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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Football

Ground game, special teams key in UH’s matchup against UConn


UH is facing off against one of the American Athletic Conference's worst rush defenses when it takes on UConn on Saturday in Hartford, Connecticut. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

UH will be facing off against one of the American Athletic Conference’s worst rush defenses when it takes on UConn. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Houston’s trip to UConn on Saturday will be a battle of bottom feeders in the American Athletic Conference as both teams have yet to record a conference win in 2019.

The meeting will likely be the last time the two programs compete for many years with the Huskies planned departure from The American.

UConn is riding a five-game losing streak and have won just two games dating back to the start of 2018, both coming against FCS opponents. The Huskies have not defeated an FBS opponent since their victory over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Oct. 21, 2017.

As for the Cougars, they are off to their worst start in 15 years, and with matchups against Memphis, UCF and No. 19 SMU still to come, they run the risk of failing to make a bowl game for the first time since 2012.

Saturday’s matchup will be a battle of two of the conference’s worst defensive teams; both rank in the bottom three in points and yards against per game.

Defensive struggles

Entering the matchup, UConn sits in last place in the AAC in both points against (51) and yards against (581.3) per game against conference opponents. The Huskies’ 40.5 points conceded per game against all opponents is the fourth-worst mark in the FBS.

For the Cougars, there is little room to laugh, as they are allowing 38 points per game through two conference matchups and let up an average of 452.5 yards in total offense.

Nationally, Houston has given up 475.7 yards per game against all opponents, No. 120 out of 130 teams.

The two teams have combined to concede 441 points and over 5,500 yards through 12 combined games played.

Neither side has had much success forcing turnovers either, as both sit at No. 108 in turnover margin with minus four. UConn averages 1.3 turnovers forced per game, while Houston averages just one.

Offense to the rescue

While both teams are noticeably weak on the defensive side of the ball, the Cougars have the upper hand on the offensive.

Houston’s 478.5 yards per game against conference opponents is the third highest, while UConn’s 317.7 is the second lowest. The Huskies again finds themselves near the bottom nationally, as its 16.7 points per game rank 123rd.

Sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune has stepped up with senior quarterback D’Eriq King’s decision to redshirt, starting in Houston’s past two games and completing 53.2 percent of his passes while throwing for 308 yards and three touchdowns.

Perhaps most important will be the running back duo of senior Patrick Carr and junior Kyle Porter as they go up against the conference’s worst rushing defense.

The pair have combined to record nearly 700 yards and have found the endzone five times.

Special teams are special

Houston suffered another loss on Saturday, but one of the brightest spots for the Cougars was senior punter Dane Roy’s boot.

In the loss, the Aussie’s punts averaged 54 yards, a new school record, and included three downed inside the Cincinnati 10-yard line.

If Roy can replicate his performance and pin UConn deep, the offensive struggles from the Huskies could give Houston great field position.

UConn has fallen victim to 20 three-and-outs this season, and with UH having blocked three kicks thus far, the Cougars’ special teams could end up being a massive factor as they look to find their first conference win.

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