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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Commentary

Cougars will need to tame Mustangs to stay relevant


relevant

The Cougars have issues on both sides of the ball and will face a tough opponent this Saturday. 

The Cougars need to secure a victory against SMU this weekend if they want to keep up with the rest of the AAC — which includes three undefeated teams. Although the Cougars are 3-1, there are still a few hurdles they must overcome, including the Mustangs’ great defense.

“We focus on the here and the now,” said head coach Major Applewhite. “We aren’t getting into these conference games down the line. We certainly aren’t looking past anybody. You give this opponent the same amount of respect as we have given all of our other opponents to this point.”

The Cougars faced another up-and-down game against Temple, in which they dominated in the first half of the contest but barely fended off the Owls with a less-than-stellar performance in the second half.

The Cougars will be looking at one of their toughest games of the season Saturday in a pivotal point that could give them the momentum they need for the rest of the season.

UH has already faced disruption this season with the damaging effects of Hurricane Harvey to the city of Houston, its displacement to Austin and the eventual cancelation of the game against UTSA.

On Sept. 23 against Texas Tech, UH benched its would-be star quarterback, junior Kyle Allen, who coaches have been grooming for more than a year.

It’s a surprise that the Cougars have managed to win three of their four games.

The one constant, now wavering, is the Cougars’ defense. It has provided plenty of big turnovers and big stops the whole season, but the offense’s inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities is wearing down the defense.

On top of everything else, All-American sophomore Ed Oliver injured the MCL in his left knee during the game Saturday against Temple. This leaves the defensive line scrambling to fill the shoes of one of the best players in the country if he is unable to play against SMU.

After coming into the game with the 18th-best defense, the Cougars are now the 56th team in the nation and have allowed 364.5 yards per game. In the Texas Tech and Temple games, the defense failed to live up to expectations after losing to the Red Raiders and allowing the Owls to come within a touchdown and a chance at the end of the game. It has given up a staggering 4.8 yards per play this year.

This number wouldn’t be so problematic if the Cougars could get past their offensive struggles, which has included benching junior quarterback Kyle Allen in favor of senior Kyle Postma.

“(Postma’s) been the most consistent in practice, in ball security,” Applewhite said. “We can’t give lip service to those things. Ball security in practice, the effort in practice, understanding the assignments and obviously the game play. He’s been doing great, and we’re going to continue to play him.”

SMU is running on all cylinders with the third-best offense in points scored per game; it represents a big test for the Cougars on Saturday. The 4-1 team is led by sophomore Ben Hicks, who already has 1,275 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.

The Mustangs may come into the game with a loss, but still, they have scored at least 40 points in each of their games this year. The Cougars will have to do what they couldn’t against Texas Tech: Take advantage of every offensive possession they get this Saturday.

The Cougars will face the Mustangs at 6 p.m. Saturday at TDECU Stadium.

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