Cougar defense preps for Falcons

Due to the threat of inclement weather, Saturday’s football game against Air Force has been rescheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Gerald J. Ford Stadium on the Southern Methodist campus in Dallas, Texas. Continue checking for ticket information.

Oklahoma State’s no-huddle offense proved too much for the Cougars to handle in their 57-36 loss on Saturday, but they will have to find a way to overcome a similar type of play against Air Force.

"Offensively they pose a threat to a lot of people, especially with their no-huddle scheme," Sumlin said. "They are extremely disciplined, and they know what they want to do."

However, Air Force’s secondary will have their hands full with the Cougar offense, ranked first in the nation in passing offense.

Sophomore quarterback Case Keenum is third in the nation in passing yards per game and will lead the Cougars as they try to bounce back from a 56-37 loss to Oklahoma State. Keenum has 68 completions, nine touchdowns, no interceptions and a 156.9 quarterback rating.

Sumlin, impressed with the numbers, said that Keenum has room to improve as he gets used to Houston’s new offensive scheme.

"As we start to give him more freedom within the offense, he is going to start doing some things on his own," Sumlin said. "We have to be prudent in how we manage him and give him more flexibility every week."

The two teams have opposite strategies: Air Force will try to control time of possession, while the Cougars want to put points on the board through the air.

"They are hoping it can be the worst conditions possible for the game and they can hold the ball for as long as they want, and we want to score points," Sumlin said.

The Falcons have averaged just 45 passing yards per game this season, and Houston junior linebacker Matt Nicholson wants to keep that number low this week.

"We have to attack them," Nicholson said. "They like to cut block, so we have to stay low and protect our knees. We know they are going to run (and) we have to be ready for it."

Freshman linebacker Marcus McGraw leads the Cougars with 15 tackles in just two collegiate starts. Houston will depend on him to stop Air Force’s ground attack.

The Cougars may be the Falcons’ biggest challenge so far. They were able to control the ball against Southern Utah and Wyoming, but those teams did not have weapons such as freshman Patrick Edwards, who put up 106 receiving yards against OSU and is averaging 13.4 yards per catch.

"He has quickly gone (from) a guy that walked on to a guy that is returning the opening kickoff that we trust quite a bit," Sumlin said.

Sumlin said the Cougars will rely on their passing attack and defensive stops to defeat the Falcons.

"This is going to be a game of styles – being disciplined, making plays and doing what you are supposed to be doing," Sumlin said.

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