UAB (1-4) at Houston (2-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 13, 12:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Robertson Stadium (32,000) -- Houston, Texas. Television: FSN. Home Record: UAB 1-2, Houston 1-2 Away Record: UAB 0-2, Houston 0-1. Neutral Record: UAB 0-0, Houston 1-0. Conference Record: UAB 0-1, Houston 1-0. Series Record: Series tied 4-4.
GAME NOTES: The Houston Cougars will look to build on a short winning streak when they host the UAB Blazers in a Conference USA bout at Robertson Stadium.
UAB finally got in the win column last time out, dominating Southeastern Louisiana of the FCS in a 52-3 victory. The Blazers had lost four straight before the victory and have yet to manage a win against a team at the FBS level this season. In its only other C-USA matchup this year, UAB dropped a 49-42 decision at home to Tulsa.
Two consecutive wins have brought Houston towards respectability after the Cougars lost three straight to begin the season. Both wins came against fellow Lone State squads including a 35-14 victory in the annual Bayou Bucket Bowl against conference rival Rice. With a win in this game Houston would have a winning streak of at least three games in three of the last four seasons.
A 56-13 rout for Houston against the Blazers last season evened the all time series at four wins a piece. In the game Case Keenum broke the NCAA career passing record as he threw for 407 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite its 1-4 record, UAB has not been terrible offensively this season, ranking closer to the middle of the C-USA in both scoring (28.8 ppg, 5th) and total offense (395.8 ypg, 6th). The Blazers have been more of a passing team, quite often due to necessity when playing from behind. The 1,517 yards through the air by the Blazers is the third most in the conference. The Blazers' 462 yards rushing is better than only winless Tulane.
Austin Brown has seemingly taken the starting quarterback job from Johnathan Perry. Brown has started each of the last two games and had at least 22 pass attempts during the last three. He is completing 67 percent of his passes for 828 yards and four touchdowns during that time. Perry has completed only 56.8 percent of his pass attempts this season.
A pass-heavy offense necessitates some talented receivers, which the Blazers have. Jackie Williams (24 receptions, 389 yards) is the leading pass catcher though he has yet to fine the end zone. Jamarcus Nelson has been the most effective in that area, catching three touchdown passes, while averaging 27.2 yards per reception.
Darrin Reaves has more than twice as many carries and nearly that in yards as any rusher on the team with 62 attempts and 244 yards to go with four rushing touchdowns. However his 3.8 yards per carry and 48.8 yards per game average are well below the numbers of a feature back.
In comparison to the rest of C-USA, UAB has been good at keeping opponents offensive totals down (380.8 ypg) ranking third in the conference. However much of that is due to the 125 yards given up in the win over Southeastern Louisiana. The Blazers have given up at least 450 yards in three of their four games against FBS opponents.
Marvin Burdette has been a jack of all trades for the unit. The senior linebacker is the team leader in tackles (46), tackles for loss (four) and is tied for the team lead in sacks (two) and interceptions (one). Greg Irvin (33 tackles) and Diaheem Watkins (24 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks) have also been consistent contributors.
Just as it has been for much of the recent past, Houston has had no trouble moving the ball up and down the field through the air. The Cougars currently rank second in the league in passing yards (1,722) with Marshall, the squad ahead, having played one more game than the Cougars. Houston is also second to Marshall in total offense (527.6 ypg) this season.
In previous seasons the keys to the Houston offense were with Case Keenum. After his graduation that responsibility was turned over to redshirt sophomore David Piland, who has been less consistent but has still put up strong passing totals. He has thrown for all 1,722 passing yards accumulated by the Cougars, but has completed only 58.5 percent of his passes had has only two more touchdown passes (nine) than interceptions (seven).
A pair of Cougar's receivers have been the target of most of Piland's throws this season. Dewayne Peace is the primary pass catcher with a team-high 33 receptions to go with 356 yards. Peace is more of a possession receiver as compared to Daniel Spencer (27 receptions, 396 yards), who has picked up more yards and averages more yards per reception than Peace.
Charles Sims has done an admirable job out of the backfield, rushing for 510 yards and six touchdowns on only 79 carries. He has also contributed in the passing game, ranking third in receptions (21).
Houston is being outscored by a small margin this season, averaging 29.4 points scored per game, while allowing 31.6. The Cougars have gotten into a number of shootouts, as the defensive unit is second to last in the conference in total defense (487.0 ypg).
That's not to say there isn't talent on that side of the ball. Phillip Steward is the second leading tackler in C-USA with 59 this season. He is also ranked second in tackles for loss (9.5), with teammate Derrick Mathews (10) the only player with more this season.
Many of UAB's numbers are misleading coming off of the win over an inferior FCS opponents. While Houston has not really slowed many offenses this season, a big reason for that is the pace at which the offense plays. Piland and the Cougars should have no problem racking up yards and more than enough points to get to 2-0 in conference play.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Houston 41, UAB 20
10/10 10:35:44 ET