Game Notes - Houston at Temple


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     THE GAME
    The Game At A Glance
    Date Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013
    Time 11 a.m. CST
    Location Philadelphia, Pa.
    Venue Lincoln Financial Field
    Capacity 68,532
    Surface Natural Grass
    TV ESPN Regional
    Radio SportsTalk 790
    Live Stats UHCougars.com

    » The University of Houston opens play in its sixth conference in program history as it travels to Philadelphia for its American Athletic Conference opener vs. Temple Saturday at 11 a.m. CST. Houston's all-time record in its first 67 years of existence is 389-341-15, including a mark of 19-45-3 in road openers and 26-23-1 in conference road openers.
    » The 2013 season marks Houston's first in The American and its first opportunity to automatically qualify for a BCS Bowl by winning its league crown. The American is Houston's sixth conference since the program started in 1946. The Cougars are a combined 32-22-1 when their first years as a conference newcomer are combined.
    » Houston opened the season last Friday with a 62-13 win over Southern and were led by WR Daniel Spencer (two receiving TDs, one rushing TD) and RB Ryan Jackson (120 rushing yards, two rushing TDs). Houston ended the game +4 in the turnover battle.
    » Houston's two-deep depth chart sports 25 underclassmen, including seven true freshmen, compared to the 20 upperclassmen among the chart.
    » Houston returns on campus to the Houston Football Stadium in 2014 as its new stadium is being constructed on the footprint of its former home, Robertson Stadium. Houston will #PaintHoustonRed as it plays its 2013 games at three sites across the nation's fourth largest city. The Cougars will play five games in Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL's Houston Texans, one game at BBVA Compass Stadium, home of MLS' Houston Dynamo, and one game at Rice Stadium.

     THE COACHES
    Tony Levine | Minnesota, 1996 | 7-7 (2nd year as HC/6th year at UH)

    Matt Rhule | Penn State University, 1997 | 0-1 (1st year at Temple)

     FAST FACTS ON THE SERIES
    » Series Record Overall: Houston leads, 2-0
    » Series Record at Houston: Houston leads, 1-0
    » Series Record at Temple: Houston leads, 1-0
    » Last Meeting Houston 65, Temple 7 (Aug. 30, 1989 at Houston)

     PLAYERS TO WATCH
    RICHIE LEONE, K/P, SR.
    The first Special Teams Player of the Week for The American Athletic Conference, Leone enters his fourth year as Houston's starting punter and has been named a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award the past two seasons. Leone has added kicking to his resume as well and registered his first career points last week with two field goals and six extra points to go along with his 47 yards per punt average. Leone also had eight kickoffs with an average of 64 yards including three touchbacks.
    DANIEL SPENCER, WR, JR.
    Spencer started his third collegiate season with a bang against Southern as he led the nation with three touchdowns on the opening weekend. Two of his touchdowns came in the air as the junior hauled in a career-high nine receptions for his second career 100-yard receiving game as he ended the night with 102 yards. Spencer also took his first career rushing attempt 45 yards to the end zone to get UH on the board just 39 seconds into the second half.


    The weekly one-hour call-in radio show will take place each Tuesday from 8-9 p.m. CT and will air live on KPRC 950 AM (Weeks 1-5, 10, 12) and KBMF-AM SportsTalk 790 (Weeks 6-9, 11, 13). Join Houston head coach Tony Levine and host Jeremy Branham each Tuesday at Ragin Cajun restaurant at 4302 Richmond Ave. for the show.


     THE OPPONENT
    » In its first season under head coach Matt Rhule, Temple opened the season with a 28-6 loss at Notre Dame. After falling behind 14-0, Temple got on the board with a one-yard touchdown run from Kenny Harper before the Fighing Irish score the game's final 14 points.
    » The Owls finished the 2012 season 4-7, including a 2-5 mark in the former Big East Conference. Temple dropped five its of final six games of the season and was 2-4 at home on the season.
    » Junior QB Connor Reilly led the Owls on the ground with 65 rushing yards on 12 carries (5.4 average) and through the air with 228 yards on 23-of-46 passing. Sophomore LB Tyler Matakevich and 2012 FWAA Freshman All-American paced the Owls defensively with 11 tackles including two for loss.

     THE SERIES
    » Houston and Temple have met twice with the Cougars claiming both games - a 37-7 win on Nov. 14, 1987 in Philadelphia and a 65-7 win on Sept. 30, 1989 in Houston's Astrodome.

