Cougars 'happy but not satisfied'

Special to CoogFans.com
Posted Nov 28, 2011


Houston has been in two previous C-USA title games -- a win at home at Robertson Stadium in 2006 and a 2009 loss at East Carolina.

INSIDE SLANT

Another win, another step closer to the preseason goal of reaching a BCS bowl game for the Houston Cougars.

Now, the final hurdle is before the undefeated, nationally ranked C-USA West Division champs -- the Dec. 3 C-USA championship game against East Division champion Southern Miss.

For Cougars head coach Kevin Sumlin, there is no change to the approach for this week's game after the thumping his team gave Tulsa on Friday on the road. The mindset is clear: Why fix what isn't broke?

"I don't have to say much to them this week," Sumlin said in the Houston Chronicle. "I think just based on the look and how we reacted to (Friday), they're happy but they're not satisfied. I look for them to come back (this) week and be ready to prepare and go try to win a championship."

Houston has been in two previous C-USA title games -- a win at home at Robertson Stadium in 2006 and a 2009 loss at East Carolina.

This week's game will be at Robertson Stadium, a place where the Cougars have outscored opponents 323-106 in six games this season for an average margin of victory of 53.8-17.7.

The general admission tickets (not including tickets for Southern Miss fans, UH students or season-ticket holders) sold out within hours of Houston'S Friday win over Tulsa.

"It's going to be a lot of energy, it'll probably be a little bit emotional, but I think these guys understand what's at hand and based on the look I saw in there (in the locker room after the Tulsa win), they're going to be ready to go," Sumlin said, in the Chronicle.

A victory over Southern Miss, a team also ranked in the Top 25 of both major polls, would give both Houston and Conference USA their first BCS bowl berths.

Southern Miss, a team that beat Houston in 2010, has proven through the years with a 9-3 series lead over Houston, that the Cougars' high-flying offense doesn't intimidate it in the slightest.

"To have Southern Miss coming to our place to play for the title, I think it's fitting," Houston quarterback Case Keenum said in the Chronicle. "We've had some great matchups between those guys and us and this will be another good one."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Houston Cougars' win Friday over Tulsa not only put them in the C-USA Championship game Dec. 3, but the Cougars get the benefit of hosting the title tilt.

Within a few hours of the Tulsa victory, the University of Houston announced it had already sold out its allotment of 12,000 tickets (that doesn't include tickets given to Southern Miss, current season-ticket holders or student tickets) to the game at Robertson Stadium, a game the school also learned will be broadcast nationally by ABC.

"It's just fitting that that game, those guys are going to go out there and play their last game, the championship game, at Robertson Stadium in front of our crowd," Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin said in the Houston Chronicle. "It's a reward for them, for our fans, for our university and it's a reward for the city of Houston and I look for it to be more jam-packed than it was last time we were there."

--Despite the 12-0 record, a lopsided 48-16 road win at a very good conference foe in Tulsa, another week of video game-like offensive statistics and one more solid outing from the defense against a Tulsa team among the nation's best offensive units, the Houston Cougars still got their weekly dose of non-respect when the Top 25 polls came out on Sunday.

Houston moved up one spot from No. 8 to No. 7 in the AP Top 25 with 1,055 points. That is just one point ahead of No. 8 Oregon (1,054) and two points ahead of two teams tied at No. 9 -- USC and Boise State (1,053). Most troubling for the Cougars, though, is that a two-loss Arkansas team remains ranked ahead of them in the poll, although by the slightest of margins at No. 6 with 1,060 points.

In the USA Today Coaches Poll, Houston moved up a spot from No. 7 to No. 6, still trailing the likes of LSU, Alabama, Virginia Tech, Stanford and Oklahoma State.

--The Tulsa win gave Houston its first 12-win season in school history. Only two other Houston teams (1990, 1979) started seasons of 8-0. The 12 wins this season is also a school record for consecutive victories.

