Donavan Mutin just before his strip / Photo by Mario Puente

 
Very quietly, the Houston Cougar defense has been manhandling teams since the middle of last season. The defense has allowed 11.8 ppg in the last five games, dating back to Memphis last season. In that same stretch, the defense has given up just 253.4 ypg. For just 2021, the Coogs have given up just 230 yards per game and 15 ppg.

Obviously, a big part of that is who they’ve played. Sagarin says the Tech-Rice-Grambling schedule is rated 172nd out 258 FBS/FCS teams. It won’t get much better in the next few weeks, either.

But in the past, UH has played poorly against bad teams, so this season’s shutdown of Rice and Grambling is worth noting. The Cougar defense has exceeded any reasonable expectations.

The 7 total points scored by opponents in the Rice/Grambling games are the fewest combined points given up in back-to-back games since Jack Pardee’s 1989 team opened the season with 69-0 and 36-7 wins over UNLV and Arizona State, respectively.

It’s clear that Doug Belk has the tools, and the schedule, to keep this high-level play going. After the game, Donavan Mutin spoke about his defense’s talent and the chip they carry:

Mutin sounds like a guy that is comfortable in his leadership role. He had a whale of a game against Grambling – 7 tackles, 1.5 TFL, and this forced fumble:

The forced fumble came at a vital point in the game – the drive after Clayton Tune went out and Ike Ogbogu took over at QB. The turnover led to a six-play scoring drive when Ogbogu connected with Nathaniel Dell for his first passing TD as a Houston Cougar.

The defense toyed with Grambling all night, as the Tigers were clearly overmatched from the beginning. Grambling went 0/14 on 3rd down and barely made an attempt to convert. On 14 third downs, they attempted only 3 passes.

With their dominant performance, UH jumped in national defensive statistical categories:

3rd – passing yards allowed
5th – 1st down defense
7th – total defense
7th – 3rd down defense
11th – red-zone defense
19th – scoring defense
22nd – turnovers gained
22nd – team sacks

Today, the Houston Cougars are 25% through their college football season. And while the questions continue to mount for the offense, the defense is sailing into conference season playing their best since the 2016 season.


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