The 2012 Houston Cougars should not be confused with the high-flying outfits coached by the likes of John Jenkins, Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin. Still, one can't help but be somewhat impressed with the job Texas State's defense did on the Cougars in the Bobcats' 30-13 victory.
Most noteworthy was TSU's effort on third and fourth downs. The Bobcats held the Cougars to exactly one conversion in 16 attempts on those two downs. That's a six percent conversion rate.
The Bobcats were also very strong against the pass, which, of course, has traditionally been Houston's strength. Texas State held the Cougar aerial attack to 211 yards, but more impressively, allowed only 17 completions in 44 attempts with one touchdown and one interception.
TSU was a bit less salty against the run, surrendering five yards per tote to U of H ball-carriers.
Defensive Line: The Bobcats return a pair of starters on the defensive line in tackle Blake McCulloch, and end Jordan Norfleet. Moreover, end Chase Harper started eight games at tight end last season. The fourth starter is tackle Jamie Clavell-Head.
Texas State is smallish on the interior with both tackles running in the neighborhood of 270 pounds. Harper, at six-foot-five and 250 pounds is a man-sized defensive end.
Against Houston, McCulloch and Harper were the standouts. McCulloch registered four tackles and a pass breakup while Harper logged a sack and a quarterback hurry.
Linebackers: Texas State welcomes back only one starter at linebacker in Joplo Bartu, but Brian Lilly, a burly 240-pounder from Dennison might as well have been a starter as he played in 12 games, registered 56 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. David Mayo, a transfer from Santa Monica College, is the third starter.
Mayo led this group against Houston with five tackles, while Lilly recorded a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.
Secondary: TSU's defensive backfield was extremely active against the Cougars as all three of the team's leading tacklers played in the secondary.
Slender safety Xavier Daniels—only 170 pounds--but a returning All Conference type, showed the way with eight tackles, a pass breakup and a forced fumble. Cornerback Darryl Morris, another returning starter, was also busy with seven tackles. Safety Jason McClean, yet another returning starter, tallied six tackles and a pass breakup. Cornerback Phillip Benning is the fourth starter in the secondary, while safety Chad Moncure, a transfer from UTEP, also sees plenty of action. He broke up two passes and defended two others against the Cougars.
On the whole, this is a veteran defense that will be very competitive, particularly in the friendly confines of San Marcos. But the opportunity is there for the Red Raiders to do some damage on the ground.