     TIES WITH TEMPLE
    » Temple's defensive coordinator Phil Snow was the Detroit Lions' defensive coordinator from 2006-08 including two seasons (2007-08) when UH's outside receivers coach Brandon Middleton was playing for the Lions.
    » Freshman QB John O'Korn is originally from Huntingdon, Pa., which is three hours west of Philadelphia, before his family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., prior to his junior year of high school.

     LAST TIME OUT
    » Houston opened its 68th season of college football with a 62-13 win over Southern last Friday at Reliant Stadium. UH improved to 35-31-2 in season openers as its 62 points were the fourth-most scored in a season opener.
    » The Cougars racked up 372 yards on the ground, marking the most yards on the ground since rushing for 302 yards against North Texas on Oct. 6, 2012.
    » Houston forced four turnovers on the night (three fumbles, one interception) and converted 17 points off of the turnovers. The Cougars did turnover the ball over once, marking the first time they had no turnovers since defeating Penn State in the TicketCity.com Bowl on Jan. 2, 2012.
    »
    Offensively the Cougars were paced by RB Ryan Jackson and WR Daniel Spencer. Jackson had a game-high 120 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground while Spencer led all with 102 receiving yards on nine receptions including two touchdowns. The junior also added a 45-yard rushing touchdown on his first career carry.
    » At quarterback, junior David Piland started the game and finished with 148 yards and one touchdown on 15-of-23 passing while true freshman John O'Korn also saw action in the game, finishing with 107 yards and three touchdowns on 11-of-15 passing.

     MOVING TO THE AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE

    » For the first time in 18 years, Houston will play in a different conference as it joins The American Athletic Conference in 2013.
    » One of four new programs in The American Athletic Conference, Houston will host Cincinnati, Memphis, SMU and USF while traveling to UCF, Louisville, Rutgers and Temple. Non-conference action will see UH face off against Southern, Rice, UTSA and BYU. Houston has never played three of the teams - BYU, Rutgers and UTSA.
    »
    Entering its 23rd season as a football-playing entity, The American Athletic Conference holds its BCS automatic qualifier status for the 2013 season.

     

     #PaintHoustonRed
    » Robertson Stadium, Houston's home in 2012, is literally no more. Demolition on the 70-year old stadium began on Dec. 3, 2012, and the stadium was gone in three weeks. The Cougars finished 72-44-1 (.620) inside Robertson Stadium and were 36-9 (.800) dating back to 2006.
    » Houston held its official groundbreaking for the Houston Football Stadium on the previous footprint of Robertson Stadium on Feb. 8, 2013. The 40,000-seat stadium is set to open August of 2014.
    » With its on-campus home being constructed, the Cougars will #PaintHoustonRed as they play four of their 2013 games at Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL's Houston Texans, one at BBVA Compass Stadium, home of the MLS' Houston Dynamo and one at Rice Stadium.
    » Houston is 2-4 all time at Reliant Stadium with its lone win coming last season when it defeated crosstown rival Rice, 35-14, and its second last Friday against Southern.
    »
    The Cougars are 55-36-3 all time at Rice Stadium, home of the Nov. 23 meeting with Cincinnati, and have never played at BBVA Compass Stadium, the site of their Oct. 12 game vs. Memphis.

     YOUTH IS SERVED
    » When Houston takes the field, its two-deep depth chart will sport just six seniors among its 44 spots on offense and defense. Senior punter Richie Leone is not counted in the six but holds down the starting position at kicker, punter and kickoff specialist, Houston's only senior on the special teams depth chart.
    » All together, the Houston offensive and defensive two-deep shows five true freshmen, seven redshirt freshmen, 13 sophomores, 14 juniors and the six seniors.
    » Seven true freshmen saw action in Houston's season-opening win: WR Demarcus Ayers, DE Tyus Bowser, K Ty Cummings,
    TE/DE Chauntez Jackson, WR John Leday, FB Tyler McCloskey and Q John O'Korn.
    » Nine true freshmen played in 2013 for Houston including 30 starts.
    » Three of Houston's top nine receivers in 2012 were true freshmen while three of the top four rushers were sophomores or freshmen.
    » Trevon Stewart led all freshmen nationally with 126 tackles in 2012 en route to being named an FWAA Freshman All-American.
    » Stewart and receivers Deontay Greenberry and Larry McDuffey were named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team last season. Greenberry led the league's freshmen with 47 receptions for 569 yards while McDuffey led all first-year players in the league with four receiving touchdowns.

