Publish date:

8 HOUSTON

Author:

OPPOSING COACH'S TAKE

"UConn dealt Houston its only loss last year by playing smashmouth football. That's the game plan to beat the Cougars. They didn't have quarterback Greg Ward Jr. for most of that game, which didn't help, but UConn still limited their possessions and pushed them around.

Ward is a dynamic runner; his acceleration and change of direction are among the best in college football. The strategy against them is to make him beat you by throwing it, gang-tackle him and do what you can to slow their tempo. Ward isn't very thick, but he can take a hit.

Defensively, the Cougars led the nation in takeaways [35], and they're a quintessential feast-or-famine team. Even Navy threw for more than 300 yards against them because they gamble and blitz so much. You have to take advantage with big plays. Last year they left their corners out on islands a lot, which made them susceptible to double moves. They run a ton of exotic blitzes, so you have to be ready for a safety or corner coming on third down.

Corner William Jackson led the nation with 23 pass deflections last year. He was so good, it allowed them to ignore his side of the field and concentrate on stopping what you did best. If they wanted to stop the run, they played five defensive linemen. They played with so much swagger on defense. Will they be able to maintain that without Jackson [first round, Bengals] and leading tackler Elandon Roberts [sixth round, Patriots]?"

FAST FACTS

+21

The Cougars' turnover margin in '15, second best in the country.

8th

Rank against the run last season (108.9 yards per game). Seniors B.J. Singleton (tackle) and Cameron Malveaux (end) return to anchor the line.

6

Touchdowns scored in '15 by then junior corner Brandon Wilson—two on offense, two on defense and two on special teams.

15.5

Combined sacks as juniors last year for outside linebackers Steven Taylor and Tyus Bowser, who are both on the Butkus Award watch list.

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

5 YEAR TREND

WINS

15

12

9

6

3

13--1

5--7

8--5

8--5

13--1 (AAC CHAMPS)

YEAR

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

X-FACTORS

Houston had an electric scout team in 2015. Texas transfer DUKE CATALON, a 6-foot, 210-pound sophomore thumper at running back, bullied and bruised his teammates in practice. And Oklahoma State transfer RA'SHAAD SAMPLES, a 5'11" junior jitterbug, looked so promising as a slot receiver that he may have influenced starter Demarcus Ayers's decision to leave early for the NFL. (Ayers went in the seventh round.) If they can deliver in real games, the Cougars will be even tougher.

2016 SCHEDULE

SATURDAY 9/3

OKLAHOMA [BIGGEST GAME]

(AT NRG STADIUM)

SATURDAY 9/10

LAMAR

THURSDAY 9/15

AT CINCINNATI [KEY MATCHUP]

SATURDAY 9/24

AT TEXAS STATE

THURSDAY 9/29

UCONN

SATURDAY 10/8

AT NAVY

SATURDAY 10/15

TULSA

SATURDAY 10/22

AT SMU

SATURDAY 10/29

CENTRAL FLORIDA

BYE

SATURDAY 11/12

TULANE

THURSDAY 11/17

LOUISVILLE [KEY MATCHUP]

FRIDAY 11/25

AT MEMPHIS

KEY MATCHUP

BIGGEST GAME