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|11-26-2015, 10:51 PM||#1|
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American showdown; Navy at Houston for title game berth
There is no time for No. 21 Houston to feel sorry for itself.
After Connecticut spoiled their unbeaten season last week, the Cougars head into Friday's regular-season finale with the unenviable job of trying to slow down No. 16 Navy.
Houston coach Tom Herman said the 20-17 loss to the Huskies was tough, but Houston (10-1, 6-1 American) has to get over it quickly.
"It is a little bump in the road," Herman said. "We have a short week and don't have time to mope. The guys certainly mourned the loss on Saturday night, as they should, and it hurt really bad, especially considering where we were at this point in our season."
The winner of the Houston-Navy game will be the American's West Division champion and host either Temple or South Florida Dec. 5 in the conference championship. Herman said the Cougars' goal was not to go 12-0 but to win the league title.
"We started with those goals from the beginning of the season, and it's still there," Houston offensive lineman Alex Cooper said. "We put ourselves in a position to control our own destiny, so we're really happy about that. We take care of this game and we'll represent the West Division in the championship."
Navy (9-1, 7-0) has won five straight since a 41-24 loss to Notre Dame. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds owns the FBS record with 82 career rushing touchdowns and is two away from the record for most touchdowns in Division I history set by Georgia Southern's Adrian Peterson and Towson's Terrance West.
"Although they are diversified, even more so than some, everything goes through that quarterback; he is a dude," Herman said of Reynolds. "He is arguably one of the greatest college players in the history of the game when you look at his numbers and what he has been able to accomplish throughout his career at Navy. He is a very highly acclaimed quarterback, and rightly so."
Reynolds' 82 career total touchdowns are second in NCAA FBS history, just one behind Wisconsin's Montee Ball. In his career, Reynolds has rushed for a school-record 4,195 yards, passing Napoleon McCallum last Saturday for the school record. Reynolds currently has the fifth-most rushing yards in NCAA history by a quarterback.
Houston has been good about creating turnovers this season, ranking second nationally with 27 turnovers forced, but against Connecticut, the Cougars gave the ball away four times and did not force a turnover. "I have never won a football game in all my years as a coach, and I polled our entire staff, and not one of us has ever won a game where you lost the turnover battle by four, and we lost four to nothing in the turnover battle," Herman said.
MIDS RUSHING ATTACK
Navy has rushed for more than 400 yards in back-to-back games, with 403 against SMU and 469 against Tulsa. The Midshipmen have never rushed for more than 400 yards in three straight games. Navy ranks second nationally with 348.4 yards on the ground. In addition to Reynolds, fullbacks Chris Swain, Quentin Ezell and Shawn White have combined to rush for 1,194 yards and 15 touchdowns on 234 carries this season. Swain has 820 yards and eight touchdowns this year, while Ezell has 303 yards and six touchdowns.
With quarterbacks Greg Ward Jr. and Kyle Postma both nursing injuries, Herman said one of them would start for Houston, but which one was up in the air. Ward injured his ankle two weeks ago against Memphis and sat out the second half of that game and missed most of the game against UConn. Postma rallied the Cougars in Ward's absence against Memphis, but struggled against the Huskies and suffered a bone bruise on his knee, Herman said.
Navy's defense has been the best scoring defense in the American, allowing less than 19 points a game. Sophomore linebacker Micah Thomas leads the defense with 58 tackles, while junior cornerback Brendon Clements leads Navy with three turnovers and senior defensive end Will Anthony has 5 1-2 sacks to lead the Mids.