Are Cardinals in for shell shock?
Published 5:05 pm Friday, September 9, 2016
BEAUMONT — Instead of just reviewing team video on the University of Houston, Lamar football coach Ray Woodard was lucky enough to watch the Cougars on live television hours before his kickoff against Coastal Carolina last Saturday.
What he saw on television is pretty much what anyone at Houston’s on-campus TDECU Stadium can expect Saturday.
“On television, you get to see the pace of the game, the emotion and the energy that goes along with it,” he said. “And then, obviously, you can rewind it and review scheme things. I was just very impressed with their players. They’ve got great personnel. Their coaches did very well on both sides [of the football].”
So well, of course, the Associated Press ranks Houston No. 6, the Cougars’ highest position since being No. 3 on Nov. 4, 1990, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Taking on highly ranked teams is nothing new to Lamar — then-No. 4 Baylor pulled away from the Cardinals in the second half last season — but playing the Cougars is almost as big as it gets.
“We’ve just got to play our game. It’s simple,” Lamar running back Kade Harrington, a senior from nearby Kingwood, said. “We know they’re a good football team. After this weekend, they’re going to be sky-high, ready to play. It’s going to be their first home game.
“For us, that’s our big game. We love playing that atmosphere. That’s why we come to Lamar, because we play those big schools.”
Houston’s 33-23 stunner of then-No. 3 Oklahoma last Saturday was classified as a neutral-site game, although it was held at NRG Stadium. As a reward, American Sports Network has picked up Saturday’s 11 a.m. game between the Coogs and Cards for over-the-air broadcast.
Houston coach Tom Herman earlier this week lobbied for the Cougar faithful to give Lamar a big-name atmosphere.
“It’s really important if we fashion ourselves to be like the big-time programs in the country,” Herman said. “It does not matter who the opponent is or what’s on the helmet and jersey. Their fans, students and alumni come to support and watch their teams play. This will be a very good litmus test for our fans, alumni and students on if you want to be this or not.”
The Cards (0-1) did not survive their first challenge against an 85-scholarship team, blowing a 14-3 halftime lead to future FBS team Coastal Carolina and losing 38-14. But the game made for great film sessions Woodard could break down.
“We’ve got to do a better job of play selection and execution on third down,” he said. “I think our running game is going to be good, but we’re going to have to be able to move the ball and stay on the field in third-down situations. We’ve got to be a more consistent offense throwing the football.”
Woodard is also charging the defense with stopping the run better after Coastal All-American De’Angelo Henderson warmed up for 158 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. The Cards’ challenge this week is Texas transfer Duke Catalon, who grounded out 88 yards on 22 carries against Oklahoma.
“Duke is a great player,” Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. said. “He takes a lot of pressure off me, especially in the running game. He’s a home-run hitter, so he can take it the distance any time.”
Earp’s still the guy
Despite a shaky season debut, senior Carson Earp will start again for Lamar today.
Earp won a quarterback battle that has seen six entrants over the course of the offseason, but was not entirely sharp against Coastal. He threw for 154 yards on 13-of-27 passing with two interceptions, one of which was returned 71 yards for a touchdown that permanently swung momentum in the Chanticleers’ way.
“He’s going to get better,” Woodard said. “It’s been a while since he played the game. There’s no quarterback controversy. He’s still our guy. You may see Andrew [Allen, who transferred from New Mexico State last month] more as we go along, not because we’re down on Carson, but because we may mix it up a little bit and do different things with Andrew.”
Center Matthew Oubre has been ruled out of Saturday’s game with a knee injury he sustained against Coastal. There is no timetable for the junior’s return.
Oubre had not missed a start since the beginning of last season.
Senior center Bret Treadway, who missed his first collegiate start last Saturday due to mononucleosis, is a game-time decision.
While Houston’s Ward threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns against the Sooners, he needed an MRI on his shoulder after the big victory. Herman said the MRI came back “all soft tissue, nothing structural,” and expects him to play Saturday.
I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews