Ground game key to upset bid

Containing Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater will be tough enough, but the UH offense will also have its hands full against Louisville’s stout defense.

The Cardinal defense is tied for first in the nation with Alabama in points allowed (10.6) and second in rush, pass and total defense, which will present, without question, the Cougar offense’s sturdiest this season.

The Cougars have lately regressed from running the ball efficiently, compared to earlier in the season.

Ground and pound

In their first four games, they averaged 5.2 yards per rush, 226 yards per game, 41 attempts and a 4-0 record.

Sophomore running back Ryan Jackson led the Cougars in rushing with 120 yards in the season debut against Southern. |

It’ll be imperative for sophomore running back Ryan Jackson and his backfield to sustain a running game in order to keep Louisville and its potent offense on the sideline | Justin Tijerina /The Daily Cougar

However, in their last five games, they have had 3.2 yards per rush, 105 yards per game, 30 attempts and a 3-2 record.

“Earlier in the year we ran the ball a little bit more; most recently, we have not as much. We need to get back to doing that,” said head coach Tony Levine.

“Even (against UCF), we had a couple wrinkles in there that we were successful with, probably didn’t run it enough, and that’s something we need to do not only to help our offense and take pressure off, but our defense as well, and have a little more time of possession and let them stand on the sidelines a little bit longer than they have been.”

Louisville will attempt to win the time of possession contest. It has done an exceptional job of keeping its opponents off the field. Part of that is its offense ability to sustain drives — Louisville tops the nation by converting 60 percent of its third downs.

Albeit the Cougars’ last five games have been against stiffer competition compared to their first four, but it’ll be significant to keep Louisville’s offense (38.4 points per game), which is just as high-octane as UH’s (38.1), off the field and establish the run-and-take pressure off freshman quarterback John O’Korn.

O’Korn has proved he can be the catalyst in a number of games including Rutgers and South Florida, but has struggled mildly in the Cougars’ close losses against BYU and UCF, games in which he combined to throw five interceptions and failed to win the game on the final drive.

“We love blocking for (O’Korn) and Greg (Ward) too. Whoever we put back there, we know they’re both going to make plays,” senior offensive lineman Kevin Forsch said. “Whoever they put the ball in their hands is going to make plays. That makes our job easy up front. We just give them a little bit of room and they find a way to make it happen.”

Although Louisville will be arguably the Cougars most complete team, receivers coach Brandon Middleton said it hasn’t seen a team like his.

“They haven’t played us yet. We respect their stats, but at the same time, they haven’t done anything to us,” receivers coach Brandon Middleton said. “They still haven’t faced an up-tempo team that presents the type of weapons and problems that we’re going to present.”

Levine said his offensive linemen have played their best football together of the season, and a lot of that has to do with the health of offensive linemen Rowdy Harper, a junior, and DeAnthony Sims, a senior. Both will need to play well to get the running game back to its peak.

[email protected]


  • Good point about the reduction in running plays in the the last five games. Some of it is due to the fact the opponents were a little more effective in stopping the run. However, in those situations we should insert Greg Ward who, I bet, will be very successful in throwing the ball.

  • Games against UL would be matter of how well cornerbacks play. We can also try a lot of quick blitz as they do against Keenum and see how Bridgewater reacts. GO COOGS!!!

Leave a Comment