Houston Cougars football cornerback Art Green returns an interception against Navy in Saturday’s game against the Midshipmen. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)
The Houston Cougars football team had its most complete game of the season when they defeated the Navy Midshipmen on Saturday.
Houston (4-3, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) beat Navy (2-5, 2-3 AAC) 38-20 in Annapolis, Maryland, behind quarterback Clayton Tune’s five-touchdown performance and the defense’s stellar play.
“Big, very big,” Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen told reporters after the win. “How we won in Memphis, that gave us momentum going into the bye week, and having two weeks to prep for these guys is huge, critical.”
Houston got off to a good start from the first drive of the game, something it has struggled to do most of the season, and never looked back. The Cougars started the game with a 23-yard pass to Nathaniel Dell. UH then continued to march down the field with six more plays, one of which included a 28-yard play for tight end Christian Trahan. The drive ended in a six-yard touchdown to Dell.
Navy dropped eight defenders into coverage a lot, Holgorsen said. That allowed Tune to find Dell, who was in a hole in the coverage for the first pass of the game. Then the pass to Trahan was a scramble drill, Holgorsen added.
After the game, the head coach said having an experienced quarterback in Tune gives him and the coaching staff a whole lot of comfort that Tune is going to figure out what’s going on with opposing defenses.
“I feel comfortable calling anything when Tune is back there,” Holgorsen said. “We are going to ride him for the rest of the year, but he’s playing like I thought he would. For him to be able to come up here and play against these guys with what they do defensively in a pretty awesome environment, this place is pretty special.”
Another key to Houston’s success was on the offensive line. The group did a good job with pass protection and also not committing holding penalties, Holgorsen stated.
Houston had only four penalties called against them as a team, by far the lowest of the season. Holgorsen said he was happy to see the Cougars play a much cleaner game, which was a huge issue early in the season. Houston committed 10 or more penalties in each of its first four games.
“Nobody is happy with what happened earlier in the year,” Holgorsen said. “Can’t sit there and harp with what happened earlier in the year. We are a more disciplined team. We are coaching it better. Our players are paying attention to it better.”
Houston’s defense played a great game against Navy. The Cougars held Navy quarterback Tai Lavatai to six-of-13 passing for 125 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.
UH also held the Midshipmen to only 201 rushing yards for the entire game, below the 255.2 rushing yards per contest they averaged coming into the matchup.
“We did a great job of stopping the run, forcing them into some passing situations,” Holgorsen said. “We felt like this Navy team, and that quarterback could throw the ball really well, but man, we covered them.”
Houston now turns its attention to South Florida, which was idle in Week Eight of college football. The Bulls will enter TDECU Stadium with a 1-6 record and an 0-3 mark against AAC foes. The game will kickoff at 11 a.m. CT and air on ESPN2.
For the Cougars, however, Saturday’s win finally ended in a victory formation. It is something the team has practiced since Aug. 1, Holgorsen said on Saturday afternoon. After playing six games, five of which came down to the final possession with the game in the balance, Saturday’s final kneel-down was a welcomed sight for Houston.
“We didn’t have to snap it,” Holgorsen said. “But, they took control and wanted to do it, so I let them do it. We’ll take a loss of two yards to make everybody happy.”