Despite knee injury, Ed Oliver plans to play in Houston's bowl game

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Houston Cougars defensive tackle <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaaf/players/266709/" data-ylk="slk:Ed Oliver">Ed Oliver</a> (10) works to get around <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/ncaab/teams/rae" data-ylk="slk:Rice Owls">Rice Owls</a> offensive lineman Shea Baker (58) during a NCAA college football game against the Rice Owls Saturday, Sep. 1, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)
Houston Cougars defensive tackle Ed Oliver (10) works to get around Rice Owls offensive lineman Shea Baker (58) during a NCAA college football game against the Rice Owls Saturday, Sep. 1, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

This is Ed Oliver’s last season at Houston. We know that.

Oliver, a junior defensive lineman, declared for the NFL draft before the season even began. He missed four straight games with a knee injury before returning to the lineup in Friday’s game at Memphis — a game that decided the AAC West division title.

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However, the knee injury forced Oliver to exit the game — a 52-31 loss — in the second half. Oliver is a projected first-round pick, but plans to play in Houston’s bowl game as long as he’s healthy.

“As far as I know right now, yeah,” Oliver said per the Houston Chronicle. “I want to play every game.”

Houston coach Major Applewhite believes Oliver will play

According to the Chronicle, Oliver’s knee “got rolled up on” at some point in Friday’s game. He was originally injured on a low block when UH played Navy on Oct. 20. The program has referred to Oliver’s injury as a bruised right knee.

Oliver, a Houston native, was visibly emotional on the sideline in the second half while not in the game.

After the game, UH coach Major Applewhite said the program thought Oliver would be out for two games (returning Nov. 10 vs. Temple), but Oliver tried to come back for the Nov. 3 game against SMU, only to have a setback when he went through warmups.

Now, with the regular season over, Oliver will have several weeks to get healthy before Houston (8-4) plays its to-be-determined bowl game.

Applewhite said he doesn’t believe Oliver has played his last game for UH. From the Chronicle:

After walking off the field Friday, Applewhite said he has not been told by Oliver that he is done for the season.

“I don’t know,” Applewhite said. “I don’t think so. That’s not the impression I’ve ever gotten from him.”

Several draft prospects have sat out lower level bowl games

Others in Oliver’s situation have opted to sit out a bowl game in order to be healthy entering the pre-draft process. Earlier this week, Applewhite said he understood both sides of the argument and would support Oliver “100 percent” no matter what.

Earlier this month, Applewhite and Oliver had a well-publicized sideline incident when Applewhite wanted Oliver to take off a jacket reserved for active players. Both coach and player insisted there were no hard feelings.

“Ed is a passionate human being, and that is why he is the best player in the country. This was not indicative of his character and it was a passionate moment within our program. We can, and we will, both learn from this situation as we move forward together,” Applewhite said.

Oliver said his reaction was not a true reflection of his character and said what happened was a “misunderstanding.”

“I was caught in an emotional moment. I have the utmost respect for Coach Applewhite and I appreciate the support of Coach Applewhite and my teammates during this time. I love my brothers, my team and my city and I’m looking forward to moving forward with them together,” he said.

During his time at Houston, Oliver has been one of the most dominant players in college football. Despite playing in only eight games this year, Oliver led the Cougars with 14.5 tackles for loss and was seventh with 54 tackles. In his first two seasons, he combined for 138 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.

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