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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Football

Two takeaways from football’s unlikely comeback


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The team’s 21-point comeback against the UCF Golden Knights marked the second largest in the Tom Herman era, trailing only the Memphis game of last season. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

The Cougars’ miraculous comeback that resulted in a 31-24 victory against the University of Central Florida Golden Knights Saturday proved that the team is capable of overcoming adversity in a short amount of time.

Battling back from a 21-point halftime deficit, the comeback was the second-largest in the Tom Herman-coaching era and third-largest in UH football history.

“It was an unbelievable team win,” Herman said in his post-game press conference. “I’m really proud of the way we responded.”

The Cougars’ come-from-behind win was one of the most exciting of the season, but showed that there is still kinks to work out in order to beat the NCAA’s elite.

Here are some takeaways that can be drawn from the game:

Slow start nearly doomed the Cougars, again

For the first 30 minutes of the game, the Cougars struggled to find any offensive momentum, similar to their game against Southern Methodist University.

Football had only one drive of more than five plays in the first half, which resulted in just a field goal.

The Cougars offense tallied three interceptions and two punts in the first half, which contributed to the lousy start. With a bye week this weekend, the coaching staff will have time to make adjustments to help pick up the offensive pace in the first two quarters.

Luckily, the offense was able to work out their problems and played much more efficiently and effectively in the second half. By cancelling out their mistakes with takeaways of their own, the team played a second half that resembled the high-powered offense that fans are used to seeing.

“We’ll correct the things that need to be corrected,” Herman said. “We’ve got to go out from the word ‘jump’ and play to win, not play to not lose.”

The defense responded

Cougars defenders did a stellar job keeping the game as close as they did while the offense was struggling.

In the first half, they gave up only one drive of more than 60 yards in part because they were forced to defend short fields. The turnovers that the offense created put the defense in a tough situation many times in the first half.

Although solid in the first half, they did an even better job in the second half as the Cougars defense surrendered just three points to UCF.

By forcing three turnovers, a turnover on downs and two punts, the defense stifled the Knights offense for the final 30 minutes. Although struggling in recent weeks, the defensive performance in the second half against UCF can provide momentum heading into their matchup against the Tulane University Green Wave.

A sometimes overlooked stat in college football is defensive third-down efficiency, something the Cougars have mastered in 2016. The team now ranks 30th in the nation in the stat and proved why by forcing holding the Golden Knights to just 2-of-15 on third-down conversions.

The defense’s effort did not go unnoticed by senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr.

“The defense played great in the first and second half,” Ward said. “Offensively, we gave UCF the ball, which put our defense into bad situations. We all believed in each other and the defense told us they had us. We went out there and just played for each other.”

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