    THE AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE STANDINGS
      AMERICAN OVERALL    
    TEAM W L Pct. W L Pct. LAST WEEK THIS WEEK
    Houston 0 0 .000 1 0 1.000 W, Southern, 62-13 at Temple
    UCF 0 0 .000 1 0 1.000 W, Akron, 38-7 at FIU (Friday)
    Cincinnati 0 0 .000 1 0 1.000 W, Purdue, 42-7 at Illinois
    Louisville 0 0 .000 1 0 .000 W, Ohio, 49-7 Eastern Kentucky
    Memphis 0 0 .000 0 0 .000 Bye Duke
    Rutgers 0 0 .000 0 1 .000 L, at Fresno State, 52-51 (OT) Norfolk State
    Conneticut 0 0 .000 0 1 .000 L, Townson, 33-18 -
    SMU 0 0 .000 0 1 .000 L, Texas Tech, 41-23 Montana State
    USF 0 0 .000 0 1 .000 L, McNeese State, 53-21 at Michigan State
    Temple 0 0 .000 0 1 .000 L, at Notre Dame, 28-6 Houston

    2013 NON-CONFERENCE OPPONENTS
      Conference Overall    
    TEAM W L Pct. W L Pct. LAST WEEK THIS
    Southern (SWAC) 0 0 .000 0 1 .000 L, at Houston, 62-13 at Northwestern State
    Rice (C-USA) 0 0 .000 0 1 .000 L, at Texas A&M, 52-31 -
    UTSA (C-USA) 0 0 .000 1 0 1.000 W, at New Mexico, 21-13 Oklahoma State
    BYU (Independent) 0 0 .000 0 1 .000 L, at Virginia, 19-16 Texas

     DEGREES IN HAND
    » Five Houston seniors entered the season having already earned an undergraduate degree. George Bamfo, Thomas Bates, Ty Cloud, Kevin Forsch and Ralph Oragwu all completed degree requirements prior to this season.
    » Bates earned his degree in health while Oragwu completed course work for a sociology degree.
    » On the business side of things, Bamfo and Cloud received degrees in consumer sciences and marketing while Forsch earned a business degree.
    » Three additional Cougars complete their degree requirements this December: Aaron Johnson, Austin Lunsford and David Piland.

    Conference Years Record First Year/Finish
    Lone Star 1946-48 12-20 4-6/5th
    Gulf Coast 1949 5-4-1 5-4-1/3rd
    Missouri Valley 1951-59 49-37-3 6-5/4th
    Southwest 1976-95 115-108-4 10-2/1st
    Conference USA 1996-2012 104-103 7-5/1st
    American 2013- 1-0 1-01?
     BEGINNER'S LUCK?
    » The American Athletic Conference marks Houston's sixth conference since the program was founded in 1946. UH also spent 17 years as an independent (1950, 1960-75).
    » Houston never finished worse than third in the West Division of Conference USA after finishing in the top three in 2012.
    » C-USA title game participants in 2011, 2009 and 2006, Houston and Tulsa (2012, 2008, 2007, 2005) established a grip on the C-USA West crown. Only SMU (2010) advanced from the west to the C-USA title game in the game's eight-year existence.
    » Houston ended its Conference USA stint with the second-best league record since 2005 when the conference split into two divisions. Over the last eight years since the divisional split, Houston accumulated a league record of 45-19 and an overall record of 65-39.

     LOOKING AHEAD TO 2013
    » Twenty-six full or part-time starters, not counting specialists, return in 2013. Among those are last year's leaders in passing (David Piland), kick returns (Ryan Jackson), interceptions (Zach McMillian) and punting (Richie Leone).
    » The 12 opponents on the 2013 schedule combined for a record of 85-65 (.567), eight finished .500 or better, six won at least eight games including three with at least 10 wins and seven played in bowl games.
    » The program welcomes an incoming class of 29 that is comprised of 19 high school student-athletes, eight junior college transfers and two four-year transfers.
    » Five of the 26 newcomers enrolled in the program in January for spring workouts - DE Trevor Harris, WR D'Juan Hines, LB Elandon Roberts, LB Caleb Tucker and DB Turon Walker.
    » Houston's roster sports 47 players who were not with the program in 2012 and 15 who redshirted last season in their first year on campus.

