Jason Caesar Consolacion
The UH Cougar football team will wrap up the 1997 season with a game against the Tulane Green Wave, 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Astrodome.
With high expectations coming into this season, the defending Conference USA champion Cougars were unable to defend their title in a season full of close games and painful losses.
"The team is a little down right now," UH head coach Kim Helton said, "but that's expected after the season we had. I don't want to take anything away from the way our guys played, but we had a goal (to defend the Conference USA title) and we weren't able to accomplish that goal."
Helton also said he believes his players played hard all year and that he was proud of the team's heart and overall attitude throughout the season. The Cougars (3-7) fell to big teams such as Alabama, UCLA and Southern Mississippi. But the tough losses came against other conference foes, including a 24-3 defeat to Memphis and the one-point loss to East Carolina on Nov. 8.
Going into this weekend's game, the Cougars hope to put the disappointing season behind them by ending the year on a winning note. The team would especially like to win one more with departing seniors Ben Fricke, Sebastian Villarreal, Leonta Rheams, Maurice Bryant, Jay McGuire and other Cougars that will be playing for the last time in their collegiate careers.
As for Tulane (6-4), the team will be concluding a successful season, compiling the second-best record in C-USA. Last season, the Green Wave was 2-9 and finished sixth in the conference with a 1-4 conference record. The team comes off a 24-41 loss against Mississippi on Saturday.
"Tulane can really run the ball well," UH strong safety Stedmon Forman said. "Their quarterback can run the ball well too. He's like a runningback with the ball."
That quarterback would be junior Shaun King. He has passed and rushed for 2,408 and 438 yards, respectively, this year. He also set a single-season school record for touchdown passes when he reached 22 in the loss against Mississippi. King also leads C-USA in passing efficiency.
Those passes are usually targeted to JaJuan Dawson and P.J. Franklin who both have 52 receptions this season. Dawson leads Tulane with 10 touchdown receptions and Franklin has six.
The Green Wave offense leads the conference in scoring with 33.1 points per game. Tulane also leads in total offense with 425.1 yards per game.
On the defensive end, free safety Alphonso Roundtree and cornerback Michael Jordan account for seven interceptions and 107 total tackles. Tulane limits its opponents to 21.5 points per game, good for fourth in C-USA.