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Volume 72, Issue 28, Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sports

Cougars looking for recognition and win 
over struggling Hurricanes

by MARK SUAREZ
THE DAILY COUGAR

The intricacies of non-conference play can lead to match-ups against programs in major conferences with fierce reputations. Schools from mid-major conferences use these opportunities to shine in the national spotlight and establish their own status before making a run in their respective conferences. 

The Cougars (4-0, 2-0 in Conference USA) will look to roll to their fifth consecutive win as they take on the Miami Hurricanes (1-2) at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Orange Bowl. 

The Hurricanes are coming off a bye week and will look to rebound from two early losses against a pair of Associated Press Top 25 squads, Florida State and Louisville. 

Miami features a pro-set style of offense that attacks defenses by establishing the ground game with multi-set backs to open up the passing lanes. UH has given up some big plays in the secondary in recent games and will have to contend with junior quarterback Kyle Wright and an experienced receiving corps.

"Wright is an outstanding quarterback," UH head coach Art Briles said. "He was one of the top guys coming out nationally from California. He is a big-time player. The guys they have around him are really outstanding football players. They put a lot of pressure on you. 

"I think the running backs are pretty balanced. The have a couple guys averaging about 40 yards a game, and then (Lance) Leggett, the receiver, is a really good player. He is a big, tall kid that plays well. We are going to have to stop the run to be good in the secondary. None of that stuff really changes." 

Houston will showcase an offense that is ranked third in the nation in total offense. The Cougars feature a balanced offensive attack and a triple threat in the backfield led by seniors Jackie Battle and Roshawn Pope and junior multi-threat Anthony Alridge. The Cougars have rushed for 173 yards per game behind a solid offensive line. For senior offensive lineman Sterling Doty, staying consistent will be the key.

"Miami has a great defense," Doty said. "Their front seven is big and they're fast and they're athletic, so we're just going to have to keep on doing what we've been doing. We won't really tweak our running schemes just work really hard, you got to give that extra effort when you play teams this good."

Miami defeated Houston 38-13 in 2004 at Reliant Stadium. It was a loss senior punter Justin Laird still remembers.

"We're excited about kind of redeeming ourselves a little bit. We feel we have a great opportunity to win this football game," Laird said. "We felt that last time we played, we played a great football game against them, but we had two key turnovers that kind of led us to losing that ballgame." 

The Cougars, coming off their first ever win against a Big 12 opponent (Oklahoma State 34-25 on Saturday), will look to land another big catch by adding an Atlantic Coast Conference victim to their list. For junior linebacker Trent Allen, the pressure to beat a mid-major school will be there for Miami.

"For them playing a mid-major conference, their backs are always against the wall because it looks like we've got nothing to lose," Allen said. "But in all reality we do, because we are the team now and we're coming up." 

The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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