     LOOKING BACK AT 2012
    » Houston finished its final season in Conference USA and its final year in Robertson Stadium with a 5-7 record including a 4-4 mark in C-USA play.
    » Safety Trevon Stewart earned FWAA Freshman All-America honors while 13 total Cougars earned All-Conference USA honors.
    » Nine true freshmen played on the year and accounted for 27 starts.
    » With 45 points in its win over UTEP, Houston eclipsed the 35-point mark for the fifth straight game, a feat that had only been accomplished two other times in program history - by the 2011 team (12 straight games to open the season) and the 1989 team (six straight games to end the season).
    » The 2012 senior class closed out its career in a tie for seventh for the most wins, 33, by a single class in a four-year period at the University of Houston.
    » Injuries hit the Houston program especially hard last season as members of the team's two deep missed a combined 58 games this season due to injuries. Eight players suffered season-ending injuries and the team's most valuable player, Charles Sims, was forced to miss three full games and the second half of three others.

    School C-USA Record Overall Record
    Tulsa 48-17 72-34
    Houston 45-19 65-39
    East Carolina 44-20 57-46
    UCF 43-22 60-44
    Southern Miss 36-28 57-45
     END OF CONFERENCE USA ERA
    » The 2012 season marked the end of Houston's 17-year run as a member in Conference USA. Houston's first year as a member came in 1996 as the Cougars recorded a 4-1 conference record. Houston finished its stint in C-USA with a 68-60 conference record in the 17-year span and an overall record of 103-104.
    » Houston never finished worse than third in the West Division of Conference USA after finishing in the top three in 2012.
    » C-USA title game participants in 2011, 2009 and 2006, Houston and Tulsa (2012, 2008, 2007, 2005) established a grip on the C-USA West crown. Only SMU (2010) advanced from the west to the C-USA title game in the game's eight-year existence.
    » Houston ended its Conference USA stint with the second-best league record since 2005 when the conference split into two divisions. Over the last eight years since the divisional split, Houston accumulated a league record of 45-19 and an overall record of 65-39.

     ON THE OFFENSIVE
    » Since 2006, no team in college football has racked up more offensive yards than Houston who has 48,315 yards in that time.

    Rank Team Total Yards (06-present) Season Average (06-12)
    1. Houston 48,953 6,902
    2. Oregon 45,479 6,387
    3. Oklahoma 45,131 6,386
    4. Nevada 44,693 6,334
    5. Boise State 41,947 5,992

     QUICK STRIKE POTENTIAL
    » Of Houston's 64 offensive scoring drives last season, 30 came in under two minutes. Twelve of those 30 came in under a minute with the season's quickest drive lasting just seven seconds at East Carolina as David Piland hit Isaiah Sweeney in the end zone from 34 yards out.
    » Sixteen scoring drives consisted of five plays or less.
    » Fourteen of Houston's touchdowns last year covered at least 30 yards. Ten different Houston players crossed the goal line on the 14 30-plus yard TDs.
    »
    Houston returned to its ways Friday night as five of its 10 scoring drives lasted under two minutes including three under one minute. Its quickest lasted just 39 seconds as the Cougars covered 69 yards on just three plays capped by a Daniel Spencer 45-yard touchdown run.

    Expolsive Plays (20 yards or longer)
    Team 2010 2011 2012 Total
    1. Oklahoma State 75 94 92 261
    2. Houston 65 109 80 254
    3. Oregon 82 88 80 250
    4.. Baylor 69 93 86 248
    5. Northern Illinois 77 79 73 229
     EXPLOSIVE PLAYS
    » Over the last three seasons, Houston has trailed just Oklahoma State in explosive plays of 20 yards or longer with 254 to OSU's 254.
    » The Cougars got off to a bang with seven explosive plays in their season opener. Daniel Spencer had Houston's most-explosive play of the night, a 45-yard rush for a touchdown, one of three plays of 20 yards or longer on the night for Spencer.
    »
    True freshman Demarcus Ayers tied Spencer with three explosive plays Friday night as the receiver had three kickoff returns of at least 20 yards.
    » For a full breakdown of Houston's explosive plays this season, jump to page 19 of the notes.

     OFFENSIVE COACHING CHANGES
    » Doug Meacham, who spent the last eight seasons at Oklahoma State, joined the Houston staff on Jan. 14 as the program's new offensive coordinator. A vital part of an OSU offense that averaged at least 40 points in five of his eight years in Stillwater, Meacham will oversee the program's quarterbacks.
    »
    Entering his second season at Houston, Travis Bush was elevated to co-offensive coordinator and assistant head coach and shifted back to leading the program's running backs after taking over as offensive play caller and quarterbacks coach during the 2012 season.
    »
    Glen Elarbee joined the program on Jan. 14 as its offensive line coach after spending 2012 at Middle Tennessee State where his unit ranked second nationally with just seven sacks allowed on 344 pass attempts. The first-year Houston coach spent two seasons coaching alongside Meacham at Oklahoma State.
    »
    Brandon Middleton and Jamie Christian both return in 2012 with Middleton coaching outside receivers and Christian taking on the inside receivers including the return of the tight end position.

