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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Football

Houston’s Payton Turner on stopping opposing rushing attacks: ‘We take that personal’


One of the leading stars in Houston's defense, senior lineman Payton Turner pursues BYU junior quarterback Zach Wilson. | Courtesy of UH athletics

One of the leading stars in Houston’s defense, senior lineman Payton Turner pursues BYU junior quarterback Zach Wilson. | Courtesy of UH athletics

Through its first three games of the season, Houston’s defense has shown that it truly is one of the best units in the country, especially when it comes to stopping the run, and Saturday’s game against Navy was no exception.

For the Cougars, stopping opposing teams’ rushing attacks isn’t just the objective, it goes beyond that.

“We take that personal,” senior defensive lineman Payton Turner told reporters after the win against the Midshipmen. “That run is on us as a d-line and on the linebackers and our secondary can hit too as you saw tonight, but that’s personal. That’s what we want. We want them to run the ball. We want them to try that.”

Houston held Navy’s rushing attack to only 91 yards for almost the entire contest until the final drive of the game, in which Navy was able to put together a series of plays that ended in a touchdown and had 75 rushing yards to make the final score closer than it actually was.

It took the Midshipmen until the 4:15 mark in the fourth quarter to eclipse 100 rushing yards as a unit. Yes, Navy. The same team that is known for its fullback-led triple-option offense, and was averaging around 190 yards per game entering Saturday afternoon.

Despite the strong defensive performance for most of the game, that final score by Navy left a bitter taste in the mouths of Houston’s defenders.

“We’re still kind of upset about that because that last drive they shouldn’t have had any yards,” senior linebacker Grant Stuard said. “That was probably the only drive where they actually beat us man-for-man.” 

Outside of that scoring drive though, Houston held senior fullback Nelson Smith to only 51 yards, and junior fullback Jamale Carothers to only 13 rushing yards. They both entered the contest as the Midshipmen’s leading rushers.

“I think our nose and tackle played really well,” Turner said. “I think overall the defense played really hard and that is what you have to do to stop this option.”

Houston’s three opponents this season have had top 25 rushing attacks in each game, and the Cougars have held firm in all of them. 

As for why Houston’s defense takes the challenge to make teams one dimensional personally, Stuard described it in a simple way. It allows the defense to expect what the opposing offense is going to do, and it gives them a huge advantage.

“We know if we can eliminate the run, it’s going to make them have to do one thing,” Stuard said. “Pass the ball, and we really believe in our pass rushers and defensive backs.”

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