Archive for September, 2009

SarCoog: So with Conference USA play about start for the Cougar football team, I figured I’d start a new trend here. Instead of giving you the readers an information overload and breakdown of each team unit… I’ll answer 5 question I assume the (above) average college football fan would want to know about the Coogs’ upcoming opponent: UTEP.

1.) Is the Miner Offense Really This Bad?

  • By all accounts I expected the Miners to be a scary team, with a 3rd year starter at QB in Trevor Vittatoe who has a pair of experienced receivers to throw to: Kris Adams and Jeff Moturi. On paper the only perceived weakness of the Miners’ offense was tailback, but so far Donald Buckram has averaged 6.5 yards/carry and a decent 74.5 yards per game. As a unit they have struggled both in the run and pass games, and they’re actually dead last nationally in total offense. A lot of the problems can be traced back to an offensive line that despite having 4 returning starters, hasn’t kept Vittatoe upright and has allowed 3.25 sacks per game. Granted they’ve played 2 good defenses (Texas and Kansas) but they also looked extremely pedestrian at home against Buffalo (a UB team who’s only win comes against UTEP). They’ll look better than the 120th offense in the country against Houston.

2.) What about the home field advantage of the Sun Bowl?

  • Miner fans will be the first to tell you about the raucous advantage they have by playing in the Sun Bowl and they may have had a point… at one time. But since the 2006 season they have a 9-11 record when playing at home and frankly that’s not enough for me to consider the Sun Bowl to be a serious “home field advantage”. For comparison the Coogs are 20-2 at Robertson Stadium since ’06. And while they drew 31,885 for a top 25 Kansas team, I expect that attendance number to be much lower when the boys in red and white come this Saturday.

Trevor VittatoeTrevor Vittatoe

3.) Who are the players to watch on UTEP?

  • While junior QB Trevor Vittatoe has had a rough year to say the least, historically he has given Cougar defenses the fits. Last season Vittatoe threw for 362 yards and 4 TD, while in ’07 he threw for 3 TD. I wouldn’t be shocked if Vittatoe has his best game of the year on Saturday against the Cougars. Senior receiver Jeff Moturi was originally a Houston signee and has TD catches in all the games he’s played against UH. His receiver counterpart junior Kris Adams absolutely owned the Coogs last year wth 6 catches for 111 yards and 3 TD. Junior tailback Donald Buckram could also have a breakout game against an inconsistent Cougar defensive front that’s been pushed around by (better) Oklahoma State and Texas Tech backs. On defense senior DE Aaron King leads the Miners with 3 sacks, and has a sack in all but the game against the Longhorns. After missing last year with an injury, junior S Braxton Amy leads the team with 2 INT and also has 23 total tackles, while senior Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith leads the team in solo (20) and total (47) tackles. Finally senior CB Melvin Stephenson II has the Miners’ lone defensive TD of the ’09 season.

4.) How much has the Miner defense improved this season?

  • When the coaching staff brought in DC Ossia Lewis to run the unique 3-3-5 defense last year, they probably didn’t expect instant success. Still that Miner defensive unit redefined awful, surrendering 37.0 points and 469 yards per game in ’08. You could make an argument that this unit is improved and played well enough to keep this team in 2 games: Buffalo and their ‘W’ against NMSU. Heck the offense never got going against Kansas, so maybe the defense would’ve looked better with a better performance from their offensive counterparts. So yes the Miners are improved on defense under Lewis, but not improved enough for me to be concerned about Case Keenum and company struggling against them.

5.) Why do Miner fans take this ‘rivalry’ so seriously?

