Houston Cougars football battle with early-season adversity now paying off

Houston Cougars football head coach Dana Holgorsen on the sidelines in Annapolis, Maryland, on Saturday during UH’s game against Navy. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)

Houston Cougars football battle with early-season adversity now paying off

The Houston Cougars football team won back-to-back games for the first time all season when it defeated Navy by three scores in Annapolis, Maryland.

Houston put 38 points on the board. On Monday, during his weekly news conference, head coach Dana Holgorsen said the team was able to capitalize on the momentum it picked up with its comeback win against Memphis.

Despite the highs and lows of the season, the Cougars have been able to stay together and battle through the adversity, which is beginning to pay off, he said.

“We’ve been in some bad spots because of some close losses, but I never felt like we lost the team or the pulse wasn’t there, the work ethic wasn’t there, the practices weren’t there,” Holgorsen added. “I haven’t felt that. I just think we got really good character on this team and kept fighting.”

For Houston, the wins early in the year kept team morale high, and there was disappointment after the losses, but it never got to a point where it affected how the team practiced and competed, Holgorsen stated.

The Cougars were in some heartbreakers and nail-biters to start the year. Two of Houston’s three losses came in overtime. While there was a plethora of frustrations, the losses were never because of not competing, Holgorsen said.

“Memphis is a good football team. They are going through it right now, too,” Holgorsen said. “That’s the conference, and that’s college football; deal with it. Our team has dealt with it.”

Saturday’s game against Navy was by far Houston’s best performance of the season. The Cougars had a balanced attack against the Navy Midshipmen with 30 pass attempts and 34 rushes. UH got 180 rushing yards on Navy and threw for an additional 261.

Quarterback Clayton Tune threw five touchdowns. The defense held Navy to only 326 total yards and 13 points, and the Midshipmen had 0 trips to the red zone.

“That was a big game for us,” Holgorsen stated. “It is hard to win on the road. We’ve been fairly successful on the road, but going there is pretty awesome.”

Despite the success, it was far from a perfect performance for Houston. The Cougars put the ball on the ground four times, and Navy recovered three of those fumbles. The Midshipmen even scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery. Houston will look to clean those errors up against South Florida.

“We won’t take these guys lightly,” Holgorsen noted.

The Houston head coach also gave an update on running back Ta’Zhawn Henry on Monday. The running back underwent surgery in early October. He had suffered an ankle injury against Tulane, Holgorsen said previously.

On Monday, Holgorsen said Henry would return for Houston at some point this season, and it could be as early as Saturday against USF.

Around the American

Across the American Athletic Conference, Tune was named the offensive player of the week in the league for his strong performance against the Midshipmen.

East Carolina (5-3, 3-2 AAC) safety Jireh Wilson was named the AAC defensive player of the week for getting an interception and a fumble recovery against Central Florida (5-2, 2-1 AAC). The Pirates shut down a strong Knights offense and secured the 34-13 victory.

On Friday, Tulsa (3-4, 1-2 AAC) defeated Temple (2-5, 0-2 AAC), 27-16. No. 20 Cincinnati (6-1, 3-0 AAC) defeated SMU (3-4, 1-2 AAC), 29-27. Lastly, No. 23 Tulane (7-1, 4-0 AAC) defeated Memphis (4-4, 2-3 AAC), 38-28. The Tigers have lost three straight games going back to their blown lead against the Cougars (4-3, 2-1 AAC).

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