Game preview: Houston vs. Tulsa

Houston Cougars football quarterback eyes the field against East Carolina’s defense as he aims to thread a pass to one of his receivers. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)

Game preview: Houston vs. Tulsa


Houston (7-4, 5-2 American Athletic) vs. Tulsa (4-7, 2-5 AAC)

Game time: 6:30 p.m. CT

TV/radio: ESPNU/KPRC 950 AM

What’s at stake: The Houston Cougars have a slim, nearly impossible, shot at making the American Athletic Conference championship game, but it only matters if UH can take care of business and defeat Tulsa.

When the Cougars have the ball: Quarterback Clayton Tune will be starting in his final home game ever as a Houston player. The Carrollton native will be one of 17 seniors honored on the team’s senior night.

Houston has been on an offensive onslaught since Week Six against Memphis. The Cougars have scored 33 or more points in six straight games and 42 or more in the last four outings.

As it has been for much of the season, Tune will be the engine that makes everything run for Houston on Saturday. His top target will be Nathaniel ‘Tank’ Dell, who could be playing in his final home game, depending on his potential NFL endeavors.

Receiver Matthew Golden has emerged as the team’s solid No. 2 target since returning from a rib injury. He has caught at least one touchdown in each game going back to Nov. 5 against SMU.

When Tulsa has the ball: Houston’s No. 1 priority will be trying to shut down Tulsa receiver Keylon Stokes. He has caught 69 balls for 1,177 yards and seven touchdowns this season for the Golden Hurricane.

“[Stokes is] veteran, savvy, [and] has explosive capabilities,” Houston defensive coordinator Doug Belk said. “They shift. They motion him, jet sweeps, vertical pass game, RPO’s, quick passing game, so he is kind of a jack of all trades and does a lot of different things well, so where he is lined up is going to be very important for us.”

Tulsa is led by quarterback Davis Brin, who has thrown 17 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Houston will also be prepared to see quarterback Braylon Braxton, Belk said.

The Golden Hurricane are led by running back Deneric Prince in the backfield. He has accumulated 689 rushing yards and five touchdowns for Tulsa this season.

Key Cougars to watch: Outside of Golden and Dell, running back Stacy Sneed and receiver Samuel Brown could be other offensive weapons to watch for Houston. Both missed Saturday’s game against East Carolina due to injury.

Houston will honor 17 seniors on Saturday: Tune, Ike Ogbogu, Ta’Zhawn Henry, Kelan Walker, KeSean Carter, Bubba Baxa, Donavan Mutin, Latrell Bankston, Atlias Bell, D’Anthony Jones, Jamykal Neal, Derek Parish, Gervarrius Owens, Art Green, Garrison Vaughn, Thabo Mwaniki and Jayce Rogers.

The bottom line: Even though Houston’s chances at making the AAC championship game are slim, closing out the regular season with a strong win is always a positive.

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