Sunday, October 31, 2010


Maybe not my best work, but I nevertheless got a lot of positive comments about it during this evening's onslaught of trick-or-treaters:
Happy Halloween, everyone!

Coogs crush Memphis, 59-17

It would seem that rumors of the demise of University of Houston's 2010 season have been greatly exaggerated. The Coogs won their second road game in a row Saturday night in emphatic fashion: after allowing Memphis to score the game's first points on a field goal, the Cougars rattled off 49 unanswered points on their way to a 59-17 rout of the Tigers at the Liberty Bowl.

Quarterback David Piland had a solid outing, completing 20 of 23 passes for 293 yards and five touchdowns and no interceptions. He got a lot of help from running back Michael Hayes, who ran for 123 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and receiving for another score. And then there was wide receiver Patrick Edwards, who in addition to his two touchdown receptions returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown. Terrance Broadway also got to see some time at quarterback, completing all four of his passes for 111 yards and a touchdown on a 54-yard hookup to E. J. Smith that was a thing of beauty.

Houston's defense also put in a solid effort, limiting Memphis to three points through the first three quarters of the game. They did allow Tiger running back Gregory Ray to gain 176 yards on 26 carries, but that was okay considering that he was Memphis's only offensive weapon (The Tigers only completed 4 of 12 passes) and nevertheless wasn't allowed to reach the endzone until early in the fourth quarter, when the game had already been decided.

One could point out that Memphis is a particularly bad team, and they'd be correct. But, as history has shown, the Cougars don't always end up beating the teams they should beat. Saturday they took care of business and now find themselves at 5-3 overall and 4-1 in conference. They still control their own destiny in the Conference USA west race.

However, things are about to get considerably tougher for the Coogs. Central Florida, the eastern division's best team, comes to town Friday night. They are going to be tough. And the same Tulsa team which upset Notre Dame in South Bend yesterday awaits the Cougars the following weekend. The Cougars might be without the services of their biggest offensive weapon, too; Bryce Beall suffered a knee injury early in the Memphis game and his condition is unknown at this time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Downtown on a clear day

Although my main office is in the Uptown/Galleria area, I've lately been spending a lot of time at my company's client's offices downtown. Earlier this week a cool front blew in and cleared the skies, giving me this wonderful view of the downtown skyline from my clients' window:
(Although, the way things have been going lately, a few rainclouds would be just as welcome in this view as well...)

My new ride

The time had simply come.

My 1997 Nissan Sentra served me well. I had it for twelve years, eight months and 129,319 miles. But the battered old car was clearly reaching the end of its useful life.
I originally had planned on holding out until early next year to get a new car. But then I asked myself, "why wait?" I had enough money saved for a down payment and Nissan was offering attractive deals on new cars. So last week I decided to bid farewell to the old Sentra and acquire a 2010 Altima 2.5S:
I'm happy with this car. The acceleration is smooth, the handling is excellent and the fuel economy is pretty good as well. And I no longer feel self-conscious driving around in a battered, dented old car.

Like I said: the time had simply come.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Coogs snap two-game losing streak with win over SMU

It's probably a good thing that I took a short vacation from blogging over the past few weeks: I really wouldn't have wanted to write about Houston's losses to Mississippi State and Rice.

The 24-47 loss to Mississippi State I could handle. Sure, the Bulldogs' victory snapped a 17-game home winning streak, but let's face it: the Cougars were breaking in a brand-new true-freshman quarterback, David Piland, who had never before seen a college field, the difference in size and strength between SEC (i.e. BCS-AQ) linemen and C-USA (i.e. BCS non-AQ) lineman once again made itself apparent, and, quite frankly, the fact that it was an out-of-conference game meant that it really didn't effect the Coogs' ultimate goal of winning Conference USA. Besides, the Coogs managed to beat Mississippi State three out of four times during this series, which softens the blow of this loss somewhat.

Certainly, there wasn't much to like about the fact that the Cougar defense allowed the Bulldogs to amass a whopping 409 rushing yards. And I still don't understand why the coaching staff decided it was a good idea to have a guy making his very first college start throw 57 pass attempts while only attempting 11 rushes. Sure, the Bulldogs were probably expecting the Cougars to run, but you would at least think that the Coogs' best offensive weapon, Bryce Beall (who only had 17 rushing yards on the day), would be utilized a bit more than he was.