  • Ask a Houston fan about the UTEP Miners and they’ll probably tell you that they’re a fellow CUSA team and they won the 1966 NCAA mens basketball championship (probably thanks to the movie ‘Glory Road’). Ask Miner fans and you will probably get a much less friendly response about how they feel about the Cougars generally… which always kind of surprises me. But it’s worth noting that almost every game between UH/UTEP has been a close shootout. In 2005 a late Kevin Kolb INT in El Paso sealed a 44-41 Miner victory. The 34-17 UH victory in ’06 was the exception to the rule and in ’07 the Coogs won a 34-31 decision in the Sun Bowl, in which Anthony Alridge rushed for 204 yards. Last season the Coogs trailed 28-9 late in the 3rd quarter, but rattled off 306 total yards in the 4th quarter to beat the Miners 42-37. Although UH leads the all-time series 3-1, out of those games 3 were decided by 5 points or less.

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SarCoog: There’s really no adequate description for how I feel about the state of Houston Cougar football, following the last 2 victories and I’m sure those feelings aren’t shared so much among the fellow Conference USA teams. All I can say is that you got to play the football games and this UH team could be upended at any point in the games 9 games.

1.) #12 Houston (W 29-28 vs. Texas Tech) 3-0 overall, 0-0 CUSA; Another week and another win against the Big 12 for the Cougar football program. The results on Saturday night proved that this Cougar team can not only compete with the big boys, but can win these games without even playing their best football. While Case Keenum was 38-58 for 435 yards and had 2 total TDs, he was out of sync most of the night with his receivers and threw a terrible INT in the 4th quarter. But most importantly the team won on an insane 16 play, 95 yard drive and the defense held its 2nd Big 12 team to under 30 points (OkSU had a punt return TD to get 35). Now can the Coogs handle the ‘target’ on their backs?

Up Next: @ UTEP, 8 PM, Saturday 10/3/09

2.) Southern Miss (L 35-28 @ #24 Kansas) 3-1 overall, 1-0 CUSA; In a lot of years the Eagles would’ve been the school to talk about in this conference. Despite coming up short on Saturday, the Eagles looked damn good in Lawerence, Kansas and came heartbreakingly close to another CUSA top 25 upset. After an uneven performance against Virginia, Austin Davis threw for 331 yards, with 3 TD and DeAndre Brown had 4 receptions for 85 yards and a TD. The rushing game struggled against KU, but I doubt Damion Fletcher will be held down by too many CUSA opponents. With an upcoming match-up against struggling UAB, the Eagles need to regain their defensive ‘mojo’. God knows the Blazers have given the Eagles no trouble historically (USM is undefeated all time vs UAB).

Up Next: @ UAB, 7 PM, Thursday 10/1/09

3.) East Carolina (W 19-14 vs. UCF) 2-2 overall, 1-0 CUSA; While I haven’t been exactly impressed with the Pirates thus far, the strength of their schedule has put them at 3rd in these power rankings… albeit a distant third. Last Saturday they had one of their best home crowds ever in what the ECU athletic department called a “Purple Out” of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. The star of the game was the Pirate defense, which forced 5 turnovers (4 INT, 1 fumble) and held the opposition to 70 yards rushing. It’s worth noting though that Patrick Pinkney had his most effective game this year, going 27-40 for 293 yards and a TD, while Dwayne Harris had 10 receptions for 121 yards and 2 TD. In a very wide-open CUSA East division, it’ll be interesting to see if ECU can go on the road and beat Marshall.

Up Next: @ Marshall, 11 AM, Saturday 10/3/09

4.) Tulsa (W 56-3 vs. Sam Houston State) 3-1 overall, 1-0 CUSA; When I say this Tulsa team has beat NOBODY, I mean literally it’s almost as though they haven’t beaten a Division 1-FBS team. To open the year they beat the worst team in CUSA: Tulane and almost certainly the worst team in the Mountain West Conference: New Mexico. This past weekend they crushed D1-FCS opponent Sam Houston State, while piling up 516 yards of total offense and holding the Bearkats to 241 yards. G.J. Kinne had 264 yards passing and a team-high 58 yards rushing. I knocked the Golden Hurricane down a spot because I’m opposed to scheduling as soft as they have so far.

