|THE GAME AT A GLANCE|
|Date||Saturday, Sept. 16|
|Time||7 pm CT|
|Radio||KPRC 950 AM|
HITS ON HOUSTON
« Houston (1-0, 0-0 The American) opens its 2017 home schedule Saturday in the Bayou Bucket game vs. crosstown rival Rice (1-1, 1-0 C-USA) at 7 p.m. Saturday's game airs on ESPN3 and on KPRC 950 AM (radio) with radio pregame coverage starting at 6 p.m.
« The Bayou Bucket is the first home game of the Major Applewhite era. Applewhite was named the 14th head coach in Houston history on Dec. 9, 2016, after serving as the program's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach the past two seasons.
« Houston enters the home opener with the nation's longest active home winning streak with 15 straight wins at TDECU Stadium. The Cougars need to win their first three home games to tie the longest home-winning streak in program history.
« Houston enters the home opener tied with TCU as the top team in the state of Texas since the start of the 2014 season with 31 wins in that span. Baylor's 28 wins are third and Texas A&M is fourth with 25 wins. Texas Tech is fifth with 17 wins.
« Houston's 22 wins over 2015-16 were fourth nationally behind just Alabama (28), Clemson (28) and Ohio State (23). The 22 wins over the last two seasons marked the most wins over a two-year span in Houston history.
« After starting 5-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history, the Cougars are looking for at least eight wins to give them a fifth straight season of such, which would be a first in program history.
« UH ranks 10th nationally and the best in Texas with nine seasons with at least eight wins since 2006. LSU, Boise State and Oklahoma lead the way with 11 such seasons since 2016 while six teams, including The American's Navy, are tied with 10 such seasons.
« Houston sophomore defensive tackle Ed Oliver entered 2017 after one of the most explosive seasons by a true freshman in college football. The Houston native earned first-team All-America honors by seven different national outlets and was named The American's Rookie of the Year after totaling 23 tackles for loss, second nationally. He totaled 47 solo tackles, second best among all defensive linemen nationally while leading all defensive linemen with nine pass breakups.
« Oliver started the season with a bang, with 11 tackles at Arizona and leads all defensive linemen nationally with an average of 11 tackles per game. In just his 14th game, Oliver added 1.5 more tackles for loss to give him 24.5 for his career.
« No. 3 Oklahoma became the highest-ranked foe to fall to Houston since the Cougars defeated No. 3 Texas, 29-15, on Nov. 10, 1984. OU would be the first No. 3 team to fall to Houston in 2016, as the Cougars would defeat No. 3 Louisville, 36-10, on Nov. 17, sacking eventual Heisman winner Lamar Jackson 11 times. Houston also defeated No. 3 Michigan State, 37-7, on Sept. 23, 1967.
« With its win over No. 3 Louisville, Houston has a program-record six straight wins over top-25 opponents, a number that leads the nation among active streaks against ranked opponents. It also marked Houston's fourth straight win over an AP Top 10 team (three of which have come in the last three seasons), which also leads the nation.
« Houston and Alabama were the only two teams to claim double-digit wins over two top-10 teams in 2016.
« Houston is one of just four programs nationally with at least 13 wins on two different occasions over the last six years, joining Alabama, Clemson and Florida State in accomplishing the feat.
« The 2017 senior class enters the game with 31 wins, which currently ranks 17th on the Houston history for wins by a class. One win would move the class into 13th and four wins would move it into fifth. The 2017 senior class needs seven more wins to tie the 2016 senior class for most wins in program history.
« The Cougars own the longest winning streak by a non-autonomous 5 team against autonomous 5 opponents with seven consecutive wins over the last four seasons. Houston now owns wins over Arizona, Oklahoma, Florida State, Vanderbilt, Louisville (2x) and Pitt in its last six autonomous 5 matchups.
ABOUT THE 2017 COUGARS
« Twenty-nine full or part-time starters return in 2017 for Houston. The 2016 leaders in rushing, receiving, punt returns, all-purpose yards, punting, tackles, tackles for loss and forced fumbles all returned.
« The program welcomed an incoming signing class of 23 that is comprised of 17 freshmen, four four-year transfers and two junior college transfers. Junior college transfer kicker Dalton Witherspoon is the lone member of the 2017 signing class that joined the program for spring practice.