     THROWING IT AROUND
    » Just one scholarship quarterback from 2012 returns in junior David Piland.
    »
    Houston head coach Tony Levine announced Piland as his starting quarterback on Friday, Aug. 23, and also announced that his backup, John O'Korn, will play against Southern.
    »
    Piland started 10 games, missing one with an injury, and finished the year with 2,924 yards and 16 touchdowns on 256-of-448 passing.
    » After stepping into action as a true freshman in 2010, Piland redshirted in 2011 before grabbing the starting reins in 2012. The junior currently ranks seventh in Houston history with 457 career completions and 5,585 career passing yards.
    »
    Piland was fourth on the team in 2012 with 190 rushing yards including the season's longest rush - an 86-yard TD scamper at UCLA.
    » O'Korn knows a thing or two about winning as he led St. Thomas Aquinas to the Florida Class 7A State Title en route to earning Florida 7A Offensive Player of the Year honors. He finished the year with 2,552 passing yards and 22 touchdowns against just four interceptions while rushing 95 times for 576 yards and 15 touchdowns.
    »
    Both Piland and O'Korn saw action against Southern with Piland finishing with 148 yards and one touchdown on 15-of-23 passing while O'Korn threw for three touchdowns and 107 yards on 11-of-15 passing.
    »
    The program also welcomed two more quarterbacks to the roster in 2013 - junior college transfer Billy Cosh and freshman Greg Ward Jr.

    THE LINE ON THE LINE
    » For the second straight year, the Houston offensive line entered the year having lost just one starter as right guard Jacolby Ashworth graduated after earning All-Conference USA honors in his final season.
    » The unit took a hit in the season opener as OT Ralph Oragwu suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the year. The senior was starting his first career game at left tackle after starting 10 games at right tackle in 2012. Rowdy Harper, who owns 27 career starts including 12 at left tackle in 2012, will slide over to replace Oragwu.
    » With Oragwu out, the group consists of six players with a combined 86 games of starting experience - LT Rowdy Harper (27), LG Ty Cloud (26), RG/C Kevin Forsch (20), C Bryce Redman (9), G/T DeAnthony Sims (3) and T Zach Johnson (1).
    » The group of returning starters sports an average height of 6-3 with an average weight of 311 pounds.
    »
    Houston's 2012 offensive line gave up just 18 sacks on the season, ranking second in Conference USA and 43rd nationally.
    » The front line unit is led by new coach Glen Elarbee who coached a Middle Tennessee State offensive line in 2012 that finished second nationally with just seven sacks given up.
    »
    Houston's incoming offensive line class of Damien Parris, Ja'Braylin Thomas and Josh Thomas stand at an average height of 6-5 and have an average weight of 334 pounds.

     TAKE IT AWAY, DON'T GIVE IT AWAY
    » Fourteen of Houston's 15 drives vs. Southern either ended with a score or a punt as the UH offense did not commit a single turnover for the first time since Houston's TicketCity.com Bowl win over Penn State on Jan. 2, 2012. The lone drive that did not? The Cougars' seventh drive of the night that resulted in the end of the first half.
    » Houston scored on each of its first four drives, two touchdowns, two field goals, before registering its first punt of the night, and its only punt of the first half, on its fifth drive.
    » On the other side of the ball, the Houston defense forced four turnovers, three fumbles and one interception, to give the Cougars a +4 turnover difference, a number that leads The American Athletic Conference and ranks third nationally.
    » Defensive tackle Tomme Mark recorded the game's lone interception while George Bamfo, Trevon Stewart and Earl Foster all recorded fumble recoveries.