Up Next: @ Rice, 6:30 PM, Saturday 10/3/09

5.) Marshall (W 27-16 @ Memphis) 3-1, 1-0 CUSA; I am a little surprised I have them in this position, but the Thundering Herd have looked like a solid football team thus far. Although the opposing Tigers won’t be confused for a good team any time soon, road conference wins have been few and far between under Mark Snyder. The difference last Saturday night was workhorse Darius Marshall who rushed for 203 yards (8.1 ypc) and 3 TD, including a 69 yard run late in the 2nd quarter. Does this road win mean Marshall’s turned a corner? Well, a year ago the ‘Herd improved to 3-1 after a 34-27 win over Southern Miss… and that ended in a 4-8 season. So who knows?

Up Next: vs. ECU, 11 AM, Saturday 10/3/09

6.) SMU (Open Week) 2-1 overall, 1-0 CUSA; After a painful loss to Wazzu in which the Mustangs outgained the Cougars by 200+ yards and yet still lost in OT, an off week may have been just what the doctor ordered. Although the Ponys return to action against cross-town rival TCU who’s currently ranked #11 and coming off a 14-10 road win at Clemson. This team ought to be significantly more competitive in the rivalry game, but that’ll depend largely on whether or not Bo Levi Mitchell avoids throwing the INTs that have plagued his college career. Oh and in case you haven’t heard TCU and their defense doesn’t have a reputation as being very kind and friendly.

Up Next: @ #11 TCU, 7 PM, Saturday 10/3/09

7.) UCF (L 19-14 @ ECU) 2-2, 0-2 CUSA; Turnovers really do make the difference between wins and losses. Ask the Knights last weekend when their turnovers cost them a chance to beat CUSA East division rival East Carolina. Brett Hodges was 21-36 for 266 yards, but threw 4 INT and only 1 TD. Those kinds of results won’t help a team that’s desperately trying to get on track offensively. The rushing attack, a strength for previous Knight teams, continues to be anemic and last Saturday they rushed for only 70 yards as a team with a 2.9 yard per carry average. So far these guys have not proven themselves against their East division rivals and that can’t be a good sign. How warm is the seat getting for George O’Leary?

Up Next: vs. Memphis, 2:30 PM, Saturday 10/3/09

8.) UAB (L 56-19 @ Texas A&M) 1-3, 1-1 CUSA; The Blazers are in a bad way right now, but their #8 ranking here should give you an idea how rough things are in CUSA. Although they were briefly able to make it interesting early, the Blazers were eventually overrun by the much more talented Aggies and Joe Webb only managed 60 yards passing, while being sacked 4 times. Practically the lone bright spot was a late 60 yard run by backup QB David Isabelle. It doesn’t help either that the Blazers have the 116th ranked defense nationally. Coming up on the schedule are 2 tough ones against Southern Miss and on the road against #21 Ole Miss. I’ll be shocked if they have a record over 1-5 following the next 2 games.

Up Next: vs. Southern Miss, 7 PM, Thursday 10/1/09

9.) UTEP (L 64-7 @ #2 Texas) 1-3 overall, 0-0 CUSA; Following the absolute ass-whooping they received at the hands of the Longhorns, you might be wondering why I have them ranked as even the 9th best team in Conference USA. They’ve gotten to this position just by virtue of beating a Division 1-FBS team (New Mexico State) and that fact fact kind of depresses me. All you need to know about Saturday’s Miner loss is that they were outgained by a 639-53 total yards margin and their only points came on an interception for a TD. The Miners have been a huge disappointment and frankly things won’t get any easier with Houston and Tulsa coming in the next 3 weeks. So much for the being the Phil Steele sexy pick to win CUSA West.

Up Next: vs. Houston, 8 PM, Saturday 10/3/09

10.) Memphis (L 27-16 vs. Marshall) 1-3 overall, 0-1 CUSA; The season of misery continues for Tommy West and the Tigers, as they lost at home to Marshall for the first time in program history. Although West went with the youth movement at QB in Tyler Bass, that didn’t work too well and Bass threw 2 INT, while just completing half of his passes. The biggest problem was the Tiger defense allowing the Thundering Herd to rush for 245 yards and all 3 of their offensive TDs came from rushing. The time to hit the panic button for West and his staff is gone… it’s time to dust off the resumes now. Barring a miracle, this is going to be a long season.

