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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Football

UH offense eager for explosion, QB Clayton Tune says


UH quarterback Clayton Tune scans the UCF defense as Houston's offense marches on a drive during the 2020 season at TDECU Stadium. | Courtesy of UH athletics

UH quarterback Clayton Tune scans the UCF defense as Houston’s offense marches on a drive during the 2020 season at TDECU Stadium. | Courtesy of UH athletics

After suffering a 28-point loss to No. 6 Cincinnati, the UH offense once again found itself in the position it was in the week prior when it faced UCF.

The Cougars’ defense played well enough to keep the team within striking distance, but the offense could not produce any consistent drives, much less any points, and then eventually the Knights and Bearcats took over and controlled the game.

“Our confidence is shot,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said during his postgame radio interview.

For back-to-back weeks, Houston had been held to only one offensive touchdown and lost in blowout fashion.

Entering the new week, however, UH’s head coach said the team was able to put the loss behind them and focus on upcoming opponent, USF. Holgorsen said team’s practice on Sunday was filled with energy.

For senior offensive lineman Dennis Bardwell, he reiterated that the back-to-back losses for Houston are in the rearview mirror and a big part of that has to do with Holgorsen.

“I think we feel better,” Bardwell told reporters on Wednesday via Zoom. “We threw a little pity party for ourselves, but we looked in the mirror and realized we have to keep going. We want to keep pushing. Coach Holgorsen’s ‘Man up’ message was big, and I think everyone took it to heart.”

While the players are still focused on winning more games this year, the question still remains whether they can produce on the field, especially Houston’s offense.

In its first five games, Houston’s offense has only scored a touchdown in the first quarter once, which came in the first game against Tulane, and in the past two games, it has struggled to put up any points at all.

Despite that, junior quarterback Clayton Tune believes the unit will show how potent it can be soon.

“We know how close we’re to being good,” Tune said. “We just got to break through that barrier and that is what we’re looking (to do) this week.”

For the Carrollton native, the key to getting the offense going starts with being ahead of the chains. He said UH’s offense must avoid committing penalties, sacks and tackles that result in losses.

The 6-foot-3-inch quarterback also said he has a lot of trust in the players around him, and he knows it is his job get to get them to produce on gamedays, especially now with his lead receiver, senior Marquez Stevenson, dealing with an injury.

“Don’t lose confidence, don’t lose faith,” said Tune on his message to his team. “Let’s get our swagger back.”

While Houston’s offense hopes it can put numbers on the board against USF, it does have some areas to build off of, particularly with the style it plays.

“Overall this year I feel like we’ve played a lot more physical as a unit as well as we’re much closer,” Bardwell said. “I feel like we’ve been better than last year. As far as finishing, I feel like we just need to stick together and finish it out and trust each other.”

Bardwell said if the offensive line can be even more physical, it will aid the running game and open up more holes, which the Cougars really need as they are last in rushing in the American Athletic Conference.

As for Houston’s playcalling, Tune talked about how he is fully confident in his coaching staff to put him in the position to be successful.

“I trust those guys. I trust coach Holgorsen and coach (Shannon) Dawson and everyone else on the offensive staff,” Tune said. “…I would love to go out there and throw it a bunch, but that is not necessarily what we need and we have great backs and a good O-line, so I think that having that balance is good.”

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