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Houston meets up with Navy in an American Athletic Conference matchup on Saturday from Navy Marine-Corps Stadium. The Mids are looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Temple at home. The Cougars have won three straight games after crushing East Carolina, 42-20 on the road. Houston downed the Mids, 24-14 at home last season.
Cougars’ offense appears unstoppable, but defense rises up against ECU
Houston has scored 40 or more points in every game this season. That includes a 70-14 win over Texas Southern on Sept. 22. But in their 22-point victory over East Carolina on the road, it was their defense that shined. They were never really threatened in this rout, as they were up 42-6 late in the fourth quarter and gave up two late touchdowns to make the score look less lopsided.
D'Eriq King threw for 209 yards and a pair of touchdowns for @UHCougarFB, who finished with 406 total yards of offense and forced four turnovers defensively on the way to a road victory on Saturday night. #AmericanFB pic.twitter.com/gTwgM7lr6c
— American Football (@American_FB) October 14, 2018
The Cougars received a defensive touchdown from Emeke Egbule, who scored on a 5-yard fumble recovery in the third quarter. Egbule also had an interception in the second quarter. All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver was sensational with six tackles, five for loss, one forced fumble and two sacks.
Offensively, quarterback D’Eriq King was solid with 209 yards passing and two TDs passing and one TD rushing. On the season, King is completing 63 percent of his passes for 1,571 yards with 20 TDs and just three picks. The 5-11 junior is also a dangerous runner with 225 yards and eight TDs. His top target is sophomore receiver Marquez Stevenson, who has 32 catches for 472 yards and seven TDs.
Offensively, the Cougars are nearly unstoppable as they rank fourth in the nation with 552.2 yards per game, 17th in passing yards per game (306ypg) and 16th in rushing yards (246.2ypg). Defensively, they have a lot of talent but they are anything but dominant. Fortunately for them, they allow just 116 rushing yards per game (20th), which is all that matters against an option team like Navy.
QB change not enough to help Navy
At 2-4, Navy is in big trouble. Mathematically, they still have a chance to win four more games and become bowl-eligible. Unfortunately for the Mids, they have to play Houston, No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 20 Cincinnati and No. 10 UCF before facing unranked Tulsa, Tulane and Army. So beating Houston at home might be their easiest task.
Unfortunately for the Mids, they are also not getting the breaks. They made a quarterback change, moving starter Malcolm Perry back to his old position of slotback and Garret Lewis took over as starter. That didn’t work in the first two possessions as they fumbled twice. Yet after all that, the Mids were up 17-7 in the third quarter. The Owls tied it at 17-17 in the third quarter with 5:53 left. On the next possession. Navy appeared to take the lead on a 30-yard run from Perry but Ford Higgins was called for an illegal block in the back and the Mids never scored again on Temple.
”I thought it killed us,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said about the penalty. ”I know I’m going to get reprimanded. I don’t care. I’ll take the fine. It was a horrible call. Just a flat-out horrible call. It was one of the worst I’ve seen in my 29 years of coaching. The guy did not push him. It cost us the game. I thought the call changed the game”.
Lewis struggled in his second-ever start at quarterback, completing just 3 of 11 for 14 yards and rushing for 56 yards on 12 attempts with one TD. Perry was held to 48 yards on 12 carries. On the bright side, sophomore slotback Nelson Smith had a career game with 108 yards on 18 carries with one TD.
The quarterback situation has not been stable for the triple option offense. Despite all their issues, they still rank third in the nation in rushing (303.7 ypg) and average 28 points per game (76th). On defense, they are ordinary at best, allowing 395.3 yards per game (75th) and 227.2 yards in the air (71st). Their best defense is a good offense. As long as Navy can hold the ball for long drives and score touchdowns, they’ll have a chance to get the upset.
- 18-8-1 ATS last 27 home games.
- 20-8 Under last 28 after a SU loss.
- 0-9 ATS last 9 on fieldturf.
- 3-9 ATS last 12 road games.
- 4-0 Under last 4 conference games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
This spread keeps rising from 12.5 to 13. Navy is a desperate team right now so they will bring everything they have at home. They could have won last week’s game against a hot Temple team had that blocking in the back call not been called. The last two games between these two opponents have been pretty close. As good as Houston has been, they have won two games on the road against cupcakes (Rice, ECU) and lost one to a quality team (Texas Tech). With Perry back at slotback, Lewis should be more comfortable for his second straight start.
Prediction: Navy +13
Full-Game Total Pick
Navy’s offense is their defense. By keeping Houston off the field, they make this a shorter game with long, time-consuming drives. Despite being a high-scoring team, Houston is an under team. They are 17-7 Under their last 24 games overall. Navy has gone under 20 of 28 after a SU loss.
Prediction: Under 60.5
Half-Time Side Pick
I think Navy will come out with a strong gameplan and they will keep Houston at bay. Navy can hit you with fullback traps, quarterback draws and slotbacks coming from all directions. It could take Houston a half to adjust to this offense.
Prediction: Navy +6.5 first half
Half-Time Total Bet
The fact that Navy is going to emphasize going on long drives, makes this a shorter half. Neither defense is dominant but I don’t see both teams putting up big scores in the first half combined.
Prediction: Under 30.5 first half