Two desperate teams enter Joan C. Edwards Stadium Saturday afternoon as Marshall (4-6, 3-3) host Houston (4-6, 3-3). The winner will have a chance to secure bowl eligibility next week while the losers postseason hopes are dashed.
Houston is lead by a strong offense, they rank second in Conference USA behind Marshall in yards per game (473.4) and passing yards per game (324.6).
With the departure of last year’s C-USA offensive player of the year, quarterback Case Kennum, sophomore David Piland has taken control of the Cougars offense. Piland has thrown for 2,927 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Although his stats are impressive, Piland’s INT’s have hindered Houston as the Cougars are minus eight on turnovers this year.
Piland’s favorite targets are five-foot-eleven receivers Daniel Spencer and Dewayne Peace. Together, Spencer and Peace have hauled in 83 passes for 1,037 yards and five touchdowns. The Cougars also have a tall possession wide receiver in six-foot-three Deontay Greenberry. The true freshman has put together an impressive rookie campaign, recording 412 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Charles Sims is C-USA’s leading rusher at 106 yards per game but, he has missed the last two weeks with a ankle injury. If Sims cannot play, expect a heavy dose of Kenneth Farrow. The freshman rushed for 54 yards on 15 carries during last weeks, 41-7 loss to Tulsa.
Houston features an aggressive defense that has registered 29 sacks. C-USA’s leading sack artist is Cougars linebacker Phillip Steward, he has taken down opposing quarterbacks nine times this season. More than just a pass rusher, Steward has also recorded 104 tackles and two interceptions.
Houston attacking style has produced a lot of takeaways, they rank second in C-USA with 13 interceptions and 23 total turnovers caused. Their big playmaker in the secondary is cornerback D.J Hayden, C-USA’s 2011 defensive newcomer of the year. This season, Hayden has already picked off four passes and broken up twenty balls thrown his way.
The Cougars also feature two special teams standouts. Senior Matt Hogan is C-USA’s all time leading scorer among kickers with 388 points. He has connected on 14 of 19 field goal attempts this year with a long of 52 yards. Punter Richie Leone is also a weapon, he leads the league with an average of 45.7 yards per punt.
For more on this week’s match-up, including quotes from both coaches, follow the links below.