Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Are the Hosuton Cougars Poised to Break Into the Top 25 after Playing UTEP?

(Photo by Darla Tamulitis-La Vita Loco Photography, Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved)

By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2011 TexSport Publications

HOUSTON, TEXAS (September 27, 2011) The Houston Cougars (4-0) will head for west Texas for their next game as face the UTEP Miners (2-2) in a rare Thursday evening game at the Sun Bowl.

Thursday’s game marks the ninth game between the two teams and the rubber match in the series with each team winning four games.

Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin is 2-1 against UTEP in his three previous meetings, while UTEP head coach Mike Price is 2-6 vs. Houston.

Previously, Sumlin and Price served together on the coach staff at Washington State, where Sumlin was a graduate assistant under Price.

There are other ties between the schools as UH Director of Athletics Mack Rhoades was the executive senior associate athletic director at UTEP for seven years from 2000-06.

This Thursday’s game will be the fifth for senior quarterback Case Keenum against UTEP. In those four games, Keenum has completed 70.2 percent of his throws on 120-for-171 passing.

He has totaled 1,311 yards and nine touchdowns. Twice he has topped the 400-yard passing mark with 536 yards in 2009.

In last season’s game versus the Miners, Keenum suffered a mild concussion and left the game in the third quarter with 279 passing yards, but it snapped his 31-game touchdown pass streak.

The first meeting between the schools was on Oct. 26, 1946, which saw the Miners beating the Cougars 21-7.

Last year, Houston came out in top 54-24.

This season, the Cougars are ranked first in C-USA in total offense per game (595.8 yards), first in points scores per game (44.3 points), fourth points allowed per game (22.8) and sixth in total defense (400.5 yards).

The Miners best ranking is fifth in points allowed per game (22.8).

Baring any unforeseen issues, the Cougars should have little trouble raising their season record to 5-0 on by beating the Miners by at least three touchdowns.

However, the defense must continue to improve and contain a Miner offense that can come alive at any time.

If the Cougars indeed dispatch the Miners by a large margin, I foresee a possible move into the Top 25 next week.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Lamar survives fourth-quarter scare in 45-35 victory over Incarnate Word

BEAUMONT, TEXAS (September 18, 2011) Lamar University scored 42 points through three quarters Saturday night to seize a 22-point lead then held off a spirited University of Incarnated Word rally to post a 45-35 victory before a crowd of 15,367 in Provost Umphrey Stadium.

In improving to 2-1 on the season, Lamar rolled up 469 yards of total offense, but the host Cardinals allowed UIW to score two touchdowns in a span of 48 seconds early in the fourth quarter.

That spurt pulled the visiting Cardinals to within 42-35, but the host Cardinals put it away with a 31-yard Justin Stout field goal which was followed a few moments later by a clutch interception by linebacker Jacody Coleman.

“It was a very strange game,” said Ray Woodard, Lamar’s head coach. “In the first half, we did some good things offensively (to build a 35-20 lead), but we had trouble stopping the run defensively.

“We made some adjustments defensively at halftime, and they helped. We didn’t stop the running game in the second half, but we definitely slowed it down.”

After allowing UIW tailback Trent Rios to rush for 94 first-half yards, the host Cardinals limited him to 26 yards in the second half.

Meanwhile, Mike Venson, getting his most extended playing time of the season, rushed for 90 yards and one touchdown for the host Cardinals, and senior quarterback Andre Bevil passed for a season-high 226 yards and two touchdowns.

Redshirt freshman Jeremy Johnson spelled Bevil on a few possessions and ran for 47 yards on six carries and completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to senior split end J.J. Hayes, who had four receptions for a season-high 96 yards.

“We cut down on the mistakes we had been making in our first two games, and we cut down on our penalties (the Cardinals had only six infractions after averaging 12.0 in their first two outings). The game got strange in the fourth quarter when they (the visiting Cardinals) cut it to seven points.

“I called the defensive guys together and told them they were going to step up a start making some plays. The defense played better coming down the stretch.

“Obviously, we still have things that need correcting, and we still have a long way to go. The good thing is we have two weeks before we play our next game, so that will give us extra time to put in a few new wrinkles and get ready for Southeastern Louisiana.”

