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Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Week 3 Preview: Cougars look to bounce back in Big 12 opener vs. TCU

Donovan Smith ran effectively in the second half of the Cougars’ loss to Rice. Against TCU, Smith’s legs may prove critical to victory. | Oscar Herrera/The Cougar

History is in the making. UH’s Big 12 opening game against TCU will take place on home soil at 7 p.m. on Saturday. 

While still grieving the loss of the Bayou Bucket, the Cougars are preparing for their first conference game in the Big 12 and their first matchup against TCU since 2007. 

This will be the first time UH matches up with the Horned Frogs in a conference game since the Southwest Conference dissolved in 1995.

Their first meeting in 1976 ended in a Houston win, and since then the Cougars have a narrow edge over TCU with a record of 13-12. That said, the last time these teams were paired up, the Horned Frogs went home victorious with a final score of 20-13, extending the Horned Frogs’ win streak over UH to eight games.

Bayou Bucket Letdown

Though Houston (1-1) was behind 28-0 in the second quarter, the Cougars fought, and a 1-yard touchdown thrown by junior quarterback Donovan Smith tied the game 28-28 in the last 15 seconds.

The Cougars took the lead in overtime as sophomore wide receiver Matthew Golden caught a touchdown from Smith and bumped the score to 35-28. 

Rice fought back with a touchdown of their own, tying the game, and forcing UH into a second overtime. The Owls took the game back into their hands with a second touchdown and a two-point conversion, bumping the score to 43-35. 

Smith was able to score his third touchdown of the game, but the Owls took the game 43-41 when UH missed their two-point conversion.

It was a crushing blow for the Cougars, who now have to pick their heads back up against the 2022 National Championship runners-up in TCU.

A challenge to receivers

Head coach Dana Holgorsen has issued a challenge to his receiving corps.

Following what he described as a “step back” for sophomore receivers Matthew Golden and Joseph Manjack IV in the loss to Rice, Holgorsen says he is challenging the pair to improve entering the TCU matchup.

Manjack caught four passes against Rice netting 35 yards. While Golden caught both Donovan Smith touchdown passes and netted 60 yards, he only tallied five receptions.

On the other hand, sophomore Samuel Brown has been the man for UH’s passing offense, catching 15 passes for 244 yards across UH’s first two games. He leads Big 12 receivers in both stats.

A run game resurgence?

While Samuel Brown has risen to the occasion for the Houston air attack, UH still waits to see who in the running back room will rise to the occasion to be a difference-maker.

After logging no rushing touchdowns in its season opener, UH found the endzone four times on the ground versus Rice.

However, three of those four touchdowns came via quarterback keepers by Donovan Smith.

The lone Houston running back to find the endzone entering this weekend is sophomore Stacy Sneed, who scored on a 14-yard rush in the fourth quarter of the Rice game to bring UH within one possession of the Owls.

It is junior Tony Mathis Jr., however, who leads the Cougars in rushing yardage after two games. Mathis has logged 98 total rushing yards, while quarterback Donovan Smith sits only ten yards behind with 88 on the ground.

Against TCU, Houston should look to find its identity on the ground, something that has hence far been lacking.

Coaching connection

The two head coaches in this game have a long history together.

Holgorsen and TCU head coach Sonny Dykes spent seven years together as assistant coaches and protégés under Air Raid guru Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Both coaches then began their head coaching careers in the early 2010s before becoming conference opponents in 2019, when Holgorsen took the UH job a year after Dykes became SMU’s head coach.

Due to a COVID-19 derailed 2020 season, the two only met twice, splitting both games with Holgorsen getting the last laugh in 2021. In a game that was close the whole way, UH returner Marcus Jones broke a 37-37 tie in the final minute with a go-ahead kickoff return, sealing the Cougars’ (8-1) win over No. 19 SMU (8-1).

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