The Red Raiders look to finish off the non-conference portion of their regular season schedule with a win down in Houston this weekend. After a great all around performance against EWU and a gutsy late win against ASU, Tech is tasked with beating a Houston team that took down Oklahoma just a year ago.
The biggest news for the Cougars this past offseason was the departure of head coach Tom Herman and the promotion of Major Applewhite from offensive coordinator to head coach. This is Applewhite’s third year at UH, and he is joined by newcomer Brian Johnson as OC and Mark D’Onofrio as co-DC with Clay Jennings. Under center the Cougars lost Greg Ward but he is replaced by a very capable and former Aggie and #1 overall recruit Kyle Allen. On defense the team is led by one of the best players in the nation, Ed Oliver.
The Season So Far
2017 was disrupted for the Cougars much like it was other teams by Hurricane Harvey. Their season opener against UTSA was postponed, and later cancelled. They opened up their season with a 19-16 win at Arizona in a game full of interceptions. Allen was picked off twice and Arizona QB Khalil Tate threw a late 4th quarter interception to seal the win for the Cougars. In their home opener against cross-town rival Rice, the Cougars scored on 6 straight possessions in the first half to win 38-3 as Allen was almost perfect, throwing only 2 incompletions.
Houston on Offense
Last year the Cougars relied heavily on Greg Ward, but with Ward gone, the pressure is on Allen and a backfield led by Duke Catalon. Allen’s play was decent in the first game, with a high completion percentage, but he did throw a couple picks. Against Rice, he was almost perfect. On the receiving end of those passes, the cougars are led by senior wideout Linell Bonner, who has 191 yards and a TD this year. Catalon is averaging almost 4.5 yards per rush, as he has over a third of the teams rushing attempts. As a team the Cougars average just under 4 yards per carry.
Houston on Defense
The cougars are led on defense by their All-American defensive tackle and Houston native Ed Oliver. Bleacher Report claims he is the most disruptive player in all of college football, helping Houston to the 7th best scoring defense in the FBS. Overall, the team is only allowing 9.5 points and 306.5 yards per game. This could be the best defense the Red Raiders will see all season.
Keys to the Game
When Tech has the ball
Find a way to limit the damage done by Oliver. There’s a reason he’s been called the best defensive star in football and Tech must find a way around that. It’s highly unlikely that the offense will be able to neutralize him, but they need to keep his impact low. Long sustained drives may tire out their defense, but scoring 7 works just as well. Holding penalties need to remain low, and misdirection on running plays may help our cause. Shimonek and the receiving corps need to play just as efficient as they have most of the season. Let the receivers talent show and turn short passes into long gains.
When Houston has the ball
Play aggressively smart. Get to Allen and force him to make bad throws. This season, when the defense has been active, going to the ball, good things have happened. When they let the play come to them, bad things happen, like ASU getting back into the game. Limit the long drives in the miserable Houston weather. The humidity will wear the defense out like nothing else, so get off the field just as soon as you possibly can.
This game could turn into a classic, and may be a a future conference rivalry. Wreck Em Tech.