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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Football

Cougars enter familiar territory against Tulsa


Fiona Legesse/The Cougar

Houston will clash with Tulsa on Thursday night in its American Athletic Conference opener one year after the Golden Hurricanes ravaged the Cougars 45–17.

Although the two teams are much different this season, the matchup has drawn parallels to last season’s meeting.

Just like in 2017, Houston is going into the game with its only loss of the season so far against Texas Tech, while Tulsa is again playing after a tough loss to a team from the AAC. In this case, the loss was to Temple.

Despite the similarities, the Cougars are a much different team from last season.

Junior quarterback D’Eriq King has been wheeling and dealing this season, throwing three touchdowns in all four games of the season.

King’s performance has propelled the Cougars high in the national offensive rankings. The team’s offensive efficiency of 80.6 puts Houston at No. 11 in front of teams like LSU, Penn State and AAC-rival Memphis. The team is No. 17 in total yards with 2,434, and its 609 yards per game are the highest in the FBS.

Houston’s offense is also the only one in the nation to go four consecutive games with more than 550 total yards.

The game against the Golden Hurricanes is coming at a good time for the Cougars. UH just got off a bye week and showcased its best offensive performance since 2011 in its 70-14 win against TSU.

Storming into town

Tulsa, on the other hand, is led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Luke Skipper and sophomore running back Shamari Brooks.

Skipper and Brooks were the difference in last season’s game, and the duo powered the second half dagger that put the Cougars down in 2017.

Tulsa’s offense has performed well this season, and this could pose a problem for Houston’s defense, which allowed Texas Tech to score 63 points just two games ago.

King threw for a career-high 431 yards in the game against the Red Raiders, but lapses in defense caused the team to lose.

Houston allowed quarterback Alan Bowman 605 yards and five touchdowns. Tech’s running back Antoine Wesley had more than 260 rushing yards in the game as well. If Houston’s defense allows numbers like that again, it could prove challenging even beyond the Tulsa game.

Despite its 1-3 record, Tulsa has proven itself in tough games. It went toe-to-toe in its early season game against No. 18 Texas but lost 28–21. Texas has since gone on to beat USC, TCU and Kansas State.

Houston will have to play smarter on the pass than it did last year. The Cougars had more than 100 more passing yards than the Golden Hurricanes, but two interceptions did them in.

The offensive line also allowed three sacks in the 2017 game — something it has not done at all this season.

Houston’s offense has undoubtedly improved since last year, but it has shown its imperfections.

Houston slowed down in the second half against Arizona and Texas Tech as the defenses started to figure the offense out.

Both teams are coming off a bye week, and if the Golden Hurricanes have been able to use that time to figure out the Cougars, the home team may not be able to adjust.

The game kicks off at TDECU Stadium Thursday at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.

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