Tulane looking to slow UH

When the Associated Press No. 23 Cougars and the Green Wave face off Saturday in the Superdome, both teams will be looking for their first Conference USA win.

That’s about all they have in common.

The Cougars will enter the weekend sporting a 4-1 record with quality nonconference wins over the likes of Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Mississippi State. Their most recent win, a 31-24 triumph over the Bulldogs in Starkville, came after the Cougars were trounced in their C-USA opener against UTEP.

Tulane, on the other hand, has two wins on the season compared to three losses. Given that it’s won on the road at Army, and two of its losses came against Tulsa and BYU, Tulane should be happy to have two wins at this point.

Last weekend Tulane lost to Marshall, 31-19, in New Orleans. Tulane head coach Bob Toledo didn’t have to look further than the four turnovers his team committed when analyzing the loss.

‘Our two best players fumbled the football.’ I never would’ve dreamt that,’ Toledo said. ‘They’re trying to make plays, and giving great effort and unfortunately fumbled it.

‘We also threw two interceptions.’ They got 17 points off of (three turnovers).’

Tulane is the youngest team in the country with 18 true freshmen. Toledo says that the team needs to make improvements, but when it compounds the game with mistakes, it’s almost impossible to win.

‘It’s so hard for us to overcome things,’ Toledo said. ‘We almost have to be perfect to win right now.’ We’re not good enough at this point to not make mistakes. ‘ If we make mistakes we have a hard time overcoming them.’

‘We have to play perfect just to have a chance right now.’

Things won’t get any easier when they take on the Cougars, who, coming off a road win against Mississippi State, will try to avoid another letdown against what is perceived to be an inferior conference opponent.

Toledo thinks the Cougars are the most talented team in the conference.

‘They are a heck of a football team,’ Toledo said. ‘I just watched (the Mississippi State game) again today and they are a talented group.’ They are the best talent in our conference, I believe.’

‘They’re averaging 40 points plus a game and averaging 570 yards a game.’ Hopefully we can slow them down.’

Toledo also recognizes that there is more to the offense than just the highly-touted Case Keenum.

‘They have a great quarterback who was player of the year last year in Case Keenum.’ They’ve got an excellent running back who was freshman of the year last year in Bryce Beall,’ Toledo said. ‘They have a super group of wide receivers that catch the ball and make what we call ‘RAC’ yards ‘- run after catch. They get it to them quick and let them run.’ They have great speed and quickness.’

Toledo says that while most people think of offense when it comes to the Cougars, they excel in other areas of the game.

‘They have an outstanding punter, Chase Turner, who is averaging 41 yards a punt,’ Toledo said. ‘He was one of the outstanding punters in the league last year.’

Toledo also recognizes the role the often underappreciated defense plays.

‘They have two of the top three tacklers in the conference (in) inside linebackers Marcus McGraw and C.J. Cavness,’ Toledo said. ‘If you look at the stats from the conference, they lead in almost all statistical categories. They won their bowl game last year and are off to a great start again.”

Toledo says to beat UH, they’ll have to run the ball effectively, put pressure on the quarterback and hope the Cougars make some mistakes.

‘Somehow, they’ve got to make some mistakes,’ Toledo said. ‘And we’ve got to come up with some big plays.’ We have to keep the ball away from them, move the ball and score points. ‘

‘We have to take advantage of every possession that we have, so to speak, and that’s tough to do.”

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