Little recognition has been given to Houston this season. Then again, Houston’s 0-7 record really doesn’t deserve much recognition.
The Cougar’s losses range from long-time rival Rice to then fifth-ranked Texas, as well as Conference USA opponents Memphis and Cincinnati. Now they come to South Florida for USF’s fifth Homecoming game, and as the third future C-USA opponent when the Bulls join in 2003.
After three straight wins at home, including last weeks 68-37 win against Liberty, South Florida will look to capitalize on the struggling Cougars.
“Houston is going to come in here, and it is going to be a very emotional game, USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “You’re going to have two teams that are going to compete extremely hard to do the right things to win.”
Houston will be led into Raymond James Stadium Saturday at 7 p.m. by Athlon Sports Preseason All C-USA Team wide receiver Orlando Iglesias and running back Joffrey Reynolds. Iglesias has three touchdowns and 528 yards receiving this year, while Reynolds is averaging 82 yards rushing with four touchdowns.
“Our guys know how good this football team is,” Leavitt said. ” There wasn’t any talking during our film watching session on Monday night at all. You could hear a pin drop. They understand. Our guys know that we are going to probably play our best game to date to win.”
One area of question for Houston this season is at quarterback, where Nick Eddy will make his fourth start Saturday. The Cougars’ opening day starter at quarterback, Chris Robertson, was sidelined with a serious wrist injury in a Houston loss to Army on Oct. 6.
“(Houston) has made a number of mistakes in different areas. I know they are frustrated. They’ve played some awfully good football,” Leavitt said. “You have to study football and see. You watch their game against Texas, and it’s 10-7, and Houston is moving the ball up and down the field against Texas. You see them move the ball against everyone. At times, their defense plays extremely well – at times they don’t. This is a team that if they put it together, I believe could beat anybody in Conference USA.”
Eddy is averaging 256.3 yards passing per game, which is slightly less than USF quarterback Marquel Blackwell, who is averaging 274. Houston is also equally matched with the Bulls offense with 102 yards rushing per game compared to South Florida’s 212.
“I don’t think there is going to be near a problem with getting the attention of our football team with Houston,” Leavitt said. “Houston has not won a game, but if you look at their schedule, they played a tough one. Every week they’ve played some good football. They have a lot of good athletes.
However, there are two sides of the ball and on defense, USF and Houston couldn’t be further apart. South Florida’s 112 per-game rushing yards may improve as they face a Cougars defense, which is allowing 232 yards. The Bulls are only allowing 126 yards from opponents.
On the other hand, in total yards both teams’ defenses struggled last week. In a loss against C-USA opponent Southern Miss, Houston allowed 469 total yards and against Liberty, South Florida allowed 468.
USF’s mistakes on defense may prove costly if the offense doesn’t produce. Last weeks win against Liberty was marred by a 20-point fourth quarter from the Flames.
Houston’s quarterback Nick Eddy went 26-56 last week with four interceptions against Southern Miss. Eddy may come into Saturday’s game with slightly shaken confidence, and the Bulls defense will need to capitalize on this. The Bulls’ backfield will need to keep performing like it did last week – three different Bulls defensive players had interceptions. The most memorable of these was a USF record 86-yard touchdown return by senior Bernard Brown.
“We have to play more fundamentally sound and finish the game as a defense,” Brown said. “You know, the offense put up 61 points, and they did their part, they finished it. As a defense, we struggled a little bit at the beginning of the first quarter, and we didn’t finish it.”
- Jarrett Guthrie covers football and can be reached at email@example.com