Tuesday, October 18, 2016

#13 Houston 38, Tulsa 31

It wasn't pretty, but thanks to a couple of key defensive plays late in the game, it was a win.

The Good: Tulsa had mounted a fourth quarter rally, coming back from a two-touchdown deficit to tie the game. They had the ball, and the UH defense reeling, when Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans had the ball stripped from his hands by UH safety Garrett Davis. Linebacker Emeke Egbule grabbed the lose ball and ran 24 yards into the endzone for a scoop-and-score to put the Coogs ahead with 1:21 remaining. Undeterred, the Golden Hurricane got the ball back and marched right down the field. With two seconds left and from Houston’s two yard line, Tulsa devised a scoring play using their bruising defensive end, Jesse Brubaker. However, Brubaker ran his route just short of the goal line and was immediately met by safeties Khalil Williams and Austin Robinson, who stopped Brubaker just outside of the endzone. Replay confirmed that neither Brubaker nor the ball broke the plane of the goal line. Game over.

The Bad: These game-saving plays aside, the defense struggled against Tulsa, allowing the golden Hurricane to gain 459 total yards - the most the Cougars have given up in a single game all year. The Cougar defense also struggled to get off the field; they allowed Tulsa to convert 14 of 20 third downs. This defensive performance, as well as an offense that sputtered at times and fumbled twice, is what allowed Tulsa to come back from a ten-point deficit to tie the game at halftime and a fourteen-point deficit to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.

The Ugly: Special teams continues to struggle. Kicker Ty Cummings was flagged for a kickoff that went out of bounds, and Punter Dane Roy shanked two punts out of bounds - one for 30 yards and another for only 10 yards. Playcalling was dreadful at times; UH offensive coordinator Major Applewhite continues to insist on calling runs up the middle even though it’s obvious that Houston’s o-line cannot run block in that situation. Finally, the Cougars were flagged for 10 penalties for 104 yards.

What It Means: This was not the Coogs’ best game of the season by any means, and as of right now they do not look like the team that beat Oklahoma to begin the season. Injuries have taken a toll, for sure, and the Coogs might have been still trying to shake off the hangover from the previous week’s loss against Navy, but right now one really gets the sense that this team is taking a step backwards.

Regardless, a win is a win, and he Coogs, who moved up to #11 in this week’s AP Poll, are now officially bowl eligible.

Next up for Houston is a trip to Dallas to face the SMU Mustangs.

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