The Houston Cougars have seen a big change to their landscape in the month of October and as they final days tick away before the end of the month, they are hoping to end on an upward trend heading into their much needed bye week which does not come until week 10 for them.
The grind of any season is a hard one and as is often the case, injuries have mounted for the Cougars as the season has worn on. Much like in 2015 the offensive line has struggled through an extremely unlucky run of injuries and enters the final week of October hoping to patch together a unit long enough to get that extra week of rest.
Head coach Tom Herman noted just how abnormally high the injury rate to the line has been in his weekly press conference Tuesday at the school.
"We went through it last year and it's not...," Herman began as he started answering a question about offensive efficiency with the amount of injuries. "I know probably everywhere in america o-linemen get hurt, but here it's been a weird deal. Over the last two years it's been a freak ankle, stinger, you name it, knee."
Shifting his answer to a more specific injury the team is dealing with in sophomore center Will Noble, who was a freshman All-American a year ago in part to playing time afforded to him by an injury, who has battled through a stinger injury for several games and will miss this weekend's game.
"You try to say what could I do to prevent it? but what do you do to prevent a stinger who has never had a history of stingers? You don't do anything, and then it happens."
A couple of positive signs from the injury front for the Cougars are freshman wide receiver Marquez Stevenson and sophomore running back Duke Catalon. Both players returned to action in the SMU game after absence from injury and both should begin contributing more this week.
Catalon was being counted on entering the season to carry the tailback position for the Cougars but has missed time off on on since camp with an ongoing concussion situation. His return to the Cougars was a noticeable one but Herman hopes it was just the beginning of a return to what he had expected entering the season.
"The tailback position, we admirably tried to fill in with Dillon (Birden) and Mulbah (Car)," Herman said referring to the junior college transfer walk-on and true freshman running backs who have filled in for Catalon. "It was nice to see Duke out there. He was a little rusty, missed some cuts and some runs that I think even he would tell you he should have made, but definitely saw some explosive plays out of him too which is something we are going to need down the stretch. Some consistency from that position."
Stevenson is a true freshman who began responding well midway through the Cougars August camp and had begun pushing Ra'Shaad Samples for repetitions with the first team before both were lost longterm. Samples has yet to play for the Cougars with continued issues from a concussion. Stevenson broke his clavicle shortly before the beginning of the season.
"We had a few gadgets for him (Stevenson) that didn't feel like the looks were there to call those plays, but he'll play this week especially with Isaiah (Johnson) out with a concussion," Herman noted on Stevenson Tuesday.
The Cougars face off with UCF Saturday at 11 A.M.