Tale of the Tape: Houston versus Tulsa
When the 3-0 Cougars head north to Oklahoma to take on the 2-1 Tulsa Golden Hurricane this Saturday, both teams will be looking to come away with their first in-conference win of the year. UH is coming off a 59-14 thumping of Texas State, while Tulsa had a week off to bounce back from a 52-38 shootout with No. 16 Oklahoma.
Both teams feature top 10 offenses, but which high-powered team has the advantage?
Quarterback matchup: Greg Ward Jr. vs. Dane Evans
Greg Ward Jr.
Coming off a career day, which saw the junior passer throw for 274 yards and four touchdowns while adding another 91 yards and two scores on the ground in just over three quarters of action, Ward has continued to show improvement while under center. Ward has shown improved pocket awareness and poise, but has also maintained the electric running ability that makes him a dangerous dual-threat QB.
While he is not a much of a threat running the ball, with -19 yards rushing on the season, Evans does have good pocket mobility and is athletic enough to buy time for his receivers to get open. The strength of this junior’s game is his big arm and accuracy on the deep ball, ranked fourth in the nation with 16.51 yards per completion. Against a talented Oklahoma defense, Evans completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 427 yards and four touchdowns.
Who wins: The Tulsa defense had trouble containing a mobile quarterback against the Sooners, giving up 85 yards and two scores on 13 carries. Evans may be the better pocket passer, but Ward’s running ability gives him the edge.
Running back match-up: Kenneth Farrow vs. Zack Langer
Through the first part of this season, Farrow has not looked like the same player that finished last year with four straight 100-yard performances and nine touchdowns. On his 55 carries this season, the senior runner is averaging 4.1 yards per carry, well off his 5.3 career average, and has yet to find the end zone. Despite his falloff from last season, Farrow still has more carries than the other two UH running backs combined and will continue to be the lead back.
A similar, workhorse style runner, Langer is averaging nearly 30 touches per game for the Golden Hurricane. Despite the success in its passing attack, the Tulsa offense has kept the ball on the ground more this season and Langer has made the most of his opportunity. Langer is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and is ranked No. 11 in the nation with 129.7 rushing yards per game.
Who wins: Langer has produced for his team, bettering his opponent in every category, including five rushing touchdowns. The answer is not that simple however, as the Cougars’ leading rusher is also their quarterback, limiting Farrow’s opportunities. Until that changes, Langer will continue to be a bigger piece of his team’s ground attack.
Receiver match-up: Demarcus Ayers vs. Keyarris Garrett
Through the early going of the 2015 season, Ayers has proven himself as the number one receiver on the UH offense, leading all pass catchers in receptions, yards and touchdowns. The junior is a versatile weapon for the Cougars, working on the outside, in the slot and out of the backfield. In his new role as Ward’s go-to guy, Ayers is continuing to improve his game and is coming off a career game where he caught eight passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, while also breaking off a 53-yard run.
Garrett has a prototypical frame for the position at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, making him a mismatch for most cornerbacks. Though he doesn’t have blazing speed, Garrett is an experienced receiver who knows how to get open and use his large frame to box-out defenders in tight coverage. The fifth-year senior has proven himself particularly effective on deep throws and has a strong-armed QB in Evans who can get him the ball. Through the first three games, Garrett is third nationally in receiving yards with 454 yards and a touchdown on 26 receptions.
Who wins: Ayers is coming into his own as a receiving threat, but Garrett’s experience puts him ahead. In Tulsa’s comeback attempt against Oklahoma, Garrett posted a career-high 14 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown. If the Golden Hurricane fall behind this Saturday, Evans will look to him again.