Bevil completed 14 of 19 passes, including touchdown strikes of 10 yards to Hayes and 25 yards to sophomore Kye Hildreth. Lamar’s other touchdowns came on runs of 21 yards by DePauldrick Garrett and 9 yards by Venson.

Bevil and Hayes combined on a 35-yard pass on the game’s first offensive play, and the host Cardinals moved briskly to a touchdown, going 65 yards on seven plays. Bevil scrambled for a 19-yard gain on a third-and-11 play from the UIW 31-yard line, and he found Hayes open in the back right corner of the south end zone for the final 10 yards on a third-and-eight play.

Devin Haywood’s 52-yard return on the ensuing kickoff gave the visiting Cardinals excellent field position at the Lamar 45-yard line, and they scored the tying touchdown on Rios’ 3-yard run off right tackle with 9:17 left in the first quarter.

The scoring parade continued as Lamar answered with a three-play, 64-yard that lasted only 1:02. Bevil hit Garrett on a screen pass for a 30-yard gain to ignite it, and Garrett completed it with his 21-yard run around left end with 8:09 left in the first quarter.

Not to be outdone, UIW responded with a six-play, 60-yard scoring drive highlighted by a 34-yard run up the middle by Rios. It reached the 4-yard line, and quarterback Paden Lynch scored on a 2-yard sneak two players later. Despite his team receiving an illegal procedure penalty, Thomas Rebold kicked the tying extra point from the 15-yard line, making it 14-14 with 6:24 left in the first quarter.

Johnson started Lamar’s third possession at quarterback and eventually threw the 7-yard pass to Hayes in the left corner of the end zone to put the home Cardinals up 21-14 with 2:32 remaining in the first quarter.

Lamar’s defense came up with a stop on UIW’s third possession, and the visiting Cardinals did the same on Lamar’s fourth as the first period ended on Kollin Kahler’s 42-yard punt. .

Lamar finished the first quarter with 198 total yards (103 rushing and 95 passing, while UIW had 119.yards (51 rushing and 68 passing).

Following a Johnson fumble early in the second quarter, UIW put together a 10-play, 56-yard drive to move to within 21-20 on Rios’ 3-yard run off left tackle with 7:05 left in the half. Cornerback Keinon Peterson blocked Rebold’s conversion attempt to leave the home Cardinals with the one-point edge.

They then extended the lead to 28-20 with a three-play, 62-yard drive sparked by a 44-yard hookup over the middle from Bevil to Hayes. A 9-yard Bevil pass to tight end Payden McVey gained the 9-yard line, and Venson broke off left tackle for the touchdown on the next play.

The home Cardinals gained separation with an eight-play, 61-yard drive capped by Bevil’s 25-yard pass to Hildreth over the middle with 11.6 seconds remaining before halftime. Stout’s fifth conversion made it 35-20 Lamar.

Lamar gained 340 of its yards in the first half with 209 coming through the air. Bevil went 9-for-12 for 189 yards and two TDs in the first half, while Rios rushed for 94 first-half yards on 17 carries for UIW.

Johnson was at the controls on Lamar’s lone third-quarter scoring drive. It covered 81 yards and ended on Logan’s 6-yard run up the middle with 5:13 remaining in the period.

Incarnate Word made it close by scoring twice in the 48-second span early in the fourth quarter. Lynch’s 1-yard sneak ended an 81-yard drive with 12:57 left, and Rebold’s two-point conversion run reduced Lamar’s lead TO 42-28.

Then UIW recovered Devion Wolford’s fumble at the 6-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, and two plays later Lynch sneaked in for the touchdown that made it 42-35 with 12:09 left.

The Cardinals will observe their open date next week then travel to Hammond, La. on Oct. 1 to take on Southeastern Louisiana in their 2011 Southland Conference opener at 3 p.m.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Texans Drop Colts 34-7, But Are There Still Questions To Be Answered?

(Photo by Darla Tamulitis-La Vita Loco Photography, Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved.)

By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2011 TexSport Publications

HOUSTON, TEXAS (September 11, 2011) The Houston Texans came out of their week one matchup with a win over the Indianapolis Colts, but there are a few questions that have been answered, a few more that have yet to be answered, and a few that possibly should be asked.

In their convincing 34-7 win over the Colts, 71,444 fans were left wondering if this team is the wave of the future or is it simply a single swell that hits the shore and dies out soon after reaching land.

