Senior quarterback Brandon Wilson will once again try to run past the Bearcats when he lines up on Thursday. | UH Athletics
Now 2-0 on the season, the football team has again gotten off to a hot start.
With a short turnaround for week three, the Cougars will travel for a Thursday night matchup with the University of Cincinnati Bearcats.
Here is what The Cougar sports staff expects from the team.
Staff writer Dez Ewell
The Bearcats will challenge Cougars secondary more than any other position group.
The Cougars’ defensive backs will have to play smart to slow down this passing attack. Sophomore quarterback Hayden Moore has 510 passing yards after two games and has only thrown one interception.
The Cougars defense is ranked second in rushing defense, so I expect Bearcats to attempt to move the ball much more in the air than on the ground. The Cougars are also tied for 11th in total defense after two games, so the Bearcats will be faced with a challenge.
Senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. may be up for a huge passing game as well.
Last week, the Bearcats only allowed Purdue to rush for 103 yards, but gave up 401 yards in the air. If Ward is healthy, he has the potential to torch the Bearcats secondary. Against the University of Oklahoma Sooners, Ward passed for over 300 yards. He should be able to do the same against a much weaker Bearcats secondary.
Overall, I believe the Cougars will prevail with a 34-17 win in Cincinnati on Thursday night.
Assistant sports editor Jonathan Valadez
The key to victory comes down to protection. The Cougars will need to protect against the pass on defense and take care of the ball on offense.
Last season, the meeting between the teams came down to the wire, when the Cougars defense made some key stops on Bearcats’ final offensive possession.
Before the Cougars defense made its final stand, the unit was torched through the air, giving up a season-high 523 yards to a backup quarterback.
The Cougars should be able to stop the run as they have proven in their first two games, but they will need more from their secondary. Bearcats sophomore quarterback Hayden Moore is averaging 255 yards per game this season and will look to exploit a defense that gave up 323 yards in their first game.
The Cougars have been lining up in a nickel defense that calls for five defensive backs to counter an offense whose plan is to attack the secondary.
On offense, the Cougars will need to prevent turnovers. Last year, quarterback Greg Ward Jr. threw two costly interceptions that led to 14 points. Although it was only a one-game sample so far this season, the senior looks more comfortable in the pocket and should be able to limit mental errors.
The Cougars also have an improved running game, which should help limit the amount of passes that Ward will have to make.
Sophomore running back Duke Catalon will have a monster game against a defense that has given up 280 yards on the ground in two games.
Behind a stout run defense and an explosive running game, I believe that the Cougars will come away with a 35-24 win.
Senior staff writer Peter Scamardo
I believe this game is could be the Cougars’ toughest in-conference matchup this season. Teams such as Temple, Memphis and Navy have all lost valuable athletes that will leave them at a disadvantage when they play the Cougars.
The Bearcats, however, have a mixture of youth and experience in their offense that makes them dangerous.
Sophomore quarterback Hayden Moore has led the Bearcats to a 2-0 record, showcasing his arm and surprisingly fleet feet after tossing for five touchdowns and running for two more.
However, those were both games against lesser opponents that the Bearcats were expected to beat. Neither their offense nor their defense has been tested, and that will change when the Cougars come to town.
Brandon Wilson and his crew of defensive backs might not be the team that terrorized the Bearcats offense last season, but they should be able to force enough stops to get their offense the ball.
The receivers will be facing a youthful group of defensive backs. Granted, these same players totaled five interceptions last week against Purdue, but the Cougars will present the Bearcats with a much more versatile and threatening attack.
The three games the Cougars and the Bearcats have played in the last three seasons have all been decided by a touchdown or less. All have ended with a defensive stop in the dying moments of the game.
There is no reason fans should expect anything else this time around.
The Cougars should expect to win, but they should not expect the Bearcats to roll over for them.