- Associated Press - Friday, October 14, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) - After a 5-0 start the No. 13 Houston Cougars had designs on crashing the College Football Playoff.

A loss to Navy last week, however, ruined those plans. Now the Cougars need help to reach the American Athletic Conference championship game, with Navy, Memphis and Saturday’s opponent, Tulsa, ahead of them in the West division.

Coach Tom Herman acknowledged that last week’s loss was hard on his players.

“Our goals are completely ahead of us,” he said. “Our goal was not to go undefeated, it was not to just beat Oklahoma, and our goal wasn’t to be ranked in the top ten or five. Our goal is to win our conference. That goal is still out there.”

For that to happen the Cougars will have to get back on track against the Golden Hurricane. Herman hopes his team learned from the Navy loss.

“The biggest thing that we do have to realize is that we are capable of beating Oklahoma and Florida State and Louisville on any given Saturday, but we are also not talented enough, not deep enough, to go on the road and play a C game against a bowl opponent such as Navy or really anyone left on our schedule and come up with a win,” he said. “I think our guys realize that.”

Tulsa is riding momentum from two straight overtime wins against Fresno State and SMU and looks to extend its winning streak to four games. Coach Philip Montgomery knows this game will be his team’s biggest challenge so far.

“We’ve got our hands full … it’s going to be a great test for us,” he said.

Some things to know about the Tulsa-Houston game.

WARD’S WORK: Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. leads the conference by averaging 336.8 yards passing and has thrown for 11 touchdowns and ran for six more. He’s looking to bounce back this week after a tough performance against Navy. He threw two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, and lost a fumble.

“He’s a special player,” Montgomery said. “We’ve got our hands full with him. We can’t stop him, but we do hope to contain him and do what we need to do to try to limit them offensively.”

LIMITING BREWER: The Cougars will look to limit running back D’Angelo Brewer, who leads the conference by averaging 143.2 yards a game. Houston’s run defense is among the best in the nation, allowing just 86 yards rushing a game, but the unit gave up 302 yards rushing to Navy’s triple option last week.

Houston defensive end Cameron Malveaux said the defense is focused on improving in that area after the yards Navy piled up on the ground last week “felt like a hit in the mouth.”

CATALON’S HEALTH: Houston running back Duke Catalon is questionable because he still has concussion symptoms from the game against Texas State on Sept. 24. Catalon has missed the last two games. He returned to practice last week but had a setback that delayed his return to the field.

“Concussions are a very sensitive topic,” Herman said. “We have a concussion specialist here, and he said Catalon had a setback from some symptoms. I don’t know what the symptoms were … so it’s just a matter of can we get these symptoms down to nothing over an extended period of time in order to get him cleared.”

100-YARD MARK: Tulsa receiver Keevan Lucas has had at least 100 yards receiving in four of the team’s first five games this season. Lucas, who played just four games last season because of an injury, is sixth on the school’s all-time receiving list with 194 receptions for 2,578 yards and 22 touchdowns in his career. Lucas had a season-high 119 yards receiving and three touchdowns against North Carolina A&T; and has 10 career 100-yard receiving games.

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AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org

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