Bearcats At Houston; Keys To The Game

Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Cougars are the most complete team the Bearcats have faced to date. Their offense is generally excellent, as is usually the case. Their defense is much improved and they have some of the best special teams that the Bearcats are likely to see this year. So how exactly do the Bearcats go about winning this game?

Make A Special Teams Play

The Bearcats have been dreadful on special teams all year long. The coverage has been alright, and John Lloyd has been surprisingly good at punter. But the kicking game has been a disaster as Tony Milano has taken a massive step back this year in consistency. On top of that the Bearcats have gotten nothing from the return game this year, or either of the last two years really. A non offensive TD is asking a lot of this group today, but they have to break even with the Cougars for UC to walk out of BBVA Compas Stadium with the win.

Beat The Blitz

Houston's defense is in many ways a perfect compliment to their offense. Like their offense they attack from the outset, putting pressure on the opposition to operate their normal plan under extreme duress. When it works they get to the quarterback and affect his throws before he can find the seams in the defense. It can be very difficult for an offense to get into any sort of rhythm against the Cougars, ask UCF or Louisville.

Most teams blitz with five, and play a conservative defense with three underneath defenders and three deep defenders. Thats not what the Cougars do, they have no problems sending 6 or 7 defenders and betting (often correctly) that they get to the QB before the QB gets to them. Brendon Kay has been stellar against the blitz all year, that has to continue. This is going to be a rough game for him, he will get hit early and often, but he has to keep the offense in some sort of rhythm beating their pressure scheme. Blitzing UC into submission is plans A through D for Houston. UC has to find a way to neutralize their pressure.

Get Off The Field On Third Downs

The Bearcats defensive approach to Houston will probably mirror their approach to SMU. The philosophical underpinnings between the two offenses are different, but the end result is similar. UC struggled to impact SMU at all for long stretches of the first half, but when they did they often forced third and longs, and the Mustangs converted time and again on those third and longs.

There are plenty of reasons to think that it will be different against Houston. John O'Korn is very good, but he is still just a freshman and makes plenty of freshman mistakes like staring down his receivers and forcing throws. My read on him is that he is far more likely to get caught trying to play hero ball than Gilbert was, and as such is less willing to live to play another down. Houston is a very average third down team this year, it would greatly help if they were bad today.


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