Game preview: Houston vs. Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Michael Wyke/AP/Shutterstock (13582172l) Houston wide receiver Nathaniel Dell makes a heart symbol as he celebrates his touchdown against South Florida during the first half of an NCAA college football game, in Houston South Florida Football, Houston, United States – 29 Oct 2022

Game preview: Houston vs. Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns


Houston (7-5) vs. Louisiana (6-6)

Game time: 2 p.m.

TV/radio: ESPN/KPRC 950 AM

What’s at stake: The Houston Cougars football team is seeking to end the season on a high note after an inconsistent 2022 campaign that ended with a disappointing home loss against Tulsa on UH’s senior night.

When the Cougars have the ball: For one final time, the Houston offense will be led by the dynamic duo of senior quarterback Clayton Tune and junior receiver Nathaniel ‘Tank’ Dell. Both will be moving on from the program after Friday’s game and pursuing professional careers.

The duo connected for over 100 catches and 15 touchdowns in 2022. Dell, who announced he was entering the NFL Draft earlier in the month, said he wanted to play in the Independence Bowl for Houston because he wanted to help the team get the sour taste of the regular-season finale out of its mouths.

When Lousiana has the ball: The Ragin’ Cajuns finished third in the Sun Belt Conference. Louisiana had only one common opponent with Houston in 2022, and that was the Rice Owls.

Houston narrowly defeated Rice, 34-27, in late September. Louisiana lost to the Owls, 33-21. The Ragin’ Cajuns were led by junior quarterback Ben Wooldridge. He threw for over 1,661 yards, 15 touchdowns, and just five interceptions in 2022.

Junior running back Chris Smith led the team in rushing with 579 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. Louisiana will be without its lead receiver, Michael Jefferson, who caught over 50 passes for 810 yards and seven touchdowns during the season. He opted out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft.

Louisiana’s second-lead receiver was tight end Neal Johnson. He caught 22 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns.

Key Cougars to watch: Tune and Dell will be the primary Houston players to watch on Friday. Outside of those two, receiver Matthew Golden put together a strong end to the season after returning from a rib injury and became a consistent playmaker for the Cougars.

On the ground, running backs Brandon Campbell and Stacy Sneed took a bulk of the carries throughout the year. Both dealt with injuries throughout the year but also had strong flashes. In a game that will be unusually cold, with temperatures below freezing for the entire contest, the team that can take care of the ball and establishes a run game could be the one that gets out of Shreveport, Louisiana, with a win.

The bottom line: This will be the final game for the Houston Cougars football team as a member of the American Athletic Conference. The next time it takes the field, it will officially be a Big 12 member. Losing to a .500 Sun Belt Conference opponent will be a lackluster way to enter the Power Five Conference.

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