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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Football

UH football: Previewing regular-season finale against Tulsa


Saturday's game against Tulsa will mark UH football senior quarterback Clayton Tune's final time playing at TDECU Stadium. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

Saturday’s game against Tulsa will mark UH football senior quarterback Clayton Tune’s final time playing at TDECU Stadium. | Sean Thomas/The Cougar

With slim hopes of playing in the American Athletic Conference championship game, beating Tulsa in its regular-season finale is a must for UH football.

“If we can get to 8-4 and 6-2 (in the AAC) and tied for second in the conference, that’s something to be proud of,” said UH head coach Dana Holgorsen.

A look at Tulsa

After two consecutive winning seasons, 2022 has not been kind to the Golden Hurricane (4-7, 2-5 AAC).

Offensively, Tulsa has been just fine averaging 30 points and north of 400 yards per game.

Quarterbacks Davis Brin and Braylon Braxton have combined to throw for 2,955 yards and 24 touchdowns on the season. Receiver Keylon Stokes, a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award, has accounted for 1,177 of these yards on 69 receptions.

While scoring has not been an issue for the Golden Hurricane, getting stops, particularly stopping the run, has been a nightmare all season for the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa ranks near the bottom of the FBS in both points given up (33.36) and yards allowed per game (405.9).

Key questions for UH

Can the Cougars keep Keylon Stokes in check?

After giving 865 yards and 12 touchdowns through the air in a two-week span against SMU and Temple, the UH secondary bounced back with a shutdown performance against East Carolina last week.

A beaten-up Cougars’ secondary that ranks 124th in the FBS in pass defense will look to build on their success against the Pirates but have a tough test in defending Tulsa’s Keylon Stokes, one of the nation’s top receivers, under wraps.

“(Stokes is) a veteran, savvy, has explosive capabilities,” said UH defensive coordinator Doug Belk. “He’s kind of a jack of all trades. He does a lot of things well.”

If UH can limit Stokes’ production and force Brin or Braxton to look in other receivers’ directions, things will likely bode well for the Cougars. On the other hand, if UH fails to contain Stokes then the Cougars could be in yet another shootout.

How does Clayton Tune finish off his final game at TDECU Stadium?

Quarterback Clayton Tune has been on a tear for UH over the last six weeks of his senior season, throwing for 2,258 yards and 26 touchdowns during this span.

Tune faces a tough test in a Tulsa defense that only allows 190 yards through the air per game.

With Saturday marking the final time Tune takes the field at TDECU Stadium, the UH quarterback has one more opportunity to add on to his historic career.

If Tune continues to shred apart defenses on Saturday like he’s done throughout the latter half of the season, UH will be in a prime position to finish off the regular season at 8-4 and send the senior class off with a victory in their final home game.

Will UH expose Tulsa’s poor run defense?

Only four FBS teams have been worse against the run than Tulsa. Opponents of the Golden Hurricane have run all over the Tulsa defense which is allowing 215.9 yards on the ground per contest.

UH running back Stacy Sneed has broken out over the past month, adding another dimension to the Cougars’ run game. While Sneed missed UH’s game against ECU due to injury, Holgorsen expects the redshirt freshmanto play against Tulsa.

Along with freshman Brandon Campbell and senior Ta’Zhawn Henry, UH has the weapons in the backfield to exploit Tulsa’s struggles stopping the run.

If the Cougars can get the ground game going early, expect another high-scoring performance for UH.

How to watch

Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. and will air on ESPNU. The game can also be heard via radio on KPRC 950 AM.

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