     A WHOLE CAST OF CHARACTERS

    Opponent # with a reception # with receiving TDs
    Texas State 8 1
    Louisiana Tech 10 4
    UCLA 7 0
    Rice 7 2
    North Texas 8 2
    UAB 11 1
    SMU 8 2
    UTEP 8 2
    East Carolina 10 4
    Tulsa 8 1
    Marshall 10 3
    Tulane 6 1
    » The 2013 receiving corps will have no problem with familiarity of the Houston system as 10 of the top 13 receivers from 2012 return.
    » The 10 returning players who recorded a catch in 2012 combined for a total of 191 receptions for 2,410 yards and 17 touchdowns.
    » The 2012 season saw 19 different Houston players record a reception including eight players with at least 20 receptions and four with at least 37. At least seven different players had a reception in 11 of 12 games including 11 players with a catch vs. UAB.
    » Five players accounted for seven 100-yard receiving efforts last season as Dewayne Peace (141 vs. Louisiana Tech, 103 at UCLA, 101 vs. Tulane), Daniel Spencer (157 vs. Louisiana Tech), Larry McDuffey (100 vs. Rice), Shane Ros (114 vs. UAB) and Charles Sims (114 vs. SMU) accomplished the feat.
    »
    The group is joined by a couple of newcomers as true freshmen Demarcus Ayers and John Leday are listed in the team's two deep. The duo's classmate, Donald Gage, could also see time at the wideout position as well.
    » Houston returned to its usual ways in its opener vs. Southern as eight different players had receptions including six with multiple receptions and three with touchdowns. Daniel Spencer led all with a career-high nine receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns while Deontay Greenberry and John Leday also added touchdowns.

     RUSHING TO CONCLUSIONS
    » Sophomore Kenneth Farrow was second on the team in 2012 with 86 carries for 466 yards and two touchdowns. The 5-11, 216-pound back returns as Houston's starting running back in 2013 and took just one game to set career highs in rushing attempts (20) and rushing yards (97) in Houston's season opener.
    » A second sophomore, Ryan Jackson, teams with Farrow after gashing Tulane for 129 yards and two TDs in last season's finale. Jackson finished 2012 with 252 yards and three TDs.
    » Following up last year's final game vs. Tulane, Jackson hit the 100-yard mark with multiple touchdowns for the second-straight game as he opened 2013 with 120 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries against Southern.
    »
    Sophomore walk-on Justin Hicks tallied his first career touchdown against Southern as he plunged in from one-yard out and finished with 59 yards on 10 carries.

     CHANGES TO THE DEFENSIVE STAFF
    » Veteran NFL and NCAA defensive coach David Gibbs takes over as Houston's defensive coordinator in 2013. The 20-year coaching veteran has been part of a coaching staff that has played in a bowl game in seven of his 11 years on the collegiate level. The latest came in his last collegiate coaching stop when he served as defensive coordinator at Auburn in 2005. The Tiger defense ranked sixth nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 15.5 points per game, while ranking 11th in sacks with 39 and 16th in third-down defense.
    »
    Also new to the Houston defensive staff is linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves. 28-year coaching veteran has been part of a coaching staff that has played in a bowl in 12 of his last 15 seasons including back-to-back BCS National Championship appearances at Miami.
    »
    In his second season at Houston, Ricky Logo will take over the entire defensive line while Zac Spavital handles the secondary for the sixth season.

     TACKLING MACHINES
    » With its opponents winning the time of possession battle, Houston defenders were given the opportunity to pile up some numbers in 2012 and several did so as 10 Cougars racked up 37 double-digit tackle efforts.
    »
    Derrick Mathews led the way with eight double-digit tackle efforts in 2012. With last season's effort, Mathews has 10 career games with at least 10 tackles.
    »
    In his first year on the collegiate level, Trevon Stewart led all freshmen nationally with 126 tackles and was second to Marshall's Dominick LeGrande (132) as the nation's top defensive back in tackles.
    » Stewart was second behind Mathews with his six games with at least 10 tackles including a Houston season-high 21 stops against East Carolina. The 21-tackle total marked the seventh-best tackle game in Houston history.
    »
    Mathews and Stewart finished tied for second on the team with 126 tackles each, just two behind the 128 of team leader, 2012 senior Phillip Steward.

     SECONDARY STARTERS
    » With all four starters from the 2012 season finale returning, the Houston secondary is in a battle with the offensive line as the team's most experienced group.
    »
    Behind linebacker Derrick Mathews with 27 starts, senior cornerback Zach McMillian has the most starts of all defensive players with 26 career starts including all 12 games last season. The No. 2 corner on the team until D.J. Hayden went down with a season-ending injury, McMillian stepped up into the lead role and finished the season with interceptions in four of the last five games including all three games that Hayden missed.
    »
    Also affected by Hayden's injury was senior corner Thomas Bates who started the final three games of the season at the No. 2 corner. In those three games Bates collected 26 tackles after only totaling nine tackles in the first nine games of the season. Bates also led the team in passes broken up, with 10 including five in the three games he started.
    » At free safety, Trevon Stewart returns after starting the final 10 games of 2012 at the position en route to earning FWAA Freshman All-America honors. The Patterson, La., native also broke up seven passes.
    »
    Adrian McDonald started two games in 2012 at nickel back before starting the season-finale at strong safety. A high school quarterback in his first year on defense, McDonald finished his lone start with eight tackles, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. The Lawton, Okla., native also picked off two passes on the season.