The Texans did put points on the board, including 17 in the first quarter and 34 in the first half.

They were driving on their first possession when Matt Schaub was picked off by Melvin Bullitt which quickly ended their first drive.

It is debatable if they would have scored on that drive, but with the way the offense was moving the ball, that possession could (and should) have led to their first score.

They also could have scored a touchdown again if they did not have to settle for the field goal at the 4:27 mark in the 1st quarter on a fourth and seven play.

Granted the Colts are a team on a downward swing. Without Payton Manning, their offense was mediocre at best.

However, the Texans’ defense was heads-above where they were last year.

Wade Phillips certainly has his defense loaded and ready to go.

The Colts’ turnovers were capitalized on and the Texans took advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

I was a bit concerned about the level of play in the fourth quarter.

It seemed to me the Texans were sluggish on both sides of the ball and really did not keep their heads in the game to the very end.

That is one aspect of the game they must improve if they hope to advance throughout the season and obtain their first-ever playoff berth.

In the case of the defense, the Texans did have 43 combined tackles and that may not seem like many when compared that to the Colts (65).

But when the Colts only had possession of the ball for a tad over 23 minutes, the Texans’ tackle total was more than acceptable.

The thing that everyone must remember that this season is a work-in-progress for the Texans.
Everything must come together week in and week out and when it does, hopefully everything will fall into place by the send of the season and the Texans will see themselves in the playoffs.

The next test for the Texans will be on the road Sunday, Sept. 18 against the Miami Dolphins.

Miami is scheduled to play the New England Patriots on Monday, Sept 12 for their week one game.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Lamar Volleyball Falls 3-0 to Northern Illinois

BEAUMONT, TEXAS (September 7, 2011) Northern Illinois All-America Lauren Wicinski pounded down a match-high 16 kills Thursday night at McDonald Gym as the visiting Huskies defeated Lamar University 3-0 (18-25, 21-25, 19-25) in a non-conference volleyball match.

The Lady Cardinals schedule will not get any easier this weekend as they host Baylor, Mississippi State and UTEP in the MCM Elegante’ Invitational. Lamar and Mississippi State will square off on Friday night at 6:30, with the Lady Cards facing UTEP on Saturday at 12:30 and then closing the tournament with Baylor at 7 p.m.

Lamar stands at 1-7 on the year, having lost its last six matches. NIU won its sixth straight match to improve to 8-2 on the season.

“I thought we were able to do some things offensively tonight that we wanted,” said LU head coach Justin Gibert. “However, we couldn’t stop them. They’re playing at a higher level than us. They’re a step quicker, and it’s just a pace we’re not used to.”

After dropping the first set 25-18, Lamar looked to even the match at a set apiece with a strong rally in the second set. The Lady Cardinals attacked at impressive .333 as a team in set two, and cut a 19-13 deficit down to one at 19-18.

However, NIU would not be denied the set. Behind Wicinski’s offense, the Huskies stemmed the tide and pulled out the set 25-21. As strong as Lamar was offensively in the set, NIU hit a match-high .370 with 14 kills on only 27 attempts with four attack errors.

The Huskies then hit .310 in set three to close the match with a 25-19 victory. In fitting fashion, the match ended on Wicinski’s 16th kill of the match.

While Lamar hit a solid .195 as a team, the Huskies were more efficient and finished with a 47-29 advantage in kills. NIU also finished with a 40-25 advantage in digs and a 9-7 advantage in service aces.

Sophomore outside hitter Sierra Whittaker had a strong match, finishing with eight kills and a .316 attack percentage. Whittaker added three block assists as Lamar finished with 8.5 as a team.

Junior setter Alex Morford saw her first action of the season as she continues to recover from a broken foot. Only cleared to play one set, Morford finished with five assists, a kills and two of LU’s five service aces.

“I thought she came out real competitive in that first set and I just wish we could have had her for more than just that one game,” said Gibert.

Sophomore outside hitter Megan McStravick added seven kills, five digs and a solid .294 attack percentage.

Allison McGlaughlin added eight kills for NIU, hitting an outstanding .412 in the match. She also finished with 10 digs, as did teammate Amber Walker.