Up Next: @ UCF, 2:30 PM, Saturday 10/3/09

11.) Rice (L 36-17) 0-4 overall, 0-1 CUSA; It’s going to be a long season on South Main and getting 36 wrung up on you by the Vandy team isn’t a good size. I realize most teams in this conference will struggle against SEC opponents, but coming into the game the Commodores had only scored 12 points against their first 2 SEC opponents (Miss State and LSU). The ‘Dores had 484 total yards, including 119 rushing yards by Warren Norman. The Owls still haven’t decided on a QB and rotated Ryan Lewis and John Thomas Shepherd for much of Saturday’s game… with little success. The Owls better hope Nick Fanuzzi is at least close to being able to come back, as he’s looked like the best signal caller. With Tulsa, Navy and ECU coming up on the schedule, 0-7 looks like a realistic start for the Owls.

Up Next: vs. Tulsa, 6:30 PM, Saturday 10/3/09

12.) Tulane (W 42-32 vs. McNeese State) 1-3 overall, 0-1 CUSA; So I guess a win is a win, right? I mean it very well could be the Green Wave’s only ‘W’ of the year and that can’t be overlooked. Even in the win against the Colonels, the ‘Wave defense surrendered 473 offensive yards, including 252 yards rushing. However Andre Anderson rushed for 199 yards and 3 TD, while Jeremy Williams had 10 receptions for 222 yards and 2 TD, accounting for all Tulane pass receptions of the night… not much of a balanced attack. This week they go on the road for a winnable contest against Army and it’ll be interesting to see if the ‘Wave can get retribution for last year’s 44-13 humiliation by the Cadets in New Orleans.

Up Next: @ Army, 11 AM, Saturday 10/3/09

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ElViento: So UTEP head coach Mike Price held a media luncheon on Monday, and attempted – with minimal success – to make it sound like a) the 64-7 beatdown the Miners just experienced at the hands of UT-Austin wasn’t that bad, and b) his team has a chance against Houston this weekend. Some gems:

  • Price on eating his own: “I can probably get another quarterback in there who can throw four interceptions and complete 35 yards worth of passes.”…Trevor Vittatoe, feel the love!
  • Price on high expectations: “I would’ve liked to play better against Texas, to give them more of a game”…So you weren’t okay with losing by 57? Thanks for clearing that up.
  • Price on finding the silver lining: “You have to be on the sideline to see what these guys were going through. Guys were getting sick and going back into the game. I was proud of them. When you’re getting drubbed like we were and butt kicked like we were, to show the mental and physical toughness that our guys played with, I was proud of them.”… UTEP Miner football: We May Have Lost By Eight Touchdowns, But We’re Proud Of It!
  • Price on that pesky Buffalo loss: “Here we are at 1-3, when we probably should be 2-2”…So I guess if you just say that you should have beaten a team that lost by three scores to Temple (who lost to D-1AA Villanova), then that makes it okay that you actually lost.

No, it’s not some drunk from your family reunion. It’s your UTEP head football coach!

