Houston needs a victory to stay in the American Athletic Conference race while visiting South Florida is looking for something positive as the two sides head into a Saturday afternoon meeting.

The Cougars (4-3, 2-1 AAC) trail Tulane and Cincinnati in the standings and are currently tied with UCF for third place. Their lone league loss was to Tulane, and they do not play either Cincinnati or UCF in the regular season.

Houston coach Dana Holgorsen describes his team’s mental outlook as “disappointed” but not “down.”

“We’ve been in some bad spots because of some close losses,” Holgorsen said. “But I never felt like we lost the team or the pulse wasn’t there or the work ethic wasn’t there, the practices weren’t there. I haven’t felt that.”

Clayton Tune has been one of the more productive passers in the league with an average of just over 261 yards a game, and Nathaniel Dell is one of the top receivers with 51 receptions for 627 yards and eight touchdown catches, which is tied for the most in the AAC.

Holgorsen, however, is concerned with his team’s kickoffs. He called both the kicks and the coverage “sporadic” and noted that USF’s Brian Battie had two 100-yard kickoff returns in last year’s meeting. Battie is back and joined by Jimmy Horn Jr., who has an 89-yard touchdown return this season.

“Two dudes back there that are dangerous,” Holgerson said.

The Bulls (1-6, 0-3) are coming off an open date following a 45-31 setback to Tulane and will be without starting quarterback Gerry Bohanon Jr. the rest of the season after his shoulder surgery. Veteran Katravis Marsh (11-of-26 passing, 198 yards) will get the start.

Coach Jeff Scott is challenging his Bulls to finish strong.

“The first seven games are part of our story for this season,” Scott said. “But it doesn’t have to be ‘the’ story of our season if we finish the right way.”

Houston has won six straight in the all-time series.

–Field Level Media