FACTS & STATS: Site: TDECU Stadium (40,000) — Houston, Texas.
Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: UNLV 1-1, Houston 1-1. Away Record: UNLV
0-1, Houston 0-1. Neutral Record: UNLV 0-0, Houston 0-0. Conference Record:
UNLV 0-0, Houston 0-0. Series Record: Houston leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: Playing at home for the third time in the first four games of the
2014 season, the Houston Cougars find themselves matched up against the UNLV
Rebels in non-conference action at the new TDECU Stadium.
The Cougars have had mixed results in their first two home games, first losing
to Texas-San Antonio (27-7) before thrashing Grambling State (47-0). Last
week, Houston made the trip to Utah to challenge 25th-ranked BYU and bowed to
those Cougars by a score of 33-25 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
As for the Rebels, who are embarking on a three-game road trip that will keep
them away from Sin City until they host Fresno State on Oct. 10, they too are
1-2 after three games. The lone win for UNLV was a narrow 13-12 decision
versus Northern Colorado on Sept. 6, but just seven days later the team was
again back in the loss column with a 48-34 setback to visiting Northern
Houston won the only two previous meetings with the Rebels, including a 37-9
romp in the most recent encounter back in 1990.
UNLV dug itself a huge hole in the first half against the Huskies, scoring
just five points on a Jonathan Leiva field goal and a team safety. Trailing
28-5 in the third, the Rebels responded with three touchdowns in the period
and a total of 29 points in the second half, but still the defense failed to
keep NIU down when the team needed it most.
Quarterback Blake Decker did his best to keep the hosts competitive,
converting 24-of-42 passes for 397 yards and two scores, but he was picked off
once and suffered three sacks. Devante Davis continued to show why he is
considered one of the top receivers in UNLV history as he caught six balls for
150 yards and two TDs.
Running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence also landed in the end zone twice for
UNLV, but his 17 carries for just 60 yards was still lacking, especially when
you consider the Rebels surrendered 331 yards and three TDs on a massive 69
running plays by Northern Illinois.
The offensive line for the Huskies allowed a mere four tackles in the
backfield, a huge accomplishment given how many times NIU kept the ball on the
ground. One of those TFL went to Peni Vea, who finished with 12 tackles and a
Vea, one of three players with at least 20 stops through three games, leads
the team with 24, of which 19 have been solo efforts. He is also tied for
second on the unit with 2.0 TFL and has one of their six sacks. Unfortunately,
in terms of total defense, UNLV ranks 123rd in the country with a massive
576.7 ypg allowed, with 274.0 ypg (122nd) coming on the ground.
Outside of the two TDs posted by Murray-Lawrence last weekend, the running
attack for the Rebels is questionable at best, which is why Decker continues
to seek out Davis who has 16 catches for 268 yards. Decker himself has
converted 56.4 percent of his passes for 256.7 ypg, but if the UNLV defense
can’t get off the field it doesn’t matter how well the passing attack
Until the final four minutes of the second quarter, the Houston Cougars didn’t
seem to have a prayer versus the BYU version of the felines. Houston trailed
23-0 before showing signs of life, eventually closing to within eight points
midway through the fourth quarter, but then the visitors ran out of steam.
Quarterback John O’Korn finished the meeting 30-of-52 for 307 yards and three
touchdowns, one of those scores going to Daniel Spencer at the end of the
first half on a Hail Mary. Spencer pulled down 10 passes for 133 yards, both
game highs, while Deontay Greenberry turned his six catches into another 74
yards and two TDs. Unfortunately for Houston, the team had almost no running
attack to speak of, other than the 10 net yards gained on 13 attempts.
The Houston defense did manage to pick off a pair of passes and recover a
fumble, but that was only after allowing BYU to score touchdowns on three
straight possessions in the first half.
Generally speaking, the defense for the Cougars gets better as games wear on,
with the team permitting a combined 23 points in the first quarter of contests
and then only 10 in the fourth. Oddly enough, the defense seems to get
stronger later in games, even though the unit is having to stay out on the
field for an average of close to 35 minutes per outing.
On the offensive side of the ball, Houston is having trouble producing on the
ground with and average of only 86.3 ypg, which ranks 113th in the nation this
week. Add to that a pass efficiency rating of only 107.97 (105th), and it is
easy to see why the Cougars are just 87th in scoring (26.3 ppg).
With O’Korn having just as many interceptions (four) as he does passing
touchdowns, this might be a good opportunity for the UNLV secondary to get on
track. However, the Rebels are a much easier target than BYU and that should
work in favor of O’Korn, even if he does make a few more mistakes this time
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Houston 31, UNLV 20