record of 2-4.

Even with three losses in a row, the Mustangs will still pose a threat to the Cougars, as they’re a team that’s growing together and showing improvement on the field.

“You’re seeing a lot of the same people, by name, on the field, but their bodies have changed,” said head coach Tom Herman at his Monday press conference. “Their speed, size and strength have changed for the better. You’re seeing a team that has played much better defense than a year ago.”

The Mustangs are coming off of a bye week and will be well-rested for their matchup against the Cougars. The extra time off has allowed them to prepare freshman quarterback Ben Hicks for the Cougars’ defensive attack.

SMU has also been impressive at creating turnovers this season.

The team is tied for ninth in the NCAA in turnovers forced and are a top-50 team in the nation in turnover margin. This means that not only are they taking the ball away from offenses, they’re not giving the ball right back with a turnover of their own.

The Cougars must watch out for Mustangs’ sophomore defensive back Jordan Wyatt, who ranks second on the team in tackles. He also leads the team in both forced fumbles and interceptions.

A player with Wyatt’s skill set can rattle any opposing offenses.

Although the Mustangs have an opportunistic defense, they struggle to limit opposing offenses. The team is ranked 109th in the nation in yards allowed per game.

If senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and the Cougar offense can maintain possessions, they can exploit the Mustangs’ defense that is giving up over 454 yards per game.

Offensively, the Mustangs rank 62nd in the nation in total offense and 104th in scoring offense. The Cougars will try to take advantage of the low-ranked offense that features a freshman quarterback at the helm.

Although its offensive stats aren’t impressive, the Cougars’ defense cannot overlook the Mustangs.

Senior defensive end Cameron Malveaux says that the Mustangs are “much like Tulsa” because of their ability to balance their approach on offense.

The Cougars’ defense will need to pay close attention to the Mustangs’ sophomore receiver Courtland Sutton.

Sutton leads the Mustangs in receiving yards and touchdowns and is also a big-play receiver, averaging over 19 yards per reception. At 6 foot 4 and 215 pounds, he will keep the Cougars’ secondary busy all game.

If the Cougars don’t play at their best, Herman said, the Mustangs can give the Cougars problems even with their discrepancy in win-loss records.

“SMU will be well-rested and motivated,” Herman said. “There is a little rivalry being that we are the only two teams in our conference in the state of Texas. They’re going to give us their best shot, and their best shot is good enough to beat us if we’re not hitting all our cylinders.”

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