« While Houston lost just 11 players with starting experience, those 11 accounted for 262 career starts, an average of 23.8 career starts per player. By comparison, the 29 returning players with starting experience combined for 250 career starts entering 2017, an average of 8.6 career starts per player.
« Since 2014, Houston is tied with TCU for the lead among state of Texas FBS schools with 31 wins. The Cougars three wins ahead of Baylor, six ahead of Texas A&M and 14 games ahead of Texas Tech in that span.
« Houston also leads the state of Texas among FBS schools with nine seasons of at least eight wins since 2006. TCU is second with eight seasons while Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech are tied for third with seven each.
« After three years of competition, the 2017 senior class is the 20th-most winningest class in Houston football history with 30 wins since starting in 2014. The class is only four wins away from moving into the top five and eight wins away from the record of 38 established by the 2016 senior class.
« Houston, Alabama and Florida State were the only three teams to defeat a ranked opponent by double digits in the opening weekend of last season. They were also three of five schools nationally to score at least 30 points on a ranked opponent in the opening weekend, joining Georgia (33 vs. North Carolina) and South Dakota State (41 vs. TCU) in accomplishing the feat.
« Houston started 5-0 in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016 for the first time in program history.
« Over the past two seasons, Houston has 22 wins, the fourth-best total in the nation behind the 28 wins of Alabama and Clemson, and 23 of Ohio State.
« Houston's 22 wins over the last two seasons mark the best two-season total in program history, topping the 21 wins from 2014-15.
« With its 36-10 win over No. 3 Louisville and 33-23 win over No. 3 Oklahoma last season, Houston has now won six straight against AP top-25 teams and four straight against AP top-10 teams, the longest active streaks for both entering 2017.
« In its 11th season under head coach David Bailiff, Rice enters Saturday's game at 1-1 after a 62-7 loss to Stanford in Australia on Aug. 27, and a 31-14 win at UTEP last Saturday.
« Rice is led offensively by junior running back Samuel Stewart who leads the Owls in both rushing and receiving. Stewart has 31 rushing attempts for 160 yards while pulling in six receptions for 75 yards. Redshirt-freshman Sam Glaesmann starts at QB for Rice, completing 17-of-36 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown against one interception while rushing 16 times for 30 yards and a score.
« Defensively, the Owls are led by senior linebacker Ellerbee Emmanuel who has 19 tackles including 2.5 for a loss and one sack. Junior defensive end Blain Padgett leads Rice with 1.5 sacks.
« Saturday's matchup is the 41 meeting between the two schools with Houston owning a 29-11 series lead including wins in each of the last three meetings. The last meeting was a 31-26 UH win on Sept. 21, 2013 at NRG Stadium. Houston has not lost at home to the Owls since Sept. 1, 2001.
DEGREES IN HAND
« Nine Houston student-athletes entered the season having already earned an undergraduate degree. Linell Bonner, Reggie Chevis (Texas A&M), Nomluis Fruge, D'Juan Hines, Ellis Jefferson (Arizona State), Deon Mix (Auburn), Kyle Postma, Byron Simpson and Nick Thurman have all completed degree requirements prior to this season.
« Houston ranks 17th nationally with nine players having earned degrees prior to the start of the season.
TOP 25 RANKINGS
« Houston entered 2016 at No. 15 in the AP poll, its highest ranking since checking in at No. 12 in the 1991 AP preseason poll.
« Following its win over Oklahoma, Houston moved up to No. 6, its highest AP ranking since No. 3 on Nov. 10, 1990. It also marked the first time to be in the top 10 in the month of September since Sept. 8, 1980.
« Houston spent 16 straight weeks in the AP Top 25 over 2015-16, the fourth-longest in program history and the longest since a record streak of 42 weeks from 1988-91.
« Houston also spent five weeks in the AP top 10 in 2016, the third-longest stint in UH history and the longest since 15 straight weeks in 1979-80.
« Houston has won its last six games vs. ranked opponents and its last four games vs. top-10 opponents. Both streaks lead the nation.
ON THE OFFENSIVE
« Since 2006, only Oregon has racked up more yards than Houston who has 71,634 yards in that time.