  • Price on putting your players’ lives in danger: “[Miner center Tanner] Cullumber was our best offensive lineman on Saturday, even though he had heat stroke. He played just about the whole game”…Really? He had heat stroke? He had a body temperature above 42 degrees C, a “medical emergency requiring hospitalization”? If your center had heat stroke, you let him play all game, and by some miracle he’s still alive, I wouldn’t be advertising that fact. I’d be thanking God, and/or offering Cullumber’s family a settlement check to keep quiet. I guess we can forgive Price, as long as nothing like this (your center having a stroke) has ever happened before. Wait…OH SHIT!
  • Price on putting the fear of God into the opposing team: “We may change the game plan. It may depend on who plays at the running back and quarterback position. We’ll probably hold that for a while, and let Houston try to figure out what kind of an offense we’re going to run”…He doesn’t know what the game plan is, or who is playing. But that’s a positive! Because the Cougars don’t know, either!
  • Price on leaving me speechless: “I thought after this game that the season was over, but it’s not. I had to look at the schedule and remind myself that we have eight games left on our schedule”…I honestly have nothing to say. This statement makes fun of itself.
  • Price on sounding creepy and old: “[Case Keenum]’s a neat guy, a neat kid, a coach’s son”…a neat kid? Really? My grandpa thinks you just made yourself sound old.
  • Price on making stuff up: “I feel good about our running game. We made some good runs against Texas, surprisingly”…I guess if you don’t have anything positive to cling to, you just make something up. What actually happened on Saturday was that the Miners ran for 9 yards on 25 carries. I guess Price was so surprised by UTEP’s good runs against UT-Austin because he conjured them up in his head about six seconds before he said this.
  • Price on dreaming about the impossible: “I would have liked to have been 4-0 right now”…Sure, we lost to lousy Buffalo, and got outscored 98-14 by Kansas and Austin, but our coach would like to have won those games. UTEP Miner Football, Feel the Exicement!!

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ElViento: It was a drive that will live on in Cougar lore forever.

Sixteen plays.

Ninety-five yards.

Four minutes, fifty-eight seconds.

At 12:01 on Sunday morning, Case Keenum dove into the end zone, putting Houston up for good. The final score would read Cougars 29, Texas Tech Red Raiders 28.

Clearly, the first order of business is naming that drive. While “The Drive” is elegant in its simplicity, it lacks in originality. John Elway called and said, “I think that one’s been done before.” Fortunately, I have a better suggestion:

The Two-Day Drive.

With 5:47 left to play, Houston trailed by 5 points, and had 95 yards in front of them. Things didn’t get off to a great start, as a pass attempt for James Cleveland fell incomplete, and a 6 yard toss to Tyron Carrier left Houston with a third down still deep inside its own territory.

But then Keenum found Patrick Edwards for seven yards and the first.

The next nervous moment came one set of downs later, as the Cougars faced a third-and-ten from their own 34 yard line. Keenum dropped back, scrambled, and ended up rushing for exactly ten yards and the first down.

The very next set of downs, the Cougars cut it even closer, with Keenum finding Edwards yet again on the sidelines for a 7-yarder on fourth-and-four.

A Bryce Beall rush went for 12 yards to get the Cougars within 30 yards of the end zone, and a surgical Keenum strike to Carrier moved Houston all the way down to the Texas Tech 7 yard line.

On first down, Beall ran for three.

On second down, a designed QB keeper saw Keenum dive into the end zone, and saw Robertson Stadium explode.

With less than a minute to work with, and with no timeouts remaining, the Red Raiders were unable to seriously threaten. Final score, Houston 29, Texas Tech 28.

What Does This Mean?

The great thing about Houston’s win over Oklahoma State was that any objective observer of the game could see that the Cougars simply outplayed the Cowboys. The statistics for the game back this up. It was great to know that we’re good enough to beat a team like that.

The great thing about Houston’s win over Texas Tech was that the Cougars clearly did not have their A-game, and they won anyway.

Although Keenum’s final line was impressive, he missed several open receivers. When he was hitting receivers on the numbers, a handful of passes got dropped anyway. Houston’s defense was impressive yet again, but had a few fits of missed arm tackles that would have sent a Pee-Wee coach into a frenzy. On several occasions, the Cougar coaching staff seemed to be tentative with the play-calling. Like they were playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. (A draw play on third-and-twelve to set up a 44-yard field goal? Really?? That’s the kind of team we are??)

I don’t know if Houston got too high on itself with all of the publicity the team has received lately. I don’t know if having a week off messed with everybody’s schedule. I don’t know if we just had an inevitable off-day, and it just so happened to fall on the day of the Tech game.

I don’t know why Houston didn’t play its best football on Saturday. And I don’t care.

