Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Texas Tech 27, Houston 24

Turnovers and an inability to do anything on offense sealed the Coogs' fate against Texas Tech at TDECU Stadium last Saturday. The final score makes the game look closer than it was, thanks to a pair of touchdowns the Cougars scored late in the game after Kyle Postma replaced Kyle Allen at quarterback.

The Good: The Cougar defense held its own against Texas Tech's potent offense, holding a squad that averaged 54 points over the first two games of the season to half that. Wide receiver D'Eriq King, who missed the first two games of the season due to injury, scored his first touchdown of the season. Special teams Kicker Caden Novikoff kicked a career-long 45-yard field goal. John Leday had a 47-yard kickoff return, giving the Coogs excellent field position, which the offense promptly squandered. Which brings us to...

The Bad: Where to begin? The offense was inept and ineffective for most of the afternoon. Kyle Allen had two (rather stupid) interceptions, snaps from the center to Allen were continually low (which resulted in one turnover), the receiving corps dropped too many passes, the Coogs were a pathetic 6 of 18 on third down conversions, and the running game was anemic (it says something when your leading rusher is a quarterback - Postma - who entered the game late in the fourth quarter). The Cougars turned the ball over a total of five times. While the defense played well overall, they also got their asses handed to them by the Red Raider offense on a few big plays, including a 83-yard run from scrimmage and a 77-yard touchdown pass.

The Ugly: The game was sloppy - Houston and Texas Tech combined for 21 penalties for 167 yards - and poorly-officiated. Neither defense appeared to tackle very well. Texas Tech missed two field goals and a dropped a sure touchdown pass that would have made the score worse than it actually was. Quite frankly, neither team looked like they are anything more than mediocre programs in their respective conferences.

The Really Ugly: 11 am kickoffs in September suck! Not only do they limit valuable tailgating time, but they also make for an oppressive game-watching experience. Temperatures during the game were in the low 90s, with stifling humidity, little breeze and only intermittent cloud cover. Many of the announced crowd of 36,383 (which was a good showing, by UH's historical standards, but almost certainly would have been a sellout of 40,000+ for a 6 pm kickoff) left at halftime, while thousands more crowded the shaded concourses to watch the game.

I realize that television dictates kickoffs, and that the regional exposure on ABC that Houston received during this time slot is generally good for the program. But I really wish the ESPN executives who make these decisions would make their way down here from Bristol, Connecticut to understand for themselves just how brutal these conditions really are. It's not just about fan comfort; it's about safety.

What it Means: This was a disappointing loss for many reasons: the Cougars lost to a school from a Power 5 conference, lost to a former SWC rival and in-state program with which it competes for recruits, and Houston's 16-game home winning streak is snapped. Even worse, this game exposed some real shortcomings with Houston's offense and also called in to question Kyle Allen's status as starting quarterback. How Major Applewhite and his staff address these shortcomings will say a lot about their nascent coaching abilities as well as the Coog's chances for a successful season.

Next up for the Cougars is a trip to Philadelphia to take on the Temple Owls.

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