Rank Team Total Yards (06-present)
1. Oregon 74,756
2. Houston 71,634
3. Oklahoma 71,310
4. Texas Tech 71,276
5. Nevada 65,142
« Houston has scored in 213 straight games dating back to Sept. 30, 2000.
« Fifteen of Houston's 70 scoring drives last season lasted less than two minutes with three lasting less than one minute, the quickest just six seconds with a one-play, 13-yard drive on the first offensive play vs. Louisville.
« Houston had 11 scoring drives of four plays or less including three two-play drives and one one-play drive.
« With a balanced attack, Houston was one of just 15 schools nationally to average over 145 yards per game rushing (147.1) and over 295 yards passing per game (296.3).
« The Cougars were one of 19 teams nationally with at least 29 rushing touchdowns and 24 passing touchdowns.
« Houston was 17th nationally with 225 plays of 10+ yards.
« The versatility of the offense was evident as seven different players had rushing touchdowns last season for Houston while eight different players had receiving touchdowns and two different players had passing touchdowns.
« Against Louisville, Houston scored 16 points above the Cardinals' defensive scoring average and scored the most on UL since the Cardinals gave up 42 points to No. 5 Clemson earlier in the season.
« Houston totaled 624 yards against Memphis, its fifth game over 600 yards of total offense over the last two years. Houston now has 75 games with 600+ yards in program history.
« Over the last two seasons, Houston has 11 games with 500+ yards of total offense and has scored more than 40 points 12 times and more than 50 points five times.
A NEW LOOK UNDER CENTER
« With the graduation of Greg Ward Jr., the Houston program lost its second-most winningest quarterback in program history with 27 career wins.
« Ward closed his career among the program's top five for career passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions and total offense. He finished 10th in program history for career rushing yards and set the career rushing record by a QB with 2,375 yards.
« Taking over for Ward is junior Kyle Allen, who sat out the 2016 season under NCAA transfer rules after transferring to the program from Texas A&M. The nation's No. 1 quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class, Allen ran Houston's scout team during his season off.
« With the Aggies, Allen started 14 games over two seasons while seeing action in 20 games total. His sophomore season saw Allen lead Texas A&M in passing and total offense, completing 160-of-283 passes for 2,210 yards and 17 touchdowns against seven interceptions while also adding 102 yards on the ground as he became just the eighth quarterback in Texas A&M history to pass for 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns in a season.
« Allen threw for 1,322 yards and 16 touchdowns as a freshman against seven interceptions on 118-of-192 passing and closed the year with MVP honors in a Liberty Bowl win over West Virginia, throwing for 294 yards and four touchdowns while adding 33 yards rushing against the Mountaineers.
« Allen opened his Houston career with 225 yards and one touchdown against two interceptions on 25-of-32 passing at Arizona.
« Postma has seen action in 19 career games with two starts. His first three games of action came at receiver in 2015 when he caught six passes for 145 yards and a touchdown before being moved back to QB due to injuries suffered by others. Passing wise, he has thrown for 663 yards and three touchdowns against three interceptions on 72-of-114 passing.
HANDY TOOLS TO HAVE
« The wide receiver position provides Houston with talented leaders mixed with a group of promising underclassmen. The two leaders in Steven Dunbar (28) and Linell Bonner (12) have combined for 40 career starts and 64 career games played while a quartet of sophomores will look to expand on true freshman seasons that saw each play an expanded role late in the year.
« Bonner led all returning receivers in The American and was second nationally with 98 receptions in 2016. He looks to follow up on a season that saw the former walk-on total 1,118 yards and three touchdowns.
« He opened the year with nine receptions for 59 yards and a score at Arizona, his ninth career game with 7+ receptions.
« With 132 career receptions, Bonner needs just four more to move into the top 20 on Houston's career receptions chart.
« Houston's No. 2 pass catcher in terms of touchdowns in 2016 with five, Dunbar totaled 53 receptions for 692 yards and looks to expand his role with the graduation of Chance Allen who had 56 receptions for 815 yards and six scores.
« Dunbar led Houston with 72 receiving yards off six receptions at Arizona.
« The two are joined by a sizeable addition in Arizona State graduate transfer Ellis Jefferson. The Denton, Texas, native saw action in 38 games over three seasons at Arizona State.
