Football Sports

2020 UH football season grades: Defensive line

Senior defensive lineman Payton Turner pursues BYU junior quarterback Zach Wilson. | Courtesy of UH athletics

Senior defensive lineman Payton Turner pursues BYU junior quarterback Zach Wilson. | Courtesy of UH athletics

A season riddled with sickness, player opt-outs and game cancellations came to an end. Now it is time to take a look back at how the Houston defense performed in 2020.

After examining the defensive backs season last time, the attention turns to the UH football defensive line.

Success in the pass rush

After remaining a solid force for an otherwise inconsistent UH football team, the defensive line  finished as a NCAA top 20 team in total sacks, despite only playing eight games in the season.

The Cougars also finished among the top of the country in overall sack rate, providing crucial opportunities for the offense to take over on downs.

The Cougars’ defensive line was led by senior Payton Turner, who led the team with five sacks on the season.

Turner had a breakout season which was culminated with an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. The 6-foot-6-inch, 270 pound d-lineman was among the team leaders in tackles with 25, even though he only played in five games due to injury issues and contracting COVID-19 during the season. 

Along with Turner, senior David Anenih recorded 4.5 sacks and junior Derek Parish had 3.5 sacks to help UH’s pass rush.

Struggles stopping the run

While the Cougars managed to put pressure on the quarterback, they struggled against stopping the run game, allowing 167.5 yards on the ground per game and 12 rushing touchdowns on the season.

Overall, UH ranked No. 66 in the country in rushing defense. 

The worst stretch for the UH run defense came in the middle of the season against UCF and Cincinnati as the Cougars gave up over 300 back-to-back rushing yard performances and allowed a total of seven rushing touchdowns.

Performance grade

The defensive line remained a ferocious force for any offensive line to compete with, specifically when rushing the passer.

The UH defensive line provided the defense with a solid foundation in the pass rush, which helped the Cougars in games where the offense struggled as well as holding off teams to help secure wins.

But the struggle with stopping the run really hurt the UH and put the Cougars in many big holes that the team could not climb out of.

Overall Grade: C+

For more of The Cougar’s 2020 UH football offseason grades, click here

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