Applewhite and players happy with defensive performance against Tulsa
After Houston’s 41-26 win over Tulsa, head coach Major Applewhite and a few players gave their thoughts on the game.
The defense made stop after stop to keep the game close while the usually explosive offense was quiet for most of the night. In the fourth quarter, the defense turned it up a notch and stopped five drives in a row, including two that ended with turnovers.
“It was huge. Really proud of our defense for giving our offense opportunities, and credit to our offense for responding after three turnovers in the first half,” Applewhite said.
He said the offense needed to adjust and rely on the run more instead of its usually strong passing game due to Tulsa’s defensive scheme. Tulsa added a third safety to its defensive line up to help limit the passing game, and Houston had to adjust.
“We were going to have to run the ball well. When you put three safeties in there, you’re creating a light box, so you should be able to run the ball versus a light box and we did,” Applewhite said. “When you’re explosive and throwing the ball over people’s heads, they are going to do that.”
The team fought through the tough game, and Applewhite credited the players’ perseverance.
“They kept playing. They weren’t playing their best ball. They are all used to being explosive, and it can be frustrating when you are taking shots and they are all bouncing off the iron,” Applewhite said.
The game also had a bit of an edge to it after the upset win last year when Tulsa ran over Houston 45-17. Applewhite said the team definitely thought about the loss last year and getting revenge heading into the game.
“We talked about it all week. Go get your bike back,” Applewhite said. “They stole your bike. They Deebo’d you. They took your bike away. Go get your bike back.”
Both teams were coming off a bye week, and junior defensive lineman Ed Oliver said it helped the team a lot.
“We had (extra) days to prepare, and I feel like we executed and we felt fresh. We rushed the quarterback very well. We just had time and we were ready,” Oliver said.
Oliver said it was definitely the team’s best game in putting pressure on the quarterback. The team finished the game with four sacks, the most this season in a game.
The halftime score of last year’s loss against Tulsa was 10-7 in favor of Houston, but the team lost the lead and the game. This time, Houston led 17-13 at the half and Oliver said the team focused on keeping steady in the second half.
“It was more so about finishing. We just had to put our foot down and finish,” Oliver said.
Senior linebacker Roman Brown said the defensive line created a lot of holes in the offensive line with blitzes and it allowed the linebackers to create pressure on the quarterback.
On the other side of the ball, junior quarterback D’Eriq King led the team with 165 yards in the air and 119 on the ground. When the team was trailing in the fourth quarter, King was still confident in his teammates.
“I was just trying to keep their spirits up and tell them to keep going. Our defense was playing really well, and I knew we would have chances to score,” King said.
Houston’s next game is on the road against East Carolina on Oct. 13.