Cougars set to pounce on Blazers in C-USA affair

Published November 02, 2011

| Sports Network

The 14th-ranked Houston Cougars will put their unblemished record on the line this weekend in Birmingham, taking on the UAB Blazers in Conference USA action.

With a win, Houston would have its best start in school history. Quarterback Case Keenum continues to shatter NCAA records as the season progresses, and the senior quarterback has an opportunity to become the all-time leading passer this weekend against the Blazers. Houston has four games standing in the way of a undefeated regular season, including a road trip to C-USA heavyweight Tulsa in the final game of the season on November 25th.

UAB shocked the league two weeks ago with a 26-24 win over UCF, but any momentum picked up from that game subsided in a 59-14 drubbing at the hands of Marshall last Saturday. The Blazers are near the bottom in most national defensive categories, and have struggled to score points this season (14.8 points per game), which doesn't bode well with one of college football's premier offenses coming to town this weekend.

"It has been forever since we played on the road," said Keenum at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. "We haven't played great on the road when you look at the past few games but I think we're at a different point in the season. Teams grow and change as you grow."

Keenum threw for 534 yards and career-high nine touchdowns against Rice, and the powerful performance vaulted him past Texas Tech's Graham Harrell as the FBS all-time touchdown passing leader. The nine touchdowns were two shy of tying the NCAA record. Keenum, who is already the NCAA's all-time all-purpose yardage leader, needs 267 yards this weekend to become the all-time leader in passing yards. He also needs just 67 more completions to become the all-time leader in that respective category.

"Records are a good thing, but we've got bigger things on our mind right now," said receiver Tyron Carrier at the weekly press conference on Tuesday."Records will come with winning games and trying to continue our championship season."

Keenum currently leads the country in total yards, averaging 405.5 per game, and ranks second in the country in passing efficiency (194.06). Houston ranks first in passing offense (453.2), total offense (612.3) and scoring (52.2). Houston amassed 656 yards of total offense against Rice, and Patrick Edwards caught seven passes for 318 yards and five touchdowns. Edwards averages 6.3 catches per game, and is second in the country in receiving yards per game (133.2). Carrier, who returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown last weekend, contributes 6.6 catches for 79.7 yards per game.

Houston's defense is anchored by linebackers Marcus McGraw and Sammy Brown, McGraw leads the team with 10 tackles per game. Brown leads the country in tackles for loss per game with 2.3, and is tied for third in the country in sacks per game with 1.06. Last week, Houston allowed 359 yards rushing to Rice, but gave up just 116 yards passing on 19 attempts. Houston is 86th in total defense (416.5) and allows 24.7 points per game.

The Blazers had five turnovers last weekend against Marshall, which turned two of those takeaways into touchdowns. Jonathan Perry completed 18-of-33 passes for 215 yards, but threw two interceptions and was sacked three times, while Darrin Reaves rushed for just 55 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries to pace a Blazers' running attack that registered just 70 yards. The performance was somewhat of a microcosm of UAB's season the Blazers average just 108.2 yards rushing per game, while the passing offense generates 228.1 yards per game. The Blazers have struggled to score, averaging 14.8 points per game. Perry has thrown for 1,057 yards and two touchdowns against six interceptions, and the running game has been trying to compensate for the loss of leading rusher Pat Shed during the last two weeks. Reaves has carried 36 times for 167 yards and one score this season. Jackie Williams ranks 12th in the C-USA with 45 catches for 423 yards.

Marshall hung 291 passing yards and six touchdowns on UAB's defense a week ago, which played well against the run, allowing a modest 138 yards on 36 carries. UAB is 99th in rushing defense (196.3) and 108th in pass defense (284.8), and the team only averages 4.6 tackles for loss per game (including less than one sack per outing). The unit is led by Jamie Bender, who is seventh in the C-USA with 74 tackles. Bender also has 6.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2011/11/02/cougars-set-to-pounce-on-blazers-in-c-usa-affair/