Five things to watch for in Cougars-Owls matchup


After an impressive come-from-behind victory at Memphis, UH will seek momentum with Greg Ward (1), who will start his second game at quarterback Friday night against Temple in a pivotal American Athletic Conference matchup at TDECU Stadium  |  Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

Both UH and Temple are coming off impressive victories. UH erased an early 14-point deficit behind good quarterback play from Greg Ward and an even more impressive defensive performance that included five forced turnovers.
Temple quarterback P.J. Walker tossed two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to put away Tulsa en route to the team’s 4-1 start.

With two teams in search for consecutive conference win, an interesting matchup should be on full display. Here are five things to look for in the Cougars-Owls game Friday night on ESPN.

1: Can UH’s offense take care of the ball?:

The Cougars have turned the ball over three times in each of their last two games, and with Greg Ward entering his second start at quarterback, it’ll be important not to give it away on careless plays.
The Owls have forced 17 turnovers (ranked them No. 3 in the nation) and usually capitalize on offense after its defense forces a turnover.

2: It may be a sloppy, yet close contest:

Defenses for both teams are ranked near the top in forced turnovers and opponents third-down conversion rate, but both offenses are near the bottom in total offense and third-down conversion rate.
The game will start off slow and probably turn into a game that will come down to making that play late in the fourth quarter.
UH has struggled in recent memory when it comes to close games, but may have garnered extra confidence after closing out a tough Memphis team on the road in a one-possession game.

3: Ideal formula for Greg Ward, UH

UH utilized Greg Ward the exact way I felt he should have been in last weekend’s win over Memphis — implement designed runs to keep the defense off balance and keep his throwing attempts no more than 30.
The strategy should be nearly identical against Temple, as the Owls have a tough defense and love to take the ball away. It’ll be important to execute simple plays that allow him to get the ball out of his hands and into other playmakers in the open field. Let the Third Ward Defense ride you to victory.

4: The faster, the better:
The Cougars are 7-1 after winning the first quarter with Travis Bush as the offensive coordinator, compared to their 1-9 record when they don’t.
Numbers don’t lie, and a good start could provide enough momentum to ride the Cougars to their second consecutive win of the season.

5: UH’s William Jackson vs. Temple’s Jalen Fitzpatrick:
The last time cornerback William Jackson went up against a top-notch receiver he fared well, holding UNLV’s Devante Davis to just one catch for zero yards.
He’ll have another tough task, as he will more than likely be lined up across Temple quarterback P.J. Walker’s favorite receiver, Jalen Fitzpatrick, who has 24 catches for 395 yards and five touchdowns.

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