Cougars plan to be rowdy host for Tulane
A new chapter in UH football begins Saturday at Robertson Stadium when the Cougars take the field against Tulane. With season-ending injuries to Heisman Trophy candidate Case Keenum and junior backup Cotton Turner, the future has suddenly become the present.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin released a new depth chart Tuesday after practice listing true freshman Terrance Broadway as the starting quarterback for Saturday’s game. Fellow freshman quarterback David Piland will be on backup duty.
It is the second conference game of the season, which allows the team to get back to focusing on its top priority.
“Our goal is to win the conference championship,” Sumlin said. “Whether we won or lost last Saturday had no effect on that. Our goals are still the same, those won’t change, and our expectations won’t change for our players.”
For Broadway’s first act, running back Bryce Beall said the supporting cast must raise the level of play.
“Great players have to elevate their game to another level,” Beall said. “I think we’re taking this personal to do what we can for our quarterbacks and make their jobs easier.”
“We took pride in taking care of No. 7, and now we have to take care of whoever they put that back there. The offensive line and running backs need to do a great job at pass protection.”
Changing of the guard
Beall is in his third year of playing for the team and knows that he must fill the void in leadership in Keenum’s absence.
“I have to do more of the leadership,” he said. “I have to pick that up. Case was a big leader for us vocally and now the older people have to be the leaders vocally.”
In the Cougars’ two wins, they put up 68 and 54 points respectively. The offense scored quickly and often to jump out with a sizable advantage. Head coach Kevin Sumlin said he does not plan on changing his philosophy on offense with new passers, and feels they can keep the same pace.
“I think so,” Sumlin said. “If we can’t, we can’t. But I think we can.”
The defense showed its first sign of vulnerability against UCLA. Sumlin said it is essential to force punting situations, but when the offense gives the ball away, it puts added pressure on the defense.
“Our inability to get off the field on third downs in the first half, combined with five drives on offense which we punted twice, turned over twice and kicked a field goal,” Sumlin said. “That’s the ballgame right there. In a game like that, it’s a team loss.”
“Times have changed, but the key to defense to me is getting off the field on third down.”
Tulane is led by head coach Bob Toledo. The Green Wave began the season with a 27-21 victory over Southeastern Louisiana. Last weekend, they fell to Mississippi 13-27. UH has defeated Tulane for eight straight seasons. Last year, the Cougars beat Tulane 44-16 in the Superdome, but Sumlin is not expecting a cakewalk.
“They’ve had a by-week, a week to sit around and practice, and we got beat up last week,” he said.
New defensive additions
The Green Wave has two impact transfer players on defense. Linebacker Trent Mackey, who transferred from Duke, leads the NCAA in tackling, and defensive end Dezman Moses is making his season debut against UH.
“They’ve got a whole new crew of guys over there,” Sumlin said. “Statistically, they’re leading C-USA in rush defense. Trent Mackey is leading the country in tackles.
“Dezman Moses was an excellent player in high school. He went to the University of Iowa and transferred. He was suspended the first two games and now he’ll play against us, so there is no tape of him. They have had an influx of talent on defense.”
The Cougars have won 17 games in a row at Robertson. The previous two home games were sold out with 32,119 fans in attendance. The UCLA loss and Keenum’s injury have UH loyalists wondering if support from fans will be consistent.
Sumlin says that Keenum and Turner could use moral support from their teammates along with the UH community — another packed crowd could be the kind of support he’s talking about. As of Wednesday, the Athletics Ticket Office reported that less than 2,000 tickets remain.
Beall said fans should still show up despite losing one of the faces of the team.
“Keep coming. We’re going to be all right,” Beall said.
“We’re going to go out and there and play hard.”
The game is at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised on CBS College Sports. It can be heard on 790 AM. Three more home games remain after Saturday.