Week 5 Preview: Smith faces wounded former team in Lubbock
After starting the season 2-2 and losing their first Big 12 game at TDECU Stadium against TCU, the Cougars will travel to Lubbock in search of their first conference win.
The Cougars lost an overtime thriller last season against the Red Raiders 33-30 when current UH starting quarterback Donovan Smith led Texas Tech to victory, and will now face each other as conference opponents for the first time since 1995.
This will be the 35th matchup between both schools and while Texas Tech has been dominant in recent years, UH holds a series lead of 18-15-1.
The last time Houston beat Texas Tech was in 2009 when the Cougars won 29-28.
Bounce back last week
Last week, UH snapped its two-game losing streak with a dominant 38-7 win over Sam Houston State.
The offense ran smoother than it had all year, as freshman running back Parker Jenkins ran for 105 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start.
The Cougars’ defense also stiffened up immensely after allowing a first-drive touchdown, allowing just 95 yards the rest of the game and forcing two turnovers.
Taking it one game at a time
UH starting quarterback Donovan Smith will be playing against his former school in Texas Tech after spending 2 seasons in Lubbock.
After backing up Texas Tech quarterback Tyler Shough for a couple of years, Smith will have the opportunity to show his former team why he is worthy of starting at the college level. The Cougars quarterback has had a sluggish start so far throwing five touchdowns, three interceptions and having an overall QBR (quarterback ranking) of 50.5 which ranks 82nd in the country.
The positive part is that Smith has thrown for 1,012 passing yards, and has also shown flashes of athleticism with the football.
For the Cougars to have a chance to win against Tech and compete in the Big 12, they will have to score points on the offensive side, especially when the defense gets key turnovers. UH has already forced nine turnovers on the year but has failed to put up points afterward.
Proving They Belong
With UH being in a new conference, it is vital that the program establish that it deserves to be in one of the biggest conferences in college football. With programs like UT and Oklahoma in their last season in the conference before heading to the SEC in 2024, the Cougars can revitalize themselves with 8 games left in the season.
The Big 12 currently has three ranked teams in the AP top-25 rankings, and UH only has one of those teams on its remaining schedule.
The Cougars will no doubt still face teams like they have not seen before in the American conference, but there is also an opportunity for Dana Holgerson and staff to maximize their potential and climb the Big 12 ranks for now and years to come.
Opportunity at hand
With a current record of 1-3, Texas Tech is looking to grab a win through an adverse situation. Last week against West Virginia, senior quarterback Tyler Shough suffered a broken left fibula, ending his season. UH will be facing backup quarterback Behren Morton who has completed 21 of 50 passes for 230 yards with three TDs and one interception in his two games this season.
UH head coach Dana Holgerson and defensive coordinator Doug Belk will have the chance to exploit Morton, a sophomore quarterback who started just four games last season.
The Cougars will have their hands full trying to stop running back Tahj Brooks, who has 412 rushing yards through four games. The discipline of the run defense will be a key point for UH in order for them to earn the ability to rush the quarterback and create pressure.
While this may seem like a game UH should easily win based on both teams’ records, it would be rash for the Cougars to have that perspective. After losing the Bayou Bowl to Rice a few weeks ago, Dana Holgerson admitted the team “didn’t respect the opponent.”
The schedule will not get any easier. The Cougars will have to play West Virginia at home on October 12th who currently have a 3-1 record. Then on October 21st, the highly anticipated matchup against the third-ranked team in the country UT at home.
When UH moved from the American to the Big 12, so did the expectation of play. The Cougars have an important chance to get key wins to not only gain respect in a new conference but also ensure that they will be bowl-eligible.
If UH can send a message and dominate Texas Tech this weekend, it will certainly spark a newfound hope in Cougar fans after a rocky first four weeks of play.