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Houston vs. Prairie View A&M: Five things to watch

Houston Chronicle logo Houston Chronicle 9/6/2019 Joseph Duarte
a football player running on a field: Mulbah Car and the Cougars will look for a faster start tonight against Prairie View A&M after slogging through the first half last week at Oklahoma. © Godofredo A Vásquez

Mulbah Car and the Cougars will look for a faster start tonight against Prairie View A&M after slogging through the first half last week at Oklahoma.

Five things to watch as Houston hosts Prairie View A&M at 7 p.m. Saturday at TDECU Stadium:

Start fast

Against Oklahoma, the Cougars managed 25 yards on the first four drives and fell behind 21-0. A quick start should not be a problem against the FCS Panthers.

Focus on 'ourselves'

It sounds like a cliché, but the Cougars essentially went back to the basics this week after a 18-point loss to the Sooners. "Focus on us," quarterback D'Eriq King said. There were so many areas to address, and only time will tell how much of the problem was playing a high-caliber opponent as OU and how much is personnel, talent and depth issues that may take longer to figure out.

Stop the run

Prairie View A&M's Dawonya Tucker, who is listed at 5-6, ran for 1,096 yards last season and leads FCS in rushing after piling up 188 yards and three touchdowns against Texas Southern. Stopping the run was a problem for the Cougars last season and this year is off to a rough start after allowing 354 to Oklahoma.

Move the chains

UH had only one first down midway through the second quarter against Oklahoma. UH looked for big plays that just were not there instead of focusing on shorter ones to keep drives alive. The Cougars finished with 25 first downs, a respectable number although coach Dana Holgorsen thought they could have had at least a half-dozen more. It begins with better execution on offense and avoiding the three-and-out drives that put them in an early hole against the Sooners.

Respect the opponent

Playing a FCS opponent, especially between two Power Five opponents, could be a recipe for disaster. UH players said all the right things this week. That they aim to correct problems. That they are not taking Prairie View lightly. That they are not looking ahead to Washington State. The Panthers have several players that began careers at FBS schools, among them wide receiver Tristan Wallace (Oregon), defensive end Isaiah Washington and running back Justin Jones (LSU) and wide receiver Travis O'Connor (Mississippi State).

Duarte's prediction: UH 56, Prairie View A&M 10

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