Created on Friday, 22 November 2013 Written by JEREMY RAKES, Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) — After consecutive losses against nationally-ranked Central Florida and Louisville, the Houston Cougars will try to end their skid against another team fighting for the American Athletic Conference title in the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Cincinnati enters Saturday's matchup with the Cougars on a five-game winning streak.
Despite the consecutive losses, which has dropped the Cougars to fourth in the league, the Cougars' goals haven't changed.
"We've talked about regardless of what's taken place in the past, win or lose, and regardless of what's beyond our next opponent, none of that matters," coach Tony Levine said. "We're trying our best to win a football game this week, then we'll do the same next week and see where we're at after that."
Houston has scored 27 points in the last two games after scoring 30 or more points in six of its first eight. The Cougars for the third straight game will play a defense that's in the top 20 in points allowed.
"We're just trying to move the chains when we're efficient at first down, so that's something we're going to focus more on this week because I thought that was a big negative for us against Louisville," Levine said.
Five things to know about the Cincinnati-Houston game:
TRICKY TOMMY: Tommy Tuberville has started emptying his bag of trick plays. The Bearcats have recovered an onside kick in each of the last two games. During a 52-17 win at Rutgers on Saturday, they recovered an onside kick, got a first down off a fake punt and ran several reverses. On one reverse, receiver Shaq Washington threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to receiver Chris Moore. Will they keep it going against Houston?
"As long as we have excitement on the sidelines and we're having fun, we'll keep doing those things," Tuberville said. "I always go into the games with a couple of things that we can possibly try, but you have to execute them and our guys did an excellent job of executing. These aren't things we just thought about running. We've been practicing them all year long, and this was just the perfect time and the perfect situation."
TAKING IT AWAY: Houston has been controlling the turnover margin this season, leading the nation with a margin of plus-22. Houston safety Trevon Stewart leads the nation with a combined nine turnovers — four interceptions and five fumble recoveries. The Cougars had forced multiple turnovers in 17 straight games until forcing just one against Louisville last week. The 33 turnovers have led to 110 points.
BEARCATS' SURGE: Cincinnati has won five in a row, playing its best football as the season winds down. Their defense is ranked eighth in the BCS in yards allowed. Sixth-year senior quarterback Brendon Kay leads an offense that has thrived in the last five games.
"We've always had a strong bond on the team as a whole," Kay said. "I think everything we've gone through this year, and as tough as it's been, I think it's brought us closer in a lot of ways. But overall the team camaraderie has been really high. Winning does a lot of that, too."
GREENBERRY INJURED: Houston wide receiver Deontay Greenberry is questionable for Saturday's game after the sophomore sustained a concussion in the first quarter last week. Greenberry has 70 catches for 1,042 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Levine said he was feeling good on Tuesday, but that he wouldn't know if he could play until later this week.
ACCURATE QB: Kay has been a key to Cincinnati's recent success. He was 24 of 38 for a career-high 405 yards and four touchdowns against Rutgers, the third time he's thrown four TD passes this season. Since the Bearcats went to a spread offense, Kay has completed 76 percent of his throws for 1,740 yards and 15 touchdowns.