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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Football

Cougars’ defense starting to pull together


Junior defensive tackle Ed Oliver broke his sack drought with two against East Carolina. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

While no one can call the Cougars’ defense an iron fortress, its steady improvement in recent weeks might just make the difference in the team’s pursuit of a conference title.

With the offense Houston has, the defense just needs to limit big plays while making some of its own to win games.

When it comes to yardage allowed, Houston is still one of the worst in FBS, but the team has been improving. The passing defense is ranked dead last, but it showed improvement against Tulsa and East Carolina.

The Cougars’ run defense is No. 20 in the nation, and it allowed just 11 rushing yards against ECU before the second string took the field. Likewise, the pass defense allowed just 237 yards and made three interceptions before the second string was put in.

Against Tulsa, the defense allowed just 227 passing yards and had another interception against Tulsa’s run-based offense.

Because of the two teams’ low standing in the conference, it is not a sign that all Houston’s defensive problems are solved, but it is progress in the right direction.

Both Rice and Texas Southern were also sub-300-yard performances by the defense. It is mostly the terrible 605-yard performance against Texas Tech that drags down Houston’s stats.

Yardage is not the only thing that matters. A team needs to finish drives and score or all the yardage means nothing. It is there, in points allowed, where the Cougars are stronger than the yardage allowed makes them seem.

Houston’s defensive efficiency is slightly above average, and the team is allowing just 28 points per game despite the high yardage numbers.

In the red zone drives, Houston has allowed 15 touchdowns in 25 attempts. Seven more resulted in field goals, and the rest saw opponents’ offenses leave the field empty handed. 

The Cougars finished the game against the Pirates with four turnovers, the most it has had in a game since the 2016 game against UCF.

Houston’s next opponent, Navy, will be the run defense’s biggest test, but if the team plays as it has all season, it should come out on top.

There are still teams on the schedule, like South Florida and Memphis, that will test Houston’s pass defense, and the team will need to be on its game to bring home a conference title.

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