|Friday, November 20, 1998||
Volume 64, Issue 64
||Cougars look to derail Tulane's perfect season
By Anna Sivadasan
The last meeting between the Houston Cougars (3-7 overall, 2-3 in Conference USA) and the Tulane Green Wave (9-0, 5-0) featured a 28-point second quarter, six touchdowns and numerous big plays.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, the Green Wave was scoring most of those points and making most of those plays. As a result, UH lost to Tulane 44-10 in its final game last year.
The Cougars will play the Green Wave again in their season finale Saturday afternoon at the New Orleans Superdome.
While UH hopes to rebound from last week's loss to Cincinnati, the Green Wave looks to win its 11th consecutive game. TU is ranked in both The Associated Press (12) and ESPN/Coaches' polls (13), and is one of only four remaining teams in the country that is undefeated. But even with its unblemished record, TU still has a major goal to finish off and can do it with a win over the Cougars.
Tulane already possesses a share of the conference title and can win it outright with a victory on Saturday. However, TU head coach Tommy Bowden said his team is looking at the UH match just like they would any other game.
"There's no more excitement for this game than there has been for any week," Bowden said. "The team is reserved and has a businesslike approach. There's a lot on the table to accomplish."
Needless to say, the Cougars will face their most challenging opponent since late September when they played against No. 1 Tennessee and No. 2 UCLA on back-to-back weekends. Some of the conference's premier offensive talent will be on the field this Saturday, so it would be a surprise to no one if the game turned out to be high-scoring.
"Everyone thinks it's going to be a very high scoring game, but I hope that's not the case" UH head coach Kim Helton said. "They're a solid football team, and it should be a great challenge for us."
At 43 points per game, TU is second in the nation in scoring and has not exhibited any signs of wearing down as the season has progressed. Tulane has scored 40 or more points in six games this season, including four straight games of over 40-plus points. The UH defense will have its hands full in containing the Tulane offensive attack. Stopping the opposing team's running game is always the key, but it is imperative for the Cougars on Saturday.
UH leads the league in rush defense, but the Green Wave is second in rushing offense. With quarterback Shaun King (28 TDs and six interceptions), the conference's best player, at the helm of its offensive attack, Tulane is the most balanced team in the league.
If the Green Wave is able to run the football, it gives the athletic King all kinds of options to work with. The Wave offense feeds off the running game with play fakes and bootlegs for King.
"I'm very prejudiced for Shaun King," Helton said. "I don't know if there's a better player in the country. If there's a guy more capable of winning games than him, I don't know where he is at. He's the most difficult quarterback we've had to contend with."
Bowden, who has seen King play with a cast on his broken left wrist for the majority of the season, echoes Helton's sentiment.
"(King) just doesn't make the offense go, he makes the team go," Bowden said. "He's an inspiration, and he's a reflection of our team."
But with all of Tulane's talent, Bowden does not see the Green Wave running over the Cougar defensive unit. "My biggest concern is Houston's defense. They will be the second best defense we'll face all season," he said. "They're not going to give us the opportunity to run. We're going to have to throw and catch."
In addition to containing the running game, the UH defense also has to stop the Green Wave on third down. Tulane has converted 50 percent of its third-down chances.
Last season, the Green Wave ended the Cougars' season on a bad note, and UH would hope to return the favor Saturday.
"If we win the game, we would have an extra boost going into next season," Sanford said. "We would feed off that win knowing we went out on a good note."
UH leads the series 3-1. Kickoff at the Superdome is set for 2 p.m.
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