UH-Tulane: Highs, lows of Cougars’ season opener
The UH football team finally got a game on its ledger in 2020. and after countless stories and briefs on postponements and cancellations, the focus is now on what occurred on the football field.
Thursday night’s UH-Tulane season-opener was eventful from the opening drive until the fourth quarter and in this new series by The Cougar, our staff breaks down what were the highs, the lows and the dreadfully gloomy for Houston:
Clayton Tune: After the first 15 minutes of the game, the third-year quarterback’s name was preliminarily on the lows section for this article and threatening to land on gloomy after starting off with a pick-six that put Tulane out in front first.
On the third drive of the game, the Green Wave’s defense struck again, getting into the backfield and sacking Tune for a 12-yard loss, which also resulted in a fumble that was quickly scooped up by nose tackle Jeffrey Johnson.
After the shaky start, the 6-foot-3-inch quarterback found the switch as he accounted for three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) and found a groove, hitting 10 different receivers for completion and multiple long bombs like the 39-yard pass to junior wideout Tre’Von Bradley or the 41-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Marquez Stevenson.
“Once we settled in and started rolling as an offense, I felt that I could make every throw and make every play that I needed to,” said Tune postgame.
The Carrollton native finished the game with 319 passing yards.
Mulbah Car: While senior running back Kyle Porter led the Cougars in yards on Thursday, senior Car led the team with two rushing touchdowns on the night, which included the first score of the season for the Cougars in 2020.
The Austin native’s second score came in the middle of the third quarter on a three-yard carry that gave Houston its first lead of the game.
Overall, Car finished with 30 rushing yards.
Marquez Stevenson: Similar to Tune, Stevenson’s first appearance on this list seemed to be slated for the low category after an early fumble, which seemed like it was going to be the story of the night for Houston, led to a Tulane drive and score down the field. But he made up for it.
After the turnover, the 6-foot receiver said postgame that he was itching to make a big play to cover for the mistake and that came in the third period.
Tulane had just regained the lead when the speedy receiver took Tulane’s kickoff and took it to the house on a 97-yard return, which put Houston on top for good.
“I’m a game-changer, so I always look to make the game-changing plays,” said Stevenson postgame.
As a receiver, he finished with 118 yards and a touchdown.
Red-zone offense: The Cougars excelled in their red zone offense against the Green Wave defense as they found themselves inside Tulane’s 20-yard line four times on Thursday and came away with touchdowns on all four attempts.
All four of Houston’s scores in the red zone were off of rushing touchdowns. Two were by Car, one by Tune on the quarterback sneak and one by Porter.
The Defense: Houston’s defense is officially the No. 1 defense (in yards per game) in the American Athletic Conference after its first game of the season.
While it is still too early to see if the unit can keep up this production for an entire season, it is off to a promising start after holding Tulane to only 211 yards of total offense.
When the points off turnover are removed from the equation, the Green Wave managed to only score 10 points against the Cougars.
After the game, head coach Dana Holgorsen praised the unit’s depth and specifically shouted out his defensive line, led by senior Payton Turner, could be a problem for opposing teams all year long he said.
The O-line: The unit that received the most criticism from the head coach on Thursday night was the offensive line.
“We’re not really deep there,” Holgorsen said. “We got to continue to bring those guys along.”
While UH’s o-line only gave up three sacks on the night, there were multiple times, especially in the first quarter, where they missed assignments and let Tulane defenders have free lanes to the backfield which caused some havoc for UH.
On the first drive of the game for the Cougars, the Green Wave defenders were able to pressure Tune to cause him to scramble and force the pass that was intercepted and taken for a score.
Holgorsen attributed most of the struggles to not being used to the speed of the game.
Turnovers: Houston had five total giveaways against Tulane, three of which came in the first quarter, and while one of them occurred on a last-second hail mary by Tune to end the first half, the first three could have doomed the Cougars against a different opponent.
Since most were early, it could be argued that they were due to rust, but three of them were fumbles, which needs to be cleaned up in order for Houston to be a real threat in the AAC.
Three of those turnovers turned into 21 points for Tulane.