--The win gave Houston its third C-USA West Division title.

SERIES HISTORY: Southern Miss leads Houston 9-3 (last meeting, 2010, 59-41 Southern Miss)

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: In two of Houston's first three games this season, the offense was held under 470 total yards. While most teams would love to sniff that kind of total offense, for Houston, those games vs. UCLA and at Louisiana Tech were low points. Since the Sept. 17 La. Tech game, however, the Cougars haven't had a game with fewer than 513 total yards of offense. Against two of C-USA's top teams in the last two weeks -- vs. SMU and at Tulsa -- the Cougars haven't skipped a beat with a combined 1,071 yards of offense and 85 points scored. QB Case Keenum may not win the Heisman, but he may be stringing together one of, if not the best, single-season statistical performances ever for a quarterback.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Tulsa's Golden Hurricane entered Friday's game with Houston averaging 465.1 yards of total offense per game. Houston's defense, the Achilles heel of the program in the eyes of many, managed to shut Tulsa down, holding the host Hurricane to 337 yards of total offense (161 rushing, 176 passing) and just 16 points. Houston's defense hasn't allowed a team more than those 337 yards in more than a month (Rice gained 475 yards on Oct. 27). LBs Marcus McGraw and Sammy Brown are among the C-USA elite and have quietly transformed the Cougars defense into a far better unit than critics have given them credit for.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Twelve and zero is a pretty good position to be in." -- Houston QB Case Keenum in the Houston Chronicle.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Southern Miss at Houston, Conference USA championship game, Dec. 3 -- The Houston Cougars are a win away from the program's and C-USA's first BCS bowl berth. Should they lose, however, it would likely mean the Cougars would tumble to the Armed Forces Bowl while Southern Miss would get the invite into the Liberty Bowl.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Houston's offense didn't have its fastest start of the season in its win Friday over Tulsa, but it rattled off 28 unanswered points in the final 16 minutes of the game to have a familiar 48 point total by game's end. The offense will get theirs. The question, as it is every week, will be about whether the Cougars defense can contain the high-powered Southern Miss offense.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

QB Case Keenum -- Keenum is one of four FBS quarterbacks who enter December with more than 4,000 passing yards. Keenum's 4,726 passing yards easily leads the way over Arizona's Nick Foles (4,334), Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden (4,111) and Oklahoma's Landry Jones (4,052). Foles' season is over while Weeden and Jones square off against one another Dec. 3 and both, like Keenum, will also play in bowl games.

WR Tyron Carrier -- The senior wideout set the all-time C-USA receptions record on Friday with 307-career receptions (his eight catches allowed him to pass former Louisville WR Arnold Jackson, who had 300 catches from 1997-2000). Carrier is now closing in on No. 2 all-time in the NCAA record books. His 307 career receptions are nine behind former Purdue star Taylor Stubblefield, who had 316 catches.

LB Marcus McGraw -- The driving force behind the improved Houston defense down the stretch of this season, McGraw enters the Dec. 3 C-USA championship game vs. Southern Miss with 489 career tackles. That is 18 tackles behind Ryan McCoy's 507 career tackles, the current school record, which was set from 1990-1993.

ROSTER REPORT

--RB Bryce Beall has been hampered by a hamstring injury since early October and is far from being the same factor in the Houston offense as he was to start the season when he was the No. 1 back. Beall has played in each of the Cougars' last three games -- Nov. 10 at Tulane, Nov. 19 vs. SMU and Friday at Tulsa -- but has had a combined three carries for 25 yards. He's also had six receptions for 68 yards in those games.

--LB Sammy Brown hurt his ankle Nov. 10 at Tulane but played in both the Cougars' last two games vs. SMU on Nov. 19 and at Tulsa on Friday. Against SMU, he had three sacks, but at Tulsa he seemed to be more bothered by the injury with just five tackles in the game with none being behind the line of scrimmage (his 26 tackles for loss this year still lead the nation).



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