We didn’t have our A-game, and we still beat a damn good football team.

Because that’s what great teams do.

Looking Forward

Nobody in Conference USA has impressed me terribly this year. Southern Miss could still give us trouble, Tulsa might only because it’s a road game for Houston. Nobody else should be able to play close with us. (Then again, Marshall shouldn’t have played close with us last year, and they wiped the field with us.)

Still, anybody who saw Mississippi State hang tough with LSU on Saturday knows that Houston has their work cut out for them in two weeks when they head to Starkville.

Rumors are that Matt Nicholson re-tore his ACL. A senior leader at linebacker, Houston will miss Nicholson’s presence. The good news is that the backup linebackers have looked stronger than expected so far this year, and we still have two very good players at that position in C.J. Cavness and Marcus McGraw. Still, Nicholson will be missed, if in fact he has re-torn his ACL. A huge thank you for the years of hard work you’ve put in, Matt.

A Quick Word on Rushing the Field

I’m sure that the Cougar alumni have already started grousing about the students rushing the field. How do I know this? They were grousing about the mere possibility before the game started.

Look, alums. I love y’all. I absolutely love y’all to death. Y’all were fantastic and loud all game, and I love every single one of you.

But you need to get over it.

I always hear people say we should “act like we’ve been there before.” Guess what? We haven’t. At least not in any of our (the students’) lifetimes.

The students love to rush the field. The players enjoyed it, too. That should be all that matters.

It’s not every game you beat a team of Texas Tech’s caliber on a last-minute, 95-yard drive. Ranked team or not, that’s worth celebrating.

I know that not every single Cougar alumnus had a problem with it, so I apologize for generalizing. But UH students showing school spirit is rare, and should be encouraged. I rushed the field, I’m damn proud of it, and I wouldn’t take it back for anything.

Good Advice

Talking to a couple of Houston fans after the game, the subject immediately turned back to the what if’s. What if we finish undefeated? Will we end up in the BCS? Will Boise State, with their powder-puff non-conference schedule, finish ahead of us?

Then a fan broke out what I think is the best advice I’ve heard in a long time. It is my new motto for the year. I’ll paraphrase as best I can:

Ride the wave. Don’t worry about going undefeated. Don’t worry about the BCS. Just ride the wave. Wherever Houston ends up at the end of the year, it’ll be better than where we were at the beginning of the season. So enjoy every game to the best of your abilities.

Ride the wave, Cougars. Ride the wave.

P.S. Jackson Jeffcoat, please sign with Houston. Thank you.

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ElViento: So I really wanted to make this a five-part preview, but time’s running out (it’s now less than 24 hours to kickoff!!!), so four will have to do. Let’s take one final look at the game by looking at some of the game’s potential impact players.

Texas Tech

#39, Marlon Williams – The senior linebacker leads the Red Raiders with 26 tackles (21 solo) and 5 TFL. He also has an interception. The Cougars used screen passes to great effect against Oklahoma State, if Williams can help slow down that aspect of Houston’s passing game, it would be a huge plus for Tech.

#25, Baron Batch – While much has been made of how Gawd-awful Tech’s run game has been this year, Batch has still proven in the past that he is a talented running back. It will be hard enough to stop Tech as a one-dimensional, pass-only team. If Batch has a breakout game on the ground, Houston could be in trouble.

#19, Lyle Leong – Tech’s receiving corps has more impact players than can legally be on the field at one time, but there is none more dangerous than Leong. The junior has already surpassed his 2008 receiving totals, and has 15 catches for 197 yards and 5 TDs in Tech’s last two games.

#85, Matt Williams – Earned a spot on the team after famously winning a kicking contest at halftime of a game last year. Both defenses will be ecstatic to be able to hold the opposing offense to a field goal attempt, and if that happens, both Williams and Jordan Mannisto of the Cougars are talented kickers, but far from automatic. It’s been a while since the Cougars have had a game come down to a last-second field goal, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens against Tech. Can Williams or Mannisto be an x-factor?

