The Houston Cougars (4-1) hosted the SMU Mustangs Saturday night at TDECU Stadium. There wasn’t much of a crowd, just 31,153, but those who were there saw a rather entertaining game that featured perhaps UH’s most consistent offensive performance of the season (both teams together accumulated more than 1,000 yards in offense). The Cougars got the 35-22 win, though it was a tight contest until the fourth quarter.
DUKE CATALON: It was a career game for the Cougars' junior running back. He rushed for 177 yards and two TDs, and he set a season high with 22 rush attempts. He also averaged eight yards per rush, and it looked as if he was about to break off a long run every time he got his hands on the football. Head coach Major Applewhite talked before the season began about how he wanted the rushing game to go through his running backs and not his quarterback (like last season), and it appears that Catalon has gotten the message.
“He actually came in [earlier in the week] and we just had a little quick talk, and he said, 'I’m going to do better than what I’ve been doing,'” Applewhite said about a talk he had with Catalon. “I said, ‘I know you, man. I know you’re going to do well. Just go do it. We don’t need to talk about it. Just go do it.’ And he did. He just went out and just did it. He played really, really hard. He ran well.”
D’ERIQ KING: King is one of those do-everything-type players in the Greg Ward Jr. mode. He was recruited as a quarterback, he has returned kicks and he now primarily plays receiver. Against SMU he caught six passes (one a touchdown) while throwing a TD pass to Kyle Postma as UH pulled out a little razzle-dazzle.
RUNNING GAME: The UH rushing game as a whole had its best night in a year. The Cougars rushed the ball 40 times for 265 yards, averaging 6.6 yards per rush. Mulbah Car followed Catalon’s lead and rushed nine times for 68 yards and an average of 7.4 yards a rush, while quarterback Postma also picked up 29 yards on seven rushed.
“I don’t know when the last time [was] we had 265 yards rushing — I mean a true rushing attack, not Greg Ward running around scrambling,” Applewhite said. “So it was impressive.”
CONFERENCE TITLE CONTENTION: The Cougars not only are 4-1 for the season, but are also 2-0 in American play. The Cougars are behind Navy (3-0) in American Conference West Division play, but with the win, the Cougars have a better conference record than the rest of the West Division teams.
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SMU’S RED ZONE EXECUTION: SMU compiled 544 total yards on offense. It often seemed as if the Mustangs could do whatever needed to be done, whenever it needed to be done, especially on screen passes and swing passes to the sideline. But whenever SMU got down in the red zone (and when it got into UH territory), things began to fall apart. Applewhite said the key to a team like SMU that runs a spread offense is realizing that a whole bunch of yards are going to be piled up. And SMU did just that, but when it came to getting touchdowns or even getting points, things weren’t so good for the Ponies as SMU found itself settling for field goals and turning the ball over.
“The spread football, you get a lot of yards,” Applewhite said. “You get across the 50. It’s hard to score in the red zone. That’s kind of where you’re at defensively. People are going to get yards nowadays. It’s more or less, can you take the ball away in the red zone and can you force field goals. I don’t want to concede all of the yards, and we can certainly make people go three-and-out on their side of the 50, but you have to have a little bit of realism with it, that people are going to make some explosive plays, quarterbacks are going to make some throws, but our defense did a great job when they started getting in the red zone of limiting it to field goals or taking the ball away.”
THE UH PASSING GAME: As good as the rushing game was for UH, the passing game still looked to be struggling to find some kind of rhythm. Quarterback Kyle Postma was 19-for-27 for only 176 yards. He threw two touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions. The Cougars have tough games with Memphis and USF in the coming weeks, and the whole offensive unit will need to be working as one for good results to happen those weeks.
UH’s next game should not be as difficult as the Memphis and USF games. Houston travels to Tulsa on Saturday to face a 1-5 team that was embarrassed by 62-28 by Tulane in its last game. That game will kick off from Tulsa at 3 p.m. and will be on ESPN News. The Cougars return home to TDECU Stadium on October 19 to face the Memphis Tigers.