Football: Getting to know No. 13 Houston

UConn running back Arkeel Newsome scampers for yards against East Carolina on October 30th, 2015. Newsome has a team high six touchdowns. (Ashley Maher/The Daily Campus).

With No. 13 Houston coming into town this weekend, I thought it would be good for UConn fans to get to know the Cougars a bit better leading up to the game.

I talked with Shardanna Jones, a staff writer for The Cougar at the University of Houston, and asked her some questions about the undefeated Cougars.

Here is what she had to say.

Zampini: We saw Houston make a 20-point comeback to win last week against Memphis, how did they do in that second half to be able to win that game?

Jones: Simple: it is apart of their culture. Regardless of the deficit, no matter how bleak or scary it looks, it is in the Cougars' culture to rally together, play for each other and be optimistic. The team rallied behind Kyle Postma and stepped up their game in the second half. All they needed was a big play, which was a 40-yard completion to Demarcus Ayers. Top that off with a critical interception and a couple of rushing touchdowns, and the Cougars have once again placed themselves into a position to take advantage and finish off the game. There's your comeback.

Zampini: Greg Ward Jr. was injured last game and we saw sophomore Kyle Postma come in the game and lead the team to the win. What can UConn fans expect at the quarterback position this weekend?

Jones: UConn fans should definitely expect Ward to be the starter for Saturday's game. Coach Tom Herman has stated that Ward will return as starting QB if 100 percent healthy. Postma won't be too far behind if not, however.

Zampini: What are Houston's biggest strength and weakness?

Jones: The defense is Houston's biggest strength, for sure. UH's defense is guaranteed to make plays each and every game – be it from linebacker Steven Taylor or Elandon Roberts – or within the Cougars' secondary. The entire Third Ward Defense always looks to make a statement and they show no mercy. The Cougars' biggest weakness is its struggles on offense. They've suffered the losses of four offensive linemen and also backup running back Ryan Jackson. They've struggled to convert on third down and keep drives alive, and have taken a small step backwards from where they were at the beginning of the season. In order to win their upcoming matchups, the offense will have to get a little bit better than it has been in the last couple of weeks. 

Zampini: One player on each side of the ball UConn fans should watch out for?

Jones: Be on the lookout for linebacker Elandon Roberts. He's coming off of a game where he had a game-high of 18 tackles, including two for a loss and also one sack, and is fourth nationally with 117 tackles. Roberts is definitely a quiet assassin. If the Cougars have a healthy Greg Ward Jr., I would have to say that he is the guy to watch out for on the offense. He is still a dual threat with tremendous athletic ability, and if no injury, will be able to do what he does best–to confuse opposing defenses.  His play-making abilities is the fuel that gets the entire offense going. If that happens, UConn fans will learn from experience as to why the Cougars are undefeated. 

Zampini: What is your prediction for this game?

Jones: I see big defensive stops for both teams, and I see the Huskies being energized and well prepared after coming off a bye week and ready to make a bold statement, but it won't be against the Cougars. The only way for Houston to be defeated is if they take this matchup lightly, and they won't. The offense will step up, the defense will keep the Cougars alive and they will return to Houston 11-0. My prediction: Houston 31, Connecticut 17.


Matthew Zampini is sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.zampini@uconn.edu. He tweets @Matt_Zamp.