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Friday, November 16, 2018

Football

Houston could lock up West in next couple of weeks


The Cougars are on the cusp of winning the West Division after junior quarterback D’Eriq King’s incredible seven touchdown performance against USF. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

No. 17 Houston is in complete control of its fate in the American Athletic Conference after its win over South Florida.

The Cougars are close to securing the West Division and could lock a place in the conference championship in the next two weeks.

If Houston beats SMU and South Florida defeats Tulane, the Homecoming game versus Temple would be Houston’s chance to win the West.

It’s not all smooth sailing, however, as the team is struggling with multiple injuries. Top defensive back senior Garrett Davis, who broke his foot against Texas Tech, and sack leader Isaiah Chambers, who injured his knee against Tulsa, are out for the season.

That has not stopped the defense from improving since its performance against Texas Tech, but is has slowed progress. Since that game, Houston’s pass defense has improved and it has prevented more and more big plays each game.

Junior defensive tackle Ed Oliver was out against USF due to a knee injury, and he may be out again this weekend. The run defense had one of its worse performances of the season but kept USF to 36 points, which is about its average per game.

The defense was able to come up with a pair of turnovers in the second half to stop USF from catching up, and the offense sealed the game with its usual scoring.

“It doesn’t matter the odds, whether there’s an All-American player in or not. I’m just proud of them,” said head coach Major Applewhite after the game.

The offense will be missing its second-leading receiver in junior Courtney Lark, who injured his leg against USF and was carted off the field. Applewhite said the injury was not as severe as the training staff first thought, but Lark is questionable for the SMU game.

The injuries have forced players like redshirt freshman Jeremy Singleton to step up by making his first collegiate touchdown reception Saturday versus USF.

“The message is to always be ready when my number is called. Anything can happen throughout the game,” Singleton said. “Coach Briles and coach Applewhite, they always keep my head straight and I’m always ready for my opportunities.”

Singleton and company will need to continue their strong performances against SMU and Temple, which has the No. 4 pass defense in the nation.

Houston plays SMU on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Dallas.

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