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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Sports

UH: C-USA’s No. 1 target


The Cougars returned to the ranks of the hunted when they were voted back into the Associated Press Top 25 last week.

They remain among the hunted with Saturday’s 44-16 win over Tulane.

One condition of the Cougars being ranked among some of the nation’s most prestigious programs is that all their opponents are going to play them tough. The same was true of Tulane, which trailed the Cougars by only three points at halftime of Saturday’s game.

But in typical UH fashion, the 17th-ranked Cougars (5-1, 1-1 Conference USA) made some nice second-half adjustments. They outscored the Green Wave 20-0 in the third quarter to create some breathing room and dominated the rest of the way.

The Cougars were always the superior team. They just had to shake off the early mistakes and get things going in the second half.

‘I thought we were playing tight in the first half, and at halftime we talked about having fun,’ head coach Kevin Sumlin said. ‘I thought we were pressing. We were a little bit off, and I thought (quarterback) Case (Keenum) was a little bit off. I thought Tulane did a good job of ball control and limiting our possessions. We had more energy in the second half, and we made some breaks.’

‘It just didn’t look to me like we were having fun. A lot of guys were beating themselves up at halftime, but we had only given up two field goals, so there was no reason to panic. We just needed to play.’

And play they did.

When the smoke cleared, the Cougars had racked up 516 yards of offense. The defense allowed only 10 points in the second half, all of them coming in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of reach.

The beginning wasn’t pretty, but the Cougars were thrilled with the end result.

‘Any time you get a win against a good football team, you’ve got to be happy with that,’ said Keenum, who finished with 371 passing yards and two touchdowns. ‘We just came in and took care of business like we needed to. Now this next game is the biggest game.’

Keenum’s assertion that Tulane (2-4, 0-3 C-USA) is a good team is highly debatable. But he’s right to say that the Cougars’ next game is a big matchup.

On Saturday, the Cougars will host SMU for their homecoming at Robertson Stadium. The Mustangs (3-3, 2-0 C-USA) battled Navy over the weekend before dropping a 38-35 decision in overtime. SMU is tied with Tulsa for first place in the C-USA West Division, and it has an offense that is capable of scoring in bunches.

The Mustangs are where the Cougars hope to be in C-USA. The Cougars have the kind of program that the Mustangs someday hope to have.’

Both teams will be in the hunt for something the other has in Saturday’s meeting. But the target on the Cougars’ back is arguably much bigger.

So far, the Cougars have been content to live with that.’


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