In week one, the Houston Cougars played Tennessee Tech to a 52-24 final at TDECU Stadium. The Coogs averaged almost six yards per carry and 10 yards per pass en route to a 621 total yard offensive performance. Individually, Greg Ward Jr. continued to show his development under Tom Herman and Major Applewhite as he completed 78% of his passes, and gained over 300 yards on his own with three touchdowns (one passing, and two rushing).
The Houston defense, although giving up 24 points to TTU, showed development as well. To end the first half and begin the second, the Cougar defense forced punts on five straight drives and in interception on the sixth. They did give up 14 fourth quarter points, but the game was well in hand at that point. Also, the Coog offense scored 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Louisville started the 2015 campaign against a different type of opponent, rather than looking to the FCS ranks for their first game of the season, the Cardinals met up with the Auburn Tigers in Atlanta. Though it looked early on like Auburn might run away with the game (Louisville was held scoreless in the first half), the Cardinals were able to make a game of it in the second half. Louisville scored 24 second half points but it wasn't enough to beat the Tigers as Auburn walked away with a 31-24 victory.
The Cardinals' offense was able to move the ball all game long against Auburn as the running game was able to gain over 230 yards on the ground and the passing game added 167 yards. The problem for Bobby Petrino's bunch was four costly turnovers. The first two Auburn scores of the game were set up by a Lamar Jackson interception on the first play from scrimmage, and a Justin Garrett 82-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown when Louisville was driving.
The Louisville defense looked dominant during the game as they only allowed 17 points. If the Louisville offense could've protected the ball, the end result would have looked a lot different. The Cardinals kept Auburn to less than 200 yards rushing, and even less passing (137 yards). To go along with the low yardage, Louisville also picked off Tigers quarterback Jeremy Johnson three times.
The 2015 game will mark the 16th time the Cougars and the Cardinals, former conference foes, have played with Louisville owning an 8-7 record. The two sides battled to a 20-13 win in 2013 (also at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium).
KEYS TO THE GAME-
Usually, the mantra for winning and losing football games comes down to running the ball and stopping the run. Both of these teams have quarterbacks that like to run, as the two combined for 29 rushing attempts and over 200 yards in week one. The key will be stopping these QBs and making them face passing situations on third down. Houston has the better passer in Ward, but the Cardinals have a better defense.
For Houston to win, the defense will have to keep Jackson in the pocket and force him to throw the football. For the offense, just let Ward do what he does.
For Louisville to win, the defense will have to not only keep Ward in the pocket and slow down Farrow, but will also have to make sure that Ward isn't comfortable in the pocket, disguising coverages and blitzes to force him to use his feet. On offense, if the Cards don't protect the football better than they did against Auburn, the Houston offense could run away with this one.
Key Players- UH (Season Stats)
Greg Ward Jr.: 21-28-0, 275 yards 1 TD; 13 rush attempts, 107 yards, 2 TDs
Kenneth Farrow: 11 rush attempts, 49 yards
Demarcus Ayers: 10 receptions 121 yards
Elandon Roberts: 9 Tackles
Key Players- UL (Season Stats)
Lamar Jackson: 9-20-1-3, 100 yards, 16 rush attempts 106 yards, 1 TD
James Quick: 4 receptions, 28 yards
Josh Harvey-Clemons: 14 tackles