Game preview: Houston vs. Memphis

Houston Cougars football quarterback Clayton Tune drops back and eyes the field in a game against Tulane on Sept. 30 at TDECU Stadium. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)

Game preview: Houston vs. Memphis


Houston (2-3, 0-1 AAC) vs. Memphis (4-1, 2-0 AAC)

Game time: 6:30 p.m. CT (Friday)

TV/radio: ESPN2/KPRC 950 SM

What’s at stake: The Houston Cougars are looking to right the ship after five tough outings to start the 2022 season. UH has had four of its five games come down to the final possession, and the Cougars have played in three overtime games. With a sub .500 record, Houston is looking to enter its bye week with a win and a soft reset at 3-3.

When the Cougars have the ball: Houston will likely be without running back Ta’Zhawn Henry, who underwent surgery on Wednesday morning. Henry is second on the team in rushing with 220 yards on the ground, and he has also 158 through the air.

Running back Brandon Campbell, who leads the team in rushing with 243 yards, and Stacy Sneed will see increased roles. Running back Kelan Walker could see more carries as well.

Houston defensive coordinator Doug Belk said defensive back Art Green and free safety Gervarrius Owens are day-to-day heading into the game. Head coach Dana Holgorsen said they should be back against Memphis during his weekly radio show. They both missed last Friday’s game against Tulane with injuries.

Quarterback Clayton Tune is coming off a game against Tulane that saw eight different players catch a pass. Houston will need to continue to have more playmakers step up in addition to Nathaniel ‘Tank’ Dell, who hauled in eight catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns in Houston’s loss to Tulane. The offense has been unable to reach its best potential, Dell said on Wednesday.

When Memphis has the ball: Houston will be in for a tough task looking to contain Memphis quarterback Seth Henigan. The 6’3″ play-caller has thrown nine touchdowns and only one interception in five games for the Tigers. He is averaging 255.2 passing yards a game.

Additionally, Henigan is as dangerous with his legs as he is through the air. He has rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the five games. Running back Brandon Thomas is the team’s lead rusher with 211 rushing yards and six touchdowns for the season.

Outside of Henigan and Thomas, the Tigers have two other players that have rushed close to 200 yards in running backs Jevyon Ducker, who has accumulated 187 yards, and Asa Martin, who has accumulated 191 rushing yards.

At receiving, the Tigers are led by tight end Caden Prieskorn, who has caught 18 passes for 178 yards and has scored five touchdowns.

Key Cougars to watch: All of them. Houston has been in tough battles to start the season. Add a list of injuries on top of it, and the Cougars have had to adjust to a season that is getting late quickly. On Monday, Holgorsen said his team needs to keep plugging along.

“It’s our job to compete,” Holgorsen said. “I think our guys are competing.”

On Wednesday, Houston defensive lineman Atlias Bell said the team is ready to respond to the challenge against a tough Memphis team. If the Cougars come out and battle hard against the Tigers, it will go a long way to show what the status of the team is heading into their bye week. If they don’t, it will show a lot too.

The bottom line: Houston is already in an 0-1 hole in conference play. It will be difficult to climb out of an 0-2 hole in conference play with only six games left to play.

“We got to get a win, so, obviously we know we are a better team than what our record shows,” Bell said. “I feel like everyone knows that, so it just comes down to us. We got to respond well. Now is not the time to hang your head.”

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