But if the loss to Mississippi State was disappointing, the Cougars' 31-34 loss to crosstown rival Rice at Rice Stadium the following Saturday was downright crushing

David Piland threw an interception close to Rice's goal line on the first series, leading to a quick Rice score, and the Cougars played very flat through the entire first half. Receivers dropped easy catches. The defense allowed the Owls to get first downs on 3rd and 13 and on 2nd and 18. The secondary got burned for touchdown passes of 29 and 59 yards. Rice's defensive line was blowing up Houston's offensive line. The Owls led 14-27 at the break.

The Cougars clawed their way back in the second half, playing better defense while moving the ball more effectively, and by midway through the fourth quarter managed to take a 31-27 lead. But the Coogs then gave up a 13-yard touchdown pass to Rice, and fumbled the ball on a bad snap on fourth down in the game's closing seconds to assure an Owl victory.

The subsequent meltdown on the various UH message boards was as nasty as it was predictable. A quarterback controversy emerged as fans aligned themselves in either the David Piland camp or the Terrance Broadway camp. Fans also voiced concern about playcalling - once again, the Cougars elected to throw deep passes in certain critical situations when running the ball would have made more sense - and people began to wonder if Houston's biggest loss on offense wasn't Case Keenum but rather departed offensive coordinator Dana Holgerson. Furthermore, given the poor performance of Houston's defense - linebacker Sammy Brown was a rare bright spot, recording 5 tackles for loss and two sacks - did it really matter who was behind center or what the playcalling was like? The Cougars were especially hurt by the absence of two key defensive linemen due to injuries - Matangi Tonga (out until November) and Radermon Scypion (out for the season).

What was distressing to me is that the "easy" half of the Cougars' schedule, with five out of six games in Houston, was over, with tough games against SMU, Central Florida, Tulsa and Southern Miss left to be played. I even wondered if the Cougars, given their problems, would manage another win this season.

Fortunately, the Cougars rose to the occasion last Saturday, notching a solid 45-20 victory against SMU in Dallas. The game, which was suspended in the first quarter for two and a half hours due to weather, was arguably Houston's best of the season. David Piland had a decent outing, completing 19 of 32 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown. Tryon Carrier returned a kickoff 91 yards for a score. The much-maligned Houston defense limited the Mustangs' high-flying run-and-shoot offense to just two touchdowns; SMU quarterback Kyle Padron was sacked twice and intercepted twice. But most important was the resurgence of the Cougar running attack: Michael Hayes had 86 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, while Bryce Beall chipped in for 85 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.

Having so many on-field issues and coming off such a demoralizing loss to Rice, the Cougars could very easily had folded their tent on the road and in adverse weather conditions. Instead, they fought back. At 4-3 overall and 3-1 in conference, they remain in the driver's seat in Conference USA West.

Next up for the Coogs is a trip to the Liberty Bowl to play Memphis. The Tigers are not a very good team. But then again, neither was Rice. And back-to-back road games are never easy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dodgeball comes to an end

Although the news is a week old at this point, this blog cannot go without noting that "Dodgeball Time" has come to an end at the University of North Texas. Faced with the reality of yet another losing season, UNT Director of Athletics Rick Villareal last week decided to relieve Todd Dodge of his duties as head coach of the Mean Green.

One could argue that it was in bad form for Villareal to fire Dodge before the season had ended, or to can him in spite of the substantial number of injuries (it turns out that the Houston Cougars aren't the only team in the nation to lose both their starting and second-string quarterbacks in a single game) the Mean Green have suffered this season.

But in the game of college football, it all comes down to wins and losses. And Todd Dodge, in spite of his pedigree as an outstanding high school football coach, could simply not find wins at the college level. He never won more than two games in any season as the Mean Green's head coach and he leaves North Texas with an abysmal 6-37 record in his three-and-a-half seasons at the helm. For a school that used to dominate, however briefly, the Sun Belt Conference and which is opening a new stadium next fall, this was simply unacceptable.

Especially considering the heartbreaking manner in which some of UNT's losses this season have occurred: a one-point loss at home to Rice last month. Another one-point loss at home to the Ragin' Cajuns early this month. These are both bad teams and these are not results that will excite the Mean Green fan base or fill UNT's new stadium next year. For that reason, a change had to be made.

Offensive coordinator Mike Canales will take over as the interim coach for the Mean Green.