#15, Taylor Potts – I know what you’re thinking. The starting QB might be an impact player? REALLY?! All sarcasm aside, it will be interesting to see how Potts fares. He in undeniably talented, but he hasn’t had a perfect game yet. He’s thrown for 400+ yards in each of his three starts, and leads NCAA 1-A football with 12 TD passes, but he’s also had the benefit of 167 pass attempts through three games. Against North Dakota, he threw three picks, against Rice he threw 21 incompletions, and against UT he had -54 rushing yards. That may be nitpicking a little, but the Cougars will have to find a way to slow Potts down at least a little. In a high-scoring game, every defensive stop matters. Let’s just hope Potts made a few more mistakes than Case Keenum.

Houston Cougars

#25, Bryce Beall – Beall has rushed for “just” 136 yards through two games, after averaging well over 100 yards per start as a true freshman a year ago. He has also accounted for 95 passing yards, and four scores. Tech has been very effective stopping the rush this year, and the Cougars will need Beall to be effective on the ground to keep Tech’s D honest.

#19, James ClevelandTyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards have been as good as expected as sophomores this year, and Charles Sims has been enjoyed a breakout season catching the ball out of the backfield as a true freshman, but I can see Cleveland really blowing up and leading Houston in receiving against Tech. The former Iowa Hawkeye had 6 catches for 62 yards in Stillwater, despite the fact that it seemed like he and Keenum just could not get their timing down. If Keenum starts hitting Cleveland in stride, he’s going to have a monster season.

#76, Jacolby Ashworth – The redshirt freshman has worked his way to the top of the depth chart at left tackle, and helped lead a line that performed admirably in their first big test against Oklahoma State. The going’s not going to get any easier, and Houston needs Ashworth and the line to have another big game. As mentioned, Tech’s not easy to run on. We all know Beall is talented, let’s see if the big uglies can open up some holes, in addition to keeping Keenum off his back.

#80, Chase Turner – The sad fact is that Houston probably can’t score every single time they touch the ball. Tech’s offense is good enough as it is, if Houston keeps giving them great field position like they did against OSU, I don’t think they can win the game. The impetus is on Turner, kickoff man Matt Hogan and the Cougar coverage team to make Tech’s offense earn their points.

That’s all I got, Cougars. No more time for talk, it’s game time. So be early, be loud, wear red, stay late, and support the Cougars. Hope to see everybody at the game.

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ElViento: I apologize for not getting some of this up on time. My computer has completely crashed, and I’m relying on using friends’ machines to get these up. Let’s take a look at the positional breakdowns for Saturday’s game.

Houston run game vs. Tech defense

The Red Raiders returned five starters in the front seven this year, and the experience has paid dividends (even without McKinner Dixon and Brandon Williams, who combined for 22 sacks a year ago). Through three games, they have allowed just 2.6 yards per carry, including just 3.3 against UT-Austin last Saturday. If Houston can use a lot of four-receiver sets to force Tech into a nickel defense, it’ll be very interesting to see if the Cougars can have more effectiveness running the ball. Obviously it’s still early, but Houston has used their running backs as pass catchers even moreso than last year through the first two games, so maybe the run game will be less of a factor than one might think. Still, this is an intriguing matchup to watch.

Houston passing game vs. Tech defense

The question that will likely define this game is whether or not either defense can slow down the opposing team’s Quarterback. I don’t see a reason to believe that Tech will slow Case Keenum down. Keenum is completing over 70% of his passes this year, and Tech is allowing a 67% completion rate. The secondary is not the deepest or most talented group on Texas Tech, and I expect the Cougars to take advantage of that. One wonders if the Cougars will throw the ball downfield a little bit more than they did against Oklahoma State, and use the screen pass a little bit less, given Tech’s strength up front.

