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Cooper And Cougars Move To 5-0

By RENALDO DORSETT

Sports Reporter

rdorsett@tribunemedia.net

SENIOR offensive lineman Alex Cooper has made several transitions during the course of his sporting career and he continues to make another as his Houston Cougars powered their way toward a top 25 national ranking.

Cooper and the Houston Cougars moved to 5-0 on the season and No.24 in the Associated Press poll yesterday, following a 49-28 win over the SMU Mustangs last weekend.

It was the first ranking for the Cougars’ football programme since 2011 when they finished 13-1 and won the TicketCity Bowl.

Cooper, the 6’4” 305-pound senior, has already completed his undergraduate degree prior to the season and was named to the 2015 Athlon Sports Preseason AAC Third Team.

Recently featured on the Cougars’ athletic website, Cooper said the programme is well on its way to national recognition and legitimacy under head coach Tod Herman.

“The bond that we have as teammates is huge for this season and it gives us an unbelievable advantage,” Cooper said. “Our number one goal is to win the conference and to just be nationally relevant. “We want people to look at the University of Houston on TV and say ‘oh, that’s a big time programme’ because I feel like we are.”

He started his entire junior season and the first three games of this season at right tackle before injuries on the offensive line forced him to make another shift to the interior at right guard.

Cooper is the lynchpin of a line that has led to Houston’s major achievements on the offensive side of the ball.

The Cougars are the only team in the NCAA to rank in the top 10 in rushing offence (No. 8 at 287.2 yards per game) and rushing defense (No. 9 – 95.8 yards per game). They also rank sixth in scoring (46.4 points per game) and total offence (573.4 yards per game).

Following the win over SMU, Cougars’ quarterback Greg Ward Jr noted how Cooper and the offensive line have contributed to his growth.

“It was a lot of preparation. I have been trying to stay in the pocket more and trust the offensive linemen,” he said. “They were able to protect me tonight, so I was able to stay in the pocket more instead of scrambling.”

Houston is one of 16 teams that remain undefeated, including three teams in The American Athletic Conference. Led by first year head coach Tom Herman, Houston is one of just two teams with a head coach in his first year with the programme, joining No. 8 Florida and Jim McElwain as the only other.

The new look Cougars are well ahead of last year’s pace when they finished the season 8-5, including a mark of 5-3 in the AAC and a win in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

Cooper was initially recruited as defensive lineman, but enjoyed the best season of his career last year when he shifted his focus from trying to sack the quarterback to protecting him instead.

A switch from the defensive to the offensive side of the ball became a major move in the right direction following his redshirt freshman season.

After a redshirt season, he moved to the offensive lineman prior to the start of fall practice and also provided depth on the offensive line as a member of the jumbo package.

As a redshirt sophomore, he played in 12 games with one start as a tight end in the team’s jumbo formation and was also a member of Houston’s field goal team. He finished the year with 69 snaps on the offensive line.

In his redshirt junior season he started all 13 games during the season at right tackle and helped the Houston offence gain 2,194 yards on the ground for 4.8 yards per rush and 26 rushing touchdowns in those 12 games.

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