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Monday, July 6, 2020

Football

Houston showed promise in loss to Oklahoma


 | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Grant Stuard had a career game against Oklahoma, tallying 14 total tackles. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

While Houston’s season-opening 49-31 defeat against No. 4 Oklahoma was not the result the team was looking for Sunday night, the Cougars flashed their potential in a game that saw some players shine in the midst of a loss.

Stuard, Owens shine on defense

OU senior quarterback Jalen Hurts, who became a Heisman co-favorite after his 508 yards and six touchdowns of total offense, exploited some of the biggest weaknesses in UH’s defense.

The defensive line, having gone through an offseason makeover after the hiring of head coach Dana Holgorsen, struggled greatly in the trenches. Four of Oklahoma’s seven touchdowns came from the ground, and over half of its 686 total yards were also rushing.

One position, however, stood out when Houston’s defense took the field — safety.

Junior safety Grant Stuard, the Cougars’ starting nickelback, had a career game against the Sooners, tallying 14 total tackles with nine being solo.

His tackle stats were also a game-high, with the next closest player being Sooners junior linebacker Kenneth Murray, a Missouri City native, with 13 total.

Stuard’s previous career-high was a six-tackle performance in October 2018 against Navy. 

Sophomore safety Gervarrius Owens also stood out in Houston’s loss.

The transfer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, a JUCO school three hours from OU, had seven total tackles and five solo tackles on the night. 

Owens was the second-leading tackler for NOAM in 2018 with 51 and also had three interceptions and pass breakups.

King, offense struggled early

Much like the Cougars’ defense, the Houston offense struggled from the beginning of the game.

UH’s first four drives of the night ended in punts, and three of them ended in just three plays. 

Those four drives resulted in only 24 yards of total offense for the Cougars. Meanwhile, the Sooners had almost 200 yards and two touchdowns of total offense to its stat sheet.

In the entire first quarter, the Cougars ran 11 plays for 21 yards.

The second quarter saw Houston vastly improve after senior quarterback D’Eriq King’s play stepped up.

Despite his -11 yards in the first quarter, King ended the first half with 76 passing yards and a touchdown.

Houston’s sole touchdown of the first 30 minutes of play came after a 23-yard scoring pass from King to junior running back Kyle Porter.

The Cougars started slow, but offense picked up in the second half.

Signs of life

Many players, King included, helped the offense surge in the second, which shows flashes of Houston’s potential heading into matchups with other opponents.

Senior running back Mulbah Car was essential in getting the ball rolling for Houston’s offense in the second half, and his performance could lead to more touches with the Cougars.

Car’s touchdown run to start the third led to an overall better offense for the rest of the game.

Junior wide receiver Marquez Stevenson was also one of Houston’s biggest contributors on offense during the second half.

King connected with Stevenson for 70 yards on seven catches, including a 4-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that put the Cougars within a couple scores of the Sooners.

A touchdown run from King late in the fourth capped off Houston’s second half.

Thanks to the contributions of Car, King and Stevenson, the Cougars got within 11 points of one of the best offenses in the nation, and if Houston can play the same against Prairie View A&M Saturday night, it can earn a dominant win.

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