Tech running game vs. Houston defense

The Texas Tech running game has been, in a word, nonexistent this season, as previously mentioned in this space. I don’t know if it’s Baron Batch‘s injury or Tech’s inexperience on the line, but the Red Raiders are still shy of 100 rush yards as a team this year. The Houston front seven have been more effective stopping the run than most expected this year, and I don’t see Tech suddenly turning everything around in the run game on Saturday. Tech’s offense should be more or less one-dimensional. Whether or not Houston can stop that dimension remains to be seen.

Tech passing game vs. Houston defense

While there may be some concern about getting a pass rush on Tech, that may be less of an issue than some might think, given Tech’s quick-strike tendencies in the passing game. Taylor Potts will get rid of the ball quickly, the impetus remains on the linebackers and secondary to smother the absurdly deep Tech receiving corps. Jamal Robinson and the Cougar secondary proved that they could slow down a stud receiver, and Dez Bryant is better than any single receiver on the Red Raiders. But much more so than Oklahoma State, every member of the UH secondary will have to be up the challenge, because Tech runs several receivers deep.

Special Teams

The Cougar kicking game obviously had some big problems against Oklahoma State. There was the one big kick off of the OSU player that worked to perfection, but the issue that Houston was deathly afraid to kick the ball deep remains. OSU routinely got good field position, and got 7 points on a Bryant punt return. I think that penalties will be an x-factor in Houston’s favor, but kick returns could be a big advantage for Texas Tech. Both Eric Stephens and Edward Britton are dangerous returning kickoffs.

What say you, Cougar faithful? Which matchup do you think is the most important?

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ElViento: You can look at all the numbers you want, but when previewing a game, sometimes you just have to listen to your gut. Here’s what my gut is telling me about Saturday’s game:

Talent-wise, and coaching-wise, I think the two teams are pretty closely matched. There are obviously differences between the teams – Houston has a better run game, Tech has some more talent on defense. But ultimately, I see this game coming down to the intangibles.

How will Houston handle its newfound success? They played great as the underdogs against Oklahoma State, but now they are the ranked team. They have the target on their backs. They are the favorites, albeit only by a point or two. Can Houston handle the success?

Texas Tech is coming off a hard-fought 10-point loss in Austin. Will there be a letdown? Sure, it’s not a program-defining victory, like Oklahoma State over Georgia, but it’s not an anger-inspiring buttkicking, either. How does Tech play coming off of that game?

Speaking of which, Houston is coming off a program-defining victory. Yes, they had a week off to get their minds straight, but one can’t help but wonder if there will be a letdown from the biggest Cougar victory since before I was born. (Yes, I will define everything by myself.)

Now, we can’t know the answers to these questions until kickoff on Saturday. But what’s the point of writing a blog if not to speculate? Here’s my speculation, what my gut tells me.

I think no matter how much Texas Tech talks up Houston, this game cannot possibly mean as much to them as it does to us. Looking at the lines to get student guest tickets for the game (and yes, the players noticed), it is obvious that this is Houston’s Super Bowl, even more so than the Oklahoma State game was. Yes, the Cowboys came into that game ranked #5. But this is an elite Texas team. This is at home.

A loss on Saturday means people will see Oklahoma State as a fluke. The top 25 ranking will be gone.

A win paves the way for bigger and better. For an (shh, don’t say the words) undefeated season. It proves that the Cougars are for real. Maybe some of those new fans who will come out for their first game of the year on Saturday will come back. Maybe the city of Houston gets behind a winner, and starts selling out home games with regularity.

Playing a team like Southern Miss at home this week would scare me more than Texas Tech. Not to say that the Golden Eagles are a better team than the Red Raiders, but it would be very hard to take them seriously after the OSU win. Tech is a team that Houston is 100% focused on. Oklahoma State is a distant memory.

A friend of mine encountered a Cougar football player on campus this week. He simply told him, “Beat the hell outta Tech.”

The player’s response? “We intend to.”

It’s not cocky. It’s confident.

Houston was confident heading into OSU when nobody else in the country was. They outplayed the Cowboys, and they won.

In my gut, I expect the same on Saturday.

(The player from the above anecdote? I won’t say who, but his name rhymes with Base Bleenum.)

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