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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Football

Green Wave could drown Cougars’ championship dreams


Fiona Legesse/The Cougar

Houston has now lost two games in a row and is at risk of falling even further in the American Athletic Conference West Division.

Houston already needs to go undefeated and hope SMU loses for it to make the AAC Championship Game, but a loss to the Green Wave would push the Cougars out of contention.

Tulane has had a mixed season but is hitting its stride at the right time, much like SMU.

One problem for Tulane is its defense. Tulane has the No. 121 pass defense in the country while Houston is dead last at No. 130, so the game is sure to be a shootout.

Houston’s offense is still one of the best in the nation and should have no trouble with Tulane’s defense. Tulane’s offense has not been stellar but neither had SMU’s or Temple’s offense before their games against Houston.

The Cougars’ defense was struggling early in the season, but now it is in free fall. Temple scored a season-high 59 points against Houston and SMU put up 45, which was its season high against an FBS team at the time.

The defense’s poor performance is not entirely its fault, though. With an offense that scores so quickly, the defense is on the field longer than most teams’ defense.

That wear on the players is part of the reason the defense is giving up so many yards, but it is not the only problem.

With junior Ed Oliver questionable to play, Houston is missing all three of its starting defensive lineman, and teams have been running the ball at will.

The Green Wave will likely do the same, which means it is up to the Cougars to outscore them.

Tulane relies on a pair of running backs for most of its yardage. Juniors Corey Dauphine and Darius Bradwell have a combined 1,518 rushing yards and 15 of the Green Wave’s 22 rushing touchdowns.

The team changed quarterbacks mid-season, and senior Justin McMillan has had mixed results since taking over. He has not thrown very accurately but has been careful with the ball and has not turned it over.

Meanwhile, the Cougars’ offense has not slowed down in the latter half of the season, but it has become more error prone. Houston had six turnovers in the last three games compared to seven in the first seven games.

But junior quarterback D’Eriq King broke the AAC touchdowns responsible for record last week and nearly led the Cougars on a comeback win.

With the defense struggling, the offense has had to play nearly perfect to win — something it failed to do against both Temple and SMU.

Both teams are coming off short rest, but Houston has a bit of an edge. It will be the final home game for the seniors on the team, so expect the Cougars to come out with intensity as the team’s championship game hopes are on the line.

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