« The trio of Keith Corbin, Courtney Lark and Terry Mark combined for 20 games played as true freshmen in 2016. Corbin led the quartet with six receptions for 68 yards while both Lark and Mark had three each, going for 26 yards and eight yards, respectively.
BACK TO THE BACKS
« Houston returned every scholarship running back from the 2016 team led by junior Duke Catalon who totaled 528 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 145 attempts. He also added 44 receptions for 281 yards and three scores.
« Senior Dillon Birden, who picked up his sixth career start at Arizona, teams with Catalon after running for 289 yards and six scores on 62 attempts in 2016 while pulling in seven receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown.
« The two combined for 161 rushing yards at Arizona with Birden rushing 14 times for 83 yards and Catalon 18 times for 78 yards. Birden accounted for the lone rushing TD of the night, a 3-yard dive.
« Sophomores Mulbah Car (49-206), Kevrin Justice (34-149), Josh Burrell (12-51) were next on the rushing chart in 2016.
« Freshman Davion Mitchell joined the program after rushing for 1,598 yards and 31 touchdowns as a senior at Rockdale High School (TX). Mitchell totaled 3,283 rushing yards and 48 touchdowns in his high school career.
PAVING THE WAY
« The group that returned the most in terms of experience offers new offensive line coach Chris Scelfo a variety of parts to move around the line. Scelfo stepped into a position with eight returners combining for 86 career starts and 133 career games played entering 2017. All eight started at least five games in 2016.
« Center Will Noble leads the line in terms of starting experience with 21 career games started, including eight in 2015 en route to earning FWAA Freshman All-America honors.
« Senior Marcus Oliver leads the team in overall experience with 35 career games played while totaling 16 career starts.. Junior Mason Denley also has experience at the guard position, owning 12 career starts, six of which came in 2016.
« Sophomore Josh Jones stepped into the starting role at left tackle for the 2016 opener and never looked back, starting the last 14 games after redshirting his first season on campus. On the opposite side, Braylon Jones started the final six games of the season at right tackle as a true freshman after stepping in for an injured Na'Ty Rodgers who returns for his senior season after starting the first seven games of 2016.
« Braylon Jones shifted to guard to start the season at Arizona, giving Rodgers a return to right tackle.
« The group did not allow a sack or a quarterback hurry to the Arizona defense while only allowing four total tackles for a loss of 11 yards.
THIRD WARD DEFENSE
« The Houston defense finished 2016 with the No. 4 rushing defense in the nation, allowing an average of 100.2 yards per game. Houston also ranked 13th in total defense (319.6 yards per game), ninth in first down defense (213) and 30th in scoring defense (23.5 points per game). UH led The American in rushing defense and first down defense and was second behind Temple in total defense and scoring defense.
« The Houston defense is one of just 10 nationally to hold opponents to an average of under 25 points scoring per game in each of the last four seasons. Taking it down a point further, UH is one of just seven schools to hold its opponents under 24 points per game in each of the last four seasons, joining Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Ohio State, Stanford and Wisconsin in accomplishing the feat.
« The Houston defense got on the scoreboard at Arizona, forcing a safety as Arizona was forced to recover a fumble in its own end zone.
« UH was third nationally with five defensive touchdowns in 2016, trailing just Alabama (11) and Ohio State (7).
« The Cougars were 17th nationally and second in The American with 39 sacks. Houston had two players in the top four of The American in sacks with Steven Taylor and Tyus Bowser tied for third with 8.5 each.
« Navy snapped Houston's seven-game streak of not allowing an opponent to rush for over 100 yards when it ran for 306 yards. Prior to the streak, the Midshipmen were the last team to rush for over 100 yards. During the streak, Houston held Temple, Florida State, Oklahoma, Lamar, Cincinnati, Texas State and UConn to a combined 324 rushing yards. Houston held seven opponents below the century mark in 2016.
« The Cougars set a program record when they allowed Lamar just 73 total offensive yards, besting a 47-year old record of 74 yards set by the 1969 Houston team against Mississippi State.
« Houston held Oklahoma, who averaged 43.9 points per game in 2016, to 23 points in its season opener.
