It could have been a blowout: the Cougars were trailing by 18 points late in the third quarter, and things looked bleak. But the Cougars cut the Bearcats' lead to a touchdown in the 4th quarter and in the game's final minute marched down to the Cincinnati 11-yard-line, hoping to tie things up. Unfortunately, the Cougars threw three incomplete passes into the endzone, and the Bearcats hung on to win the game and a share of the AAC title.
The Good: Running back Kenneth Farrow was in beast mode once again, as he carried the ball 19 times for 138 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Greg Ward added another 84 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries of his own. Ward also completed 27 of 45 pass attempts for 360 yards and two touchdowns through the air; his 89-yard strike to a wide-open Markeith Ambles was Houston's longest touchdown pass since the Run and Shoot era. With 594 total yards gained, the UH offense was definitely not the problem in this game.
The Bad: In what has been a trend over the last few games of the season, the Cougar defense struggled. The losses of cornerback Lee Hightower and linebacker Derrick Mathews have certainly hurt, but have opposing offenses also gotten wise to defensive coordinator David Gibbs' schemes? The run defense yielded 160 yards and three touchdowns to Cinci RBs Mike Boone and Rodriguez Moore, and the pass defense allowed Cinci's two quarterbacks (Gunner Kiel played the first half; Munchie LeGaux the second) to pass for 348 yards and two touchdowns. The secondary also dropped what would have been an easy pick-six that could have completely changed the nature of the game. In fact, the defense's streak of consecutive games with a turnover came to an end after 34 games.
What It Means: The Cougars end the regular season with a 7-5 record, which is enough to get them into the Armed Forces bowl against Pittsburgh in Fort Worth on January 2nd. However, this season can only be described as a disappointment, and for the reason head coach Tony Levine will not be joining them. I'll have more to say about that in an upcoming post.