Monday, September 05, 2011

UHs Keenum Earns Player of the Week Honors

(Photo bt Darla Tamulitis-La Vita Loco Photography, Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved)

QB Return Performance Honored by C-USA and Rivals.com

HOUSTON, TEXAS (September 5, 2011) University of Houston senior quarterback Case Keenum took home the first Conference USA Offensive honor as he was named Player of the Week after his 310-yard, two touchdown passing performance in the Saturday’s win over UCLA.

This is the 10th all-time player of the week honor for Keenum, more than any football player in C-USA history. He also was honored by Rivals.com as the Player of the Week for Conference USA.

In his first game back since suffering a season-ending injury a year ago, Keenum threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns in Houston’s 38-34 victory over UCLA on Saturday. Keenum completed 75 percent of his passes with 30 completions on 40 attempts and committed no turnovers.

Keenum, who added 30 yards on the ground, currently ranks ninth nationally in total offense (340 yards). He orchestrated six scoring drives, all covering more than 55 yards, while leading two drives before the half that covered 130 total yards in a combined one minute and 20 seconds. Houston also converted 8-of-13 third-down conversions with Keenum at the helm.

The Cougars return to action on Saturday, Sept. 10 with their first road contest when they travel to Denton, Texas for a 6 p.m. matchup vs. North Texas.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Houston Downs UCLA 38-34; Did the Cougars' Defense Get The Job Done?

(Photo by Darla Tamulitis-La Vita Loco Photography, Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved)

By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2011 TexSport Publications

HOUSTON, TEXAS (September 3, 2011) The Houston Cougars came right out at the start of the game and showed UCLA that this year was not going to be a repeat of last season.

The Cougars (1-0, 0-0 C-USA) downed a determined UCLA Bruins (0-1, 0-0, Pac-10) 38-34 in front of 31,144 fans at Robertson Stadium in Houston.

Houston is now 1-0 and has passed the first test of the season; beating a team that destroyed them in 2010.

But as they begin Sunday to prepare to face North Texas in Denton next Saturday, the Cougars still have issues that need to be addressed.

The issue is the defense? What can I say? What can anyone say?

In Houston’s 31-13 loss to UCLA in 2010, the Cougars gave up a total of 365 yards to the Bruins.

This year, they gave up 554 yards and won the game.

Let’s start out and look at the positive outcomes of the win over their West Coast opponent.

Yes, the Cougars pulled this game out and beat UCLA.

Yes, Case Keenum looked healthy without any indication that he was hampered by his injury sustained against the Bruins last year.

Yes, the offense did crank out 469 yards, five touchdowns, one field goal and score 38 points.

Yes, they Cougars played like a team that was possessed and wanted some payback against UCLA.

But let’s look at the defense?

The Bruins had 42 carries for 232 yards while passing for 322 net yards.

Combined, Bruin quarterbacks Richar Brehaut and Kevin Prince went 20-of-29 in the air and were not sacked once or throw any interceptions.

But my question is how can a team expect to win week after week giving up over 500 yards on defense?

That strategy cannot work. The Cougars cannot hope to be successful this season by just simply outscoring their opponents.

They have to field a solid defense and hone the skills of those defensive players to a fine edge so that they give up as few points as possible.

Do not get me wrong. I am not coming down on head coach Kevin Sumlin and the preparation and hard work he has put into the past nine months to put a defensive scheme on the field that will be successful.

I realize the process is an ongoing affair. The defense will get better as the season goes on.

However, with what the Cougars want to accomplish this season, the defense cannot give up over 500 points every game and expect to have a successful season.

On a positive side, the Cougars had 34 unassisted and 46 assisted tackles. That comes out to 80 total tackles.

It is interesting to note that the Bruins had exactly the same total number.

Marcus McGraw led the Cougars with 16 tackles, five of those unassisted while Colton Valencia and Derrick Mathews had four solo tackles each.

A total of 20 Houston players got in tackles.

But where the sacks? Where were the interceptions?

The defense somewhat got the job done but they must get better.

Both Brehaut and Prince had time to stay in the pocket and look for receivers. If the receivers were not there, they both had ample time to look for other options.

The Cougars will now have six days to prepare to take on North Texas next Saturday in Denton.

The Mean Green dropped their season opener to Florida International 41-16 this past Thursday in Miami.