     LOOK AT THE LINEBACKERS
    » With the loss of the most experienced player on the team in strongside linebacker Phillip Steward, new linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves looks to replace Steward and starting middle linebacker Everett Daniels in 2013.
    » Hargreaves' track record coaching linebackers speaks for itself. With seven linebackers at Miami alone drafted, Hargreaves also has Butkus Award, Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award winners on his resume along with two of three finalists for the Butkus Award in 2003.
    » The group's lone returning starter from 2012, Derrick Mathews is the defense's most experienced player with 27 career starts and moves to the middle for 2013 after starting 26 straight games on the weakside. The junior has posted triple-digit tackles in his first two seasons on campus including 126 last season. His 80 assisted tackles in 2012 was the third-best single-season assisted tackle total in Houston history.
    » Replacing Mathews on the weakside will be senior George Bamfo, a veteran of 35 career games who seemed to click in the spring. Backing Bamfo is junior Efrem Oliphant, a veteran of 23 career games with three career starts as a true freshman in 2010 when he was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team.
    » On the strongside, junior Efrem Oliphant, a veteran of 24 career games with four career starts including three as a true freshman in 2010 when he was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team.
    » The linebacking group welcomed two newcomers in the spring in sophomore Elandon Roberts, who transferred from Morgan State, and freshman Caleb Tucker, who enrolled early from high school in Monroe, La. In his lone season at Morgan State, Roberts was a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the nation's top freshman on the FCS level, as he finished the year with 107 tackles, two sacks, one interception and broke up two passes.

     THREE OR FOUR?
    » Depending on Gibbs' defensive call, Houston fans could possibly see a 4-3 or a 3-4 formation without a single player leaving the field as the returning defensive ends have the ability to easily shift to a stand-up linebacker position.
    »
    The only returning defensive lineman that was a regular in the 2012 starting lineup is junior defensive tackle Joey Mbu. With eight starts last season, Mbu had 27 tackles on the year while constantly holding up the point of attack.
    »
    After starting at Houston as a defensive back before moving to linebacker, Eric Eiland has now made the move to defensive end as he continues to bulk up without losing his quickness. A former minor league baseball player, Eiland exploded in the season finale of his freshman year with four tackles, a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
    » After being dinged up against Southern, Eiland is doubtful for Houston's game at Temple. Junior college transfer Trevor Harris will slide up to replace Eiland after recording two tackles, a forced fumble and a blocked extra point against Southern. He'll be backed up by true freshman Tyus Bowser who also had two tackles in Houston's season opener. Bowser recorded 24 sacks as a high school senior at John Tyler High School in Tyler, Texas.
    » Junior defensive end Eric Braswell holds down the starting end spot. Braswell has 14 career starts while his backup, Cameron Malveaux, has bulked up to 252 pounds on his 6-6 frame. He is joined on the starting lineup chart by sophomore defensive tackle Tomme Mark who now has two career starts and picked off a pass in Houston's season opener.

     BEHIND THE LINE
    » The Houston defense ranked 10th nationally with 36 sacks and 22nd in the nation with 85 tackles for loss although a number of those will have to be replaced. Derrick Mathews led all returners with 17 tackles for loss, a number that ranked 17th nationally last season, and six sacks, which ranked ninth in Conference USA.
    »
    Backup middle linebacker Elandon Roberts registered Houston's lone tackle for a loss against Southern.

