Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Houston 23, Marshall 37

In spite of the national television exposure of an ESPN Tuesday night game, the Cougars played perhaps their worst game of the season and lost to the Marshall Thundering Herd, 23-37, in Huntington, West Virginia.

It was the same old story for the Coogs. They started out slow and dug themselves into another hole, trailing 3-16 at halftime. This time, however, there would be no heroic comeback. The Coogs committed a fatal error early in the third quarter, when they drove the length of the field but botched a handoff on the Marshall goal line. The Herd recovered and scored a few plays later, creating a devastating 14-point swing. The Coogs were down 30-3 until they finally found the endzone late in the the quarter. By then, however, the game was effectively over.

UH quarterback Case Keenum found no protection behind an injury-hobbled offensive line that has officially become a liability for the team; he was sacked four times. He also threw two interceptions. The defense was no better, allowing Marshall to accumulate almost 250 yards on the ground in addition to its four touchdowns.

Worst of all was the season-ending injury to WR Patrick Edwards, who suffered a compound fracture after he slammed into a band cart that was stupidly placed right behind the endzone. Apparently, the gruesome sight of his leg bending backwards was caught by the ESPN cameras for the entire world to see. I'm glad I missed that. Somebody at Marshall - wehther it be the band, the athletic department or both - will have to be held accountable for the dangerous placement of the cart. But that horrible accident does not excuse the Coogs' miserable performance in this game.

The pattern of slow starts has become the story of the season for the Cougars. It is simply not arguable that first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff are not doing a good job preparing this team for games. It's way too early to come to the conclusion that Sumlin simply does not have what it takes to be a head coach or to begin calling for his head, but this is clearly a fault that he needs to resolve - and quickly - if he is going to have a future at his current position.

There has also been some griping on various UH athletics message boards that Sumlin "quit" towards the end of the game by running the ball, not going for it on 4th-and-three, or using any of his timeouts. I didn't see the game I can't pass judgment for myself; maybe he just wanted to get his team off the field and back home as quickly as possible. The way his team played last night, I wouldn't blame him.

The Cougars, who are now 4-4 on the season, play Tulane one week from Saturday.

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