Keys for Cougars to overtake Cardinals
The Cougars find themselves playing a top-five team for the second time this season when they host the University of Louisville Cardinals Thursday.
Houston upset then-No. 3 University of Oklahoma in the first top-five matchup and looks to do it again inside TDECU Stadium.
Here are the keys to the game:
The Cougars have been plagued by slow starts in the first half of their games for the past two seasons. A slow offensive and defensive start would all but guarantee a loss.
Louisville is a team that can quickly and easily jump out to a big lead early if you let them. The Cardinals lead the nation in scoring at 49.6 points per game, and 55 percent of those points come in the first half.
The Cougars will be in for a long night if their defense falls flat early.
On offense, Houston has a unit that can keep up with Louisville’s. If the Cougars get behind early, however, they’ll be forced to press and play under pressure. An early deficit would be hard to come back from against a Louisville defense that is ranked in the top 10.
Contain sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson
Even if the Cougars’ defense plays to the best of their ability, there’s no stopping Jackson. The key, however, is to contain him. Don’t let him get into a rhythm or he’ll make a home in the end zone.
Although Jackson isn’t the most accurate quarterback, he has thrown for 2,898 yards, 27 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
Jackson is also the Cardinals’ leading rusher. He has racked up 1,334 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground this season. The Cougars have a better chance of getting Jackson to make mistakes and turn the football over if their front seven can contain the Louisville quarterback in the pocket and force him to throw.
Win the turnover battle
The Cougars’ main problem through their rough October was ball security. Turning the football over to a high-powered Louisville offense will prove costly.
The Cougars gave up the ball six times while only forcing one turnover in their losses to the United States Naval Academy and Southern Methodist University.
The Cardinals have scored 271 points off of turnovers this season, which is more than half of their points.
The Cougars will force Louisville to earn all their points if they can win the turnover battle. They can’t afford to give the Cardinals the ball with great field position.
Even if the Cougars fail to score on some possessions, they have to make Louisville drive down the field to put points on the board.
The Cougars will greatly increase their chance of getting the upset against the fifth-ranked team in the country if they can put all of this together.