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‘Third Ward defense’: UH emphasis on creating turnovers is paying off

Junior cornerback Art Green rises up for an interception in UH football's victory over Rice on Sept. 11. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

Junior cornerback Art Green rises up for an interception in UH football’s victory over Rice on Sept. 11. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

The inability of the Houston defense to create turnovers in 2020 was a major concern for head coach Dana Holgorsen and his coaching staff.

In the eight-game 2020 season, UH defense forced a total of six turnovers, which was unacceptable in the eyes of Holgorsen and needed to change if the Cougars were going to start racking up wins.

As a result, defensive coordinator Doug Belk made consistently creating turnovers a major point of emphasis for the 2021 UH defense.

“Coach Belk (has) been talking through fall camp, through the summer, through just every week (about) getting more turnovers, getting the ball out somehow,” said junior cornerback Art Green. “We do so many drills during practice. We just gotta put it into our game.”

During summer OTA’s, Belk tried to hit on a couple of ways per week on how to tackle and attack in a way that would produce turnovers, including going back to perfecting some of the fundamentals in scooping the ball the proper way.

Just two games into the 2021 season, it appears these things have been taken to heart as the UH football defense is already close to eclipsing their turnover totals from 2020.

The first time the UH defense took the field in 2021 they forced a fumble, sending a message that the Cougars failing to create turnovers would not be an issue this season.

A week later, the Cougars picked off Rice quarterback Luke McCaffrey three times, including a 91-yard pick-six from junior cornerback Alex Hogan on the final play of the game.

“Our guys have been playing very aggressive,” Belk said. “We’ve been in position to make a few plays and fortunately (against Rice) we were able to make some of those and we want to continue to build off of that.”

While Belk says his defense has areas to improve on as the season progresses, he is pleased with the way the Cougars have come out with the right mindset in their first two games.

Belk and his players have fully embraced the Third Ward defense branding, priding themselves on being ruthless aggressors that look for every opportunity to create an extra possession for the UH offense. 

“I really feel like you get what you emphasize and we’ve been emphasizing (creating turnovers) a lot since spring football, throughout the summer and fall camp.”

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