The Cougars managed back-to-back victories for the first time this season, getting past the Temple Owls in an oftentimes-sloppy game last Friday night at TDECU Stadium.
The Good: The "Third Ward Defense" continues to be a turnover-creating machine. They savaged Owl quarterback P.J. Walker for three interceptions, one of which was run back for a touchdown by Trevon Stewart, and denied the Owls another touchdown by forcing a goal-line fumble. On the other side of the ball, Greg Ward, Jr. seems to be settling into his new job as quarterback. Ward was remarkably efficient, completing 29 of 33 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns. He, along with running backs Ryan Jackson and Kenneth Farrow, also managed a healthy 171 yards and one TD on the ground.
The Bad: The Houston defense gave up a couple of big plays to Temple wide receiver Jahad Thomas, who had gains of 74 and 72 yards on a pair of well-executed screen plays. Neither play resulted in a touchdown - the Houston defense held Temple to a field goal the first time and forced the aforementioned goal-line fumble the second time - but I can't help but wonder if the absences of cornerback Lee Hightower and linebacker Derrick Mathews, both of whom sustained season-ending injuries last week, played a part in those big plays. Kicker Kyle Bullard continued to struggle, as one of his field goal attempts hit the uprights. And that offensive line... Ugh!
The Ugly: The game was marred by penalties: Temple was flagged 11 times for 93 yards and the Cougars were penalized 10 times for 102 yards. Several Houston penalties resulted in stalled offensive drives, including two holding penalties that negated what would have been excellent Kenneth Farrow runs. Honestly, the Cougars should have scored more than 31 points in this game, and probably could have if they had not kept shooting themselves in the foot with penalties on offense.
What it Means: Houston is now above .500 for the first time this season and is 2-1 in conference. They are technically still in the hunt for the AAC title, but they'll need some help to get there.
The Cougars get a week off before traveling to Tampa to take on the South Florida Bulls.