Houston vs. Tulsa- 5 things to watch in Week 5

Houston vs. Tulsa- 5 things to watch in Week 5

TULSA, Okla. – After a close call in the American Athletic Conference opener, the University of Houston faces another tough challenge in a nationally televised matchup against Tulsa.

UH (3-1, 1-0 AAC) rallied to beat Navy 28-20 last week to extend the Cougars’ season-high winning streak to three games. This is the 45th meeting between the two schools and likely UH’s final visit to Tulsa for the foreseeable future with the team scheduled to join the Big 12 in 2023. UH’s 25 wins in the series are the second most against any opponent, trailing only Rice (33).

Tulsa (1-3) began the season with a shocking loss to UC Davis and followed with a narrow loss at Oklahoma State. The Golden Hurricane offense has been productive the past two games, piling up 501 yards at then-No. 9 Ohio State and 663 against Arkansas State.

1. Will Tulsa kick to Marcus Jones?

The short answer should be no. Jones has a nation-best two punt-return touchdowns, both coming in the past two games against Grambling State and Navy. Quite simply, the All-American is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Tulsa’s coverage units are among the worst in the nation, allowing an average 17.3 yards per punt return and 27.1 yards per kickoff. The Golden Hurricane allowed two touchdowns on returns – a 63-yard punt and 93-yard kickoff – in last week’s 41-34 win over Arkansas State.

When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Where: H.A. Chapman Stadium; Tulsa, Okla.
Radio: 950 AM

2. Big test for pass defense

The Cougars rank in the top-5 nationally against the pass, allowing an average 116 yards per game. But that’s come against three teams that predominately run the ball – Rice (19 pass attempts), Grambling State (12) and Navy (eight). We should have a better idea where UH’s pass defense stacks up after facing Tulsa quarterback Davis Brin, who threw for 428 yards at Ohio State and 355 against Arkansas State. Brin tossed five touchdown passes in the two games but also had three of his five interceptions. Keylon Stokes, an All-AAC receiver from Manvel, is expected to return after missing two straight weeks with an injury. Jones, UH’s top cornerback, will likely draw the assignment of covering Stokes. Brin has other options: Josh Johnson (23 catches, 317 yards, TD), JuanCarlos Santana (17 catches, 259 yards, TD) and Sam Crawford Jr. (12 catches, 237 yards, 2 TDs). Santana is the cousin of UH nickel back JoVanni Stewart.

3. Wanted: more options in the passing game

This is a problem with no quick fix as the Cougars search for options beyond Nathaniel Dell and Christian Trahan in the passing game. “We don’t have depth,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “That’s got to change through recruiting. There ain’t anybody else to play. Who you see out there is who we’ve got.” Dell is the Cougars’ No. 1 receiver with 25 catches for 342 yards and three touchdowns. He has been targeted a team-high 37 times in four games, more than double the next player, Trahan (19). UH has experimented with cornerback Marcus Jones playing two full games on offense, running back Ta’Zhawn Henry lining outside at receiver and Alton McCaskill as an option out of the backfield. KeSean Carter, a Texas Tech transfer, was slowed to start the season after suffering a concussion late in preseason camp. UH would also benefit from contributions from Jeremy Singleton, Jaylen Erwin and Jake Herslow.

4. Four Tulsa players to know

Defensive tackle Jaxon Player, the Golden Hurricane’s top defensive player, must sit out the first half after last week’s targeting penalty. The All-AAC selection was especially disruptive in a Week 2 loss to Oklahoma State. Only a sophomore, 6-6, 322-pound left tackle Tyler Smith anchors the offensive line. He was a freshman All-America selection in 2020. The backfield features the 1-2 punch of Shamari Brooks and Deneric Prince, who have combined for 553 of the team’s 751 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Brooks, who has 3,000 career rushing yards, missed last season with a torn ACL. Prince, a junior from Manvel, spent his first two college seasons at Texas A&M.

5. First true road game

Five games into the season, the Cougars finally play a true road game after staying inside the city limits for games against Texas Tech (NRG Stadium), at Rice and Grambling State and Navy at TDECU Stadium. This is the latest the Cougars have played a true road game in a non-delayed season since Texas A&M on Oct. 10, 1987.

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