     LEAVE IT TO LEONE
    » Senior Richie Leone handles the starting punting duties for the fourth straight year. In addition to punting, Leone is also Houston's starting kicker and kickoff specialist.
    » Leone was named The American Athletic Conference's Special Teams Player of the Week Monday after his first career game handling all three specialist positions. Leone averaged 47 yards on his four punts, three of which were placed inside Southern's 20-yard line, and registered his first career points as he finished the game with two field goals and six extra points. Leone also had eight kickoffs with an average of 64 yards per kick with three resulting in touchbacks.
    » As a punter, the Roswell, Ga., native earned First Team All-Conference USA honors last year as he tied the Houston school record with an average punt of 45.5 yards. The average is the second-best nationally among all returning punters.
    »
    Leone placed 18 of his punts inside opponents' 20-yard line including nine inside the 10-yard line. Twenty of Leone's 60 punts exceeded 50 yards including four over 60 yards and a career-long 77-yard punt vs. Louisiana Tech. Just 21 of Leone's punts were returned with opponents calling for 24 fair catches with just six touchbacks on the year.
    »
    Leone also handles kickoff duties for the Cougars with 25 touchbacks on 71 attempts in 2012.
    » Leone handled the majority of the kicking duties in the spring and held on to the starting duties coming out of fall camp while sophomore Kyle Bullard backs him up. Bullard earned Second Team All-State honors as a senior at Samuel V. Champion High School in Boerne, Texas, and hit Houston's final two extra points in its season opener.
    »
    Sophomore Dylan Seibert will back up Leone at punter after transferring to Houston from Oklahoma at the start of fall camp. The Tulsa, Okla., native did not see any game action at OU but has quickly impressed in the Houston camp. Seibert also grabbed starting holder duties in the fall.
    » Highly-touted freshman kicker Ty Cummings joined Houston in August. The Southake Carroll product was rated the nation's top kicker by Scout and backs Leone on kickoffs. Cummings hit three kickoffs in Houston's season opener against Southern with an average of 60.7 yards per kick with one touchback.
    » At deep snapper, sophomore Nolan Frese takes over after backing up Brandon Hartson, who signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Bears, last season. The Roanoke, Texas, native was ranked by Chris Sailer Kicking as the No. 1 long snapper in the state of Texas in 2010 and the No. 7 long snapper in the nation. He'll be backed up freshman Byron Simpson.

    START CHART
    Player 2013 Streak Career
    Offense
    Cloud (OL) - - 26
    Harper (OL) 1 27 27
    Forsch (OL) 1 2 20
    Piland (QB) 1 1 19
    Greenberry (WR) 1 11 12
    Oragwu (OL) 1 1 11
    Redman (OL) 1 7 9
    Spencer (WR) 1 1 8
    Maxwell (WR) 1 6 6
    McDuffey (WR) 1 1 5
    Farrow (RB) 1 2 4
    D. Sims (OL) - - 3
    Ros (WR) - - 3
    Jackson (RB) 1 - 1
    Johnson (OL) 1 - 1
    Defense
    Mathews (LB) 1 27 27
    McMillian (CB) 1 17 26
    Brooks (S) - - 14
    Braswell (DL) 1 1 14
    Stewart (DB) 1 11 11
    Valencia (S) - - 10
    Mbu (DL) 1 1 9
    Bates (CB) 1 4 7
    McDonald (CB) 1 3 4
    Olifphant (LB) 1 1 4
    Bamfo (LB) 1 2 3
    Mark (DT) 1 1 2
    Eiland (DE) 1 1 1

     RETURNING RETURNERS
    » Tony Levine and special teams coordinator Jamie Christian will have plenty of options to work with in the return game as seven of the nine Cougars with multiple returns in 2012 return this season.
    » Junior Damian Payne, the only returning player with multiple punt returns in 2012, taking back nine punts for a total of 33 yards (3.7 average), is Houston's starting punt returner in its updated depth chart. Sophomore Larry McDuffey started the first game punt returner and had two returns for two yards after not returning any punts in his first year on campus. Opposing punters in 2012 forced 19 fair catches from Cougar returners while placing 27 punts inside the Houston 20-yard line.
    » At kick returner, Houston will see one new face to the team and one new face to the kick return position. Sophomore Justin Hicks, who received the Offensive Scout Team MVP in 2012, is listed as starting kick returner as is freshman Demarcus Ayers. Hicks, who redshirted in 2011 and did not see any action in 2012, could also see time in Houston's backfield. A receiver at Houston, Ayers played quarterback in high school, finishing with 1,337 rushing yards and 1,823 passing yards as a senior.
    »
    Ayers returned all three of Houston's kickoff returns against Southern, finishing with three returns for 70 yards and a long of 26 yards.
    »
    Sophomore Ryan Jackson was the only Houston player to hit double digits in kick returns as he led the way with 14 returns for 304 yards (21.7 average). Junior Daniel Spencer had four returns for 69 yards (17.2 average) while sophomore Kenneth Farrow's total of three returns for 128 yards (42.7 average) was boosted by a team best 61-yard return at Marshall.
    » Other returners with multiple kick returns were sophomore Larry McDuffey (3-63), junior Aaron Johnson (2-9) and junior Damian Payne (2-42).
     

     

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