« Oklahoma, who averaged 554.8 yards per game in 2016, had 393 total yards against the Houston defense including just 70 on the ground. OU averaged 236.8 yards rushing last season.
« Houston held Cincinnati to its lowest output of total offense at home (307 yards) since Dec. 4, 2010, against Pittsburgh. The 30 total rushing yards on 25 attempts were the Bearcats' fewest since rushing for 15 yards on 32 attempts in their 2010 season opener at Fresno State.
« Against UCF, the Houston defense held the Knights to only 29 total yards in the second half, including negative 55 yards rushing, after allowing 166 total yards and 95 rushing yards in the first half.
« UH held Tulane to 128.1 yards below its rushing average with its lowest rushing output of the year (100 yards).
« Houston held Louisville to 32.5 points below its scoring average, 141.1 yards below its rushing average, 79.5 yards below its passing average and 220.7 yards below its total offense average while totaling 11 sacks.
« Louisville's 10 points were its lowest since scoring only seven vs. North Carolina on Oct. 8, 2011.
« Since the start of the 2013 season, no program has taken the ball away from opposing offenses more than Houston with 128 turnovers forced in that time with 18 in 2016, 35 in 2015, 30 in 2014 and 43 in 2013.
« UH has forced multiple turnovers in 44 of its last 61 games.
« Houston upped the ante against Cincinnati in 2016 as it recorded three turnovers, all fourth quarter interceptions, to help Houston overcome a 16-12 fourth-quarter deficit en route to a 40-16 win.
« Garrett Davis and Emeke Egbule teamed up for one of Houston's biggest turnovers of 2016 when Davis hit Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans for a fumble-forcing sack that Egbule scooped up and returned 24 yards for the winning touchdown with 1:21 left in Houston's 38-31 win.
« Houston established a 2016 high with four turnovers vs. UCF.
« UH recovered three fumbles against Louisville.
« The Cougars were opportunistic when creating turnovers last season, turning 18 turnovers into 87 points, including 28 points directly on the interception returns from Steven Taylor and Howard Wilson at Cincinnati and fumble recoveries from Emeke Egbule vs. Tulsa and Jeremy Winchester vs. Tulane.
« Houston opened the season with multiple turnovers at Arizona as Ed Oliver forced his fourth career fumble that was recovered by Alexander Myres, and Davis ended a late fourth-quarter drive with his first career interception.
« The American Athletic Conference and the nation were quickly introduced to Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver last season as the true freshman earned seven First Team All-America honors, FWAA Freshman All-America Honors and was named The American's Rookie of the Year.
« Ranked the nation's No. 2 defensive tackle in the 2016 signing class by ESPN, Oliver did not wait long to make his impression felt for Houston, earning his first career start vs. Oklahoma, leading all linemen with seven tackles including two sacks.
« Oliver finished second nationally in 2016 with 23 tackles for loss and leads all returning defensive linemen nationally.
« Playing out of the tackle spot on a three-man line, he was second nationally among all defensive linemen with 47 solo tackles and 13th among all defensive linemen nationally with 66 total tackles.
« Oliver also led all defensive linemen nationally with nine pass breakups. The number also led all non-defensive backs in The American and was sixth in the league regardless of position.
« Oliver's 66 tackles were second among all freshmen in The American, regardless of position, and led all freshmen defensive linemen nationally. His five sacks led all freshmen in The American. Oliver also led Houston and finished second in The American with three forced fumbles, a number that ranked second nationally among freshmen.
« He wasted no time to open the 2017 season, totaling 11 tackles at Arizona, his third career game with double-digit tackles. Oliver also had 1.5 tackles for loss, his ninth career game with multiple tackles for loss.
« Nick Thurman was second among UH linemen in 2016 with 26 tackles and two sacks, part of his 5.5 tackles for loss. He's totaled 61 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss in 33 career games played.
« Texas A&M graduate transfer Reggie Chevis stepped into the starting lineup at Arizona for an injured Jerard Carter.
NO FLY ZONE
« While Houston returned its two starting safeties in Garrett Davis and Khalil Williams, the Cougars looked to replace two players with starting cornerback experience in Brandon and Howard Wilson. The two combined for 44 starts and 78 career games played. Jeremy Winchester with 10 career starts and 27 games played at the position returned in 2017.
