Scouting the Opponent: Houston

Houston was penciled in as the preseason favorite to win Conference-USA West, but the Cougars have had to deal with adversity at an unlikely position: QB. With Case Keenum, the top passer in the nation last year, lost to injury (and his backup also out), Houston has been able to turn to RB Bryce Beall (pictured).

Houston entered the 2010 season with aspirations of another first place finish in Conference-USA West and perhaps a prestigious bowl bid.

Through the first two games, the Cougars were on fire, ringing up 122 combined points before losing losing both the starting quarterback - prolific passer Case Keenum - and his backup (Cotton Turner) in a 31-13 loss at UCLA.

After true frosh QB Terrance Broadway helped the Cougars to a win over Tulane, another true freshman - Southlake Carroll alum David Piland - has taken over the reins under center with mixed success.

Piland has thrown for 583 yards in the last two games, but the Cougars have come up on the short end of the stick in both outings, including a loss to Rice last Saturday night.

With an inexperienced signal-caller at the helm, Houston hopes to get maximum effort from junior RB Bryce Beall. The Tatum, Texas, native leads the Cougars in rushing with 544 yards and 10 touchdowns. He's topped the century-mark in all three conference games, including a 19-carry, 195-yard (with 3 TDs) effort vs. UTEP.

Beall was expected to split the load this season with sophomore Charles Sims, but Sims (nearly 1,500 all-purpose yards in 2009) was declared ineligible in June.

The Cougars have an arsenal of weapons at receiver, including Patrick Edwards (32-473, 5 TDs), James Cleveland (28-404, 3 TDs), and Tyron Carrier (27-223).

Cleveland was suspended for the Mississippi State game two weeks ago, but the Baytown Lee product returned to catch 8 passes for 80 yards against Rice.

Edwards is very elusive on punt returns, averaging 13.2 yards (12-158). In turn, Carrier (25-543) picks up nearly 22 yards per kick return and ranks just outside the Top 10 in the nation in that category.

Houston's defense is dominated by linebacker Marcus McGraw, a junior who has 58 tackles. The next two-leading tacklers, linebacker Matt Nicholson and safety Roisean Haynes, each have 41 stops.

Corner Loyce Means has three interceptions and once recorded three picks in a game (vs. Tulsa in 2008). LB Phillip Steward has seven tackles for loss.

Kicker Matt Hogan is 6-for-8 on field goals, but he's 0-2 on attempts from further than 39 yards.

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