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UH’s defense will have ‘hands full’ against BYU’s offense

UH football head coach Dana Holgorsen on the field pregame before his team battled against Tulane in the 2020 season opener. | Courtesy of UH athletics

UH football head coach Dana Holgorsen on the field pregame before his team battled against Tulane in the 2020 season opener. | Courtesy of UH athletics

The challenges keep coming and the Houston football team is officially in the gauntlet of a season after defeating Tulane last Thursday as No. 14 BYU enters TDECU Stadium undefeated and will provide an early test on just how good UH’s defense truly is.

Houston had a dominant performance against Tulane, holding the Green Wave’s offense to only 211 total yards, but head coach Dana Holgorsen knows that BYU will be a different puzzle to solve.

“I’m proud to say that we are No. 1 in the country in defense right now,” Holgorsen told reporters with a smile on Tuesday morning via Zoom. “(But) we have (a top) offense in the country coming to Houston on Friday night. These guys are spectacular. …It all starts with them upfront. They’re big and experienced and physical.

“We will probably have a better understanding of where we are defensively after the BYU game,” he added.

The BYU Cougars are among the best in the nation (No. 5 among all FBS teams) when it comes to total yards per game as they average 556.8 yards per contest.

BYU is second in the nation with 23  total touchdowns scored, 14 of which have been accounted by junior quarterback Zach Wilson, who will give UH’s defense plenty of headaches on Friday.

“He doesn’t make mistakes,” Holgorsen said. “He’s got really good protection now. That O-line is experienced and really good, and our D-line is going to have their hands full.”

Despite Wilson’s heavy involvement in BYU’s scores, Houston’s first focus will be to shut down BYU’s running game, which is averaging 214.8 yards per game.

In order for UH’s defense to succeed, it will need to be as sharp and clean as the team was against Tulane. UH had less than 10 missed tackles against the Green Wave, Holgorsen said, which must continue for them to have a shot at the upset.

Another key that Houston will have to win on Friday will be the physicality battle, which UH was also able to do last Thursday and is confident it can repeat.

“I feel like we took pride in being physical and trying to be tough out there,” senior strong-side linebacker JoVanni Stewart said. “I feel like every week being physical will be the last thing we have to worry about.”

Last week’s game for the UH Cougars offered a small blueprint to use against BYU. After the Tulane game, Holgorsen touted about how the team was able to match the physicality of the Green Wave, and this week, the players on defense are stepping up to that challenge again.

“It’s definitely going to be a competitive game,” Stewart said. “Hard-fought. Going to get physical in the trenches, but we kind of expect that from a top 15 team, and I know my teammates aren’t shying away from it.”

While Friday’s game against BYU will only be the second game of the season, the Houston Cougars know what a win against the No. 14 team in the nation will do for them.

“I think it is a good opportunity for us to show what we got and put Houston back on the map,” senior wide receiver Keith Corbin said. “I think we’re ready for the challenge and ready to put on a show.”

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