« A senior, Khalil Williams staked claim to one of Houston's defensive back spots after starting all 13 games in 2016 and owns 18 career starts. The secondary's leading returning tackler with 69 stops in 2016, Williams may also be used in the nickel back role held by Brandon Wilson in 2016.
« Davis, who owns 13 starts will look to make a difference in his junior year after totaling 65 tackles including seven for a loss last season. He made a big difference in the season-opening win, making his first career interception to snuff out an Arizona drive at his own 32-yard line with 3:49 left in the game.
« Senior Terrell Williams, who owns six starts in two seasons, will also patrol the Houston secondary this season.
« Senior Alexander Myres and junior Isaiah Johnson both made their first career starts at cornerback at Arizona with Myres recovering a fumble and making one tackle and Johnson making three tackles. Johnson made the jump to defense after two seasons at receiver while Myres, a walk-on, was rewarded with a scholarship prior to the start of the season.
« For the second straight season, Houston is replacing leaders at the linebacker position with the graduation of sack masters Tyus Bowser and Steven Taylor.
« Senior Matthew Adams, who led the team in tackles with 82 stops last year, returns to lead the way. The smashmouth middle linebacker also forced two fumbles and had two sacks in 2016.
« Fellow senior D'Juan Hines returns after starting seven games in 2016, finishing with 44 stops.
« The two combined to make 17 stops at Arizona with Hines leading the way with nine tackles.
« Junior Emeke Egbule stepped in with five starts last season and had one of five Houston defensive touchdowns after scooping and scoring the game-winning touchdown against Tulsa on a 24-yard fumble return. He recorded his second career sack at Arizona.
« Others looking to compete at the position include seniors Ralph Harvey Jr., Nomluis Fruge, Cameron Doubenmier and Austin Robinson along with sophomores Leroy Godfrey and Jordan Milburn.
« Much-needed depth has been added with the addition of freshmen David Anenih, Elijah Gooden, Derek Parish and Amaud Willis-Dalton.
« Sophomore punter Dane Roy returned after his first season in America as a 27-year old true freshman in 2016.
« The Bunyip, Australia native and former Australian rules football player for Richmond Central placed 20 of his 59 punts in 2016 inside his opponent's 20-yard line with only four touchbacks. His high-hanging punts helped Houston rank seventh nationally in punt return defense, allowing just 2.6 yards per return while forcing 26 fair catches.
« Roy ranked third among returning punters in The American Conference after averaging 40.6 yards per punt in 2016.
« He picked up where he left off at Arizona, helping to hold the Wildcats to just two return yards while placing two punts inside the 20-yard line with an average of 43.3 yards on his six punts.
« Prior to arriving in Houston, Roy won the longest kick competition at the AFL grand final in Melbourne, Australia, after booting a torpedo 73 meters, which equates to 79 yards. Roy, who stands 6-7, also has a personal-best hang time of 5.4 seconds.
THE RETURNS DEPARTMENT
« Houston turned to a new face to spark its kick return with the graduation of Brandon Wilson who finished his career ninth on the UH career charts with 1,121 kickoff return yards and second with two kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career.
« Senior John Leday wasted no time in a new role, taking his first career kickoff return 81 yards to the Arizona 16-yard line, setting up the Houston offense for a short touchdown drive. Leday also added a 24-yard return later in the game.
« Texas State graduate transfer walk-on Brandon McDowell took over the punt returning duties for Houston, making one return for six yards at Arizona.
« Yet another new name in the Houston special teams, junior Caden Novikoff walked on to the Houston program in training camp and grabbed the kicking reigns.
« The San Antonio native connected on one of two field goal attempts at Arizona, connected on a 25-yard attempt while leaving a 38-yard attempt just left. Novikoff also connected on his two extra point attempts and drilled three of his four kickoffs for touchbacks.
SNAP IT TO ME
« Unfortunately Houston lost its starting long snapper in senior Byron Simpson in late May due to a non-football related medical condition. The Cat Spring, Texas, native started all 13 games at the position in 2016.
« The Cougars turned to Simpson's backup in 2016, junior Nick Wildberger. The San Antonio, Texas, native redshirted in 2016 and made his debut at Arizona, totaling 10 long snaps.