Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Houston 28, #17 South Florida 24

I have to admit that I wasn't expecting this. I didn't even watch the game; since I figured it would be a blowout, I opted to go the museum with my girlfriend and her mom instead. So yeah, I missed out on a tremendous upset, featuring an insane 4th-and-24 conversion late in the game.

The Good: The Cougars went with their third quarterback of the season, with positive results. D'Eriq King replaced an ineffective Kyle Postma behind center early in the game, and after a slow start to the first half - the Cougars were scoreless and had only 82 total yards of offense at halftime - King ended the game having completed 12 of 20 passes for 137 yards  and a touchdown. He also rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns, including an 11-yard scurry with 11 seconds left in the game to seal the win. Mulbah Car, who assumed RB duties for an injured Duke Catalon, amassed 137 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown of his own. Meanwhile the same Cougar defense that had been torched by the Memphis Tigers a week before held its own against USF, holding the previously undefeated Bulls to season lows in both rushing (137 total yards) and points scored. The UH defense held USF to just 7 of 23 third down conversion attempts (including six three-and-outs) and got two stops on fourth down.

The Bad: Aside from the slow start, the team suffered some critical injuries. In addition to the aforementioned Duke Catalon (ankle), offensive tackle John Jones (MCL sptrain), and kick returner John LeDay (concussion) had to leave the game. And although the UH defense did key in on the USF running game, they still had problems defending the Bulls' air attack: South Florida QB Quinton Flowers completed 23 of 38 passes for 325 yards (but, notably, no touchdown passes). The Cougars also suffered the game's only turnover.

The Crazy: Did I mention that the Coogs won this game because third-string quarterback D'Eriq King completed a jump ball pass to Courtney Lark on 4th-and-freakin'-24?!?!

What It Means: Aside from this being Houston's 7th victory over a ranked team in 8 tries (which makes that loss to Memphis all the more bitter), this game also breathes some life into a program that up to this point had been limping along. It also brings up some questions about the program's future, e.g. is D'Eriq King the next Greg Ward, Jr?

The Cougars host East Carolina on Saturday. They will become bowl-eligible with a win.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

55 years, 6 months and 15 days.

That's the amount of time that elapsed between the Astros' (then known as the Colt .45s) very first game as a franchise - an 11-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on April 10, 1962 - and their very first World Series win, which occurred last night.

Not only was it their very first World Series win (they were swept by the White Sox in 2005), but it was also a thriller - one of the crazier and more memorable games in World Series history.

And we were alive to see it.

Keep it up, fellas! Let's get three more!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Houston 38, #25 Memphis 42

A second-half defensive meltdown prevented the Cougars from upsetting the #25-ranked Memphis Tigers at TDECU stadium last Thursday.

The Good: The Cougars looked good in the first half, and led the Tigers 17-0 at halftime. The UH offense, in fact, did everything they needed to do to win the game. Kyle Postma passed for 315 yards and a touchdown, and Duke Catalon and Dillon Birden combined for 171 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

The Bad: The second half. Although the Cougar offense continued to perform, they were completely let down by a defense that allowed the Tigers to score on every one of their second half possessions. Cougar special teams surrendered a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, as well. The UH secondary had no answer for the Tiger passing game in the second half, being lit up to the tune of 471 passing yards (Memphis only had 30 rushing yards, but why run the ball if the Cougars can't defend the pass?!).

The Ugly: If there's one spot in the game where the offense failed to perform, it was late in the game with the Coogs still ahead by three. The Cougars had second and one but failed to gain any yardage. They tried another ineffective running play on third and one. Major Applewhite elected to punt the ball on fourth down, thereby putting the game into the hands of his reeling defense. Memphis, obviously, scored what would be the game-winning touchdown on the ensuing possession. (So why not just go for it anyway?)

But wait... there's more! On replay, it looked like the punt was intended to be a fake, but the play was so poorly executed that the ball landed into the hands punter Dane Roy anyway.

What It Means: Houston falls to 4-3 on the season and is essentially out of contention for the AAC West title. Their streak of six consecutive wins over top-25 opponents is also snapped.

The Cougars next go to Tampa to play, and presumably get destroyed by the South Florida Bulls. I honestly don't know if the Cougars are going to win another game this season.

Harvey videos

This final Harvey-related post was inspired by my (finally) downloading a couple of months' worth of pictures and videos from my iPhone to my computer. Included in these downloads were a handful of short videos I took from sixth floor sky lounge of my new apartment complex during the storm.

I posted these videos on Facebook so folks who weren't in Houston could see what things looked like during the deluge. It seems appropriate to share them on my blog as well.

Saturday August 26th: I took this video in the evening, about 24 hours after the storm made landfall and as heavy rain bands began moving through the city. Up until his point rainfall totals throughout the city had more or less been manageable; however, things would quickly get worse. It was only a few hours after his video was taken that Eric Berger introduced the phrase "super mega-rainball of doom" to describe Harvey's deluge.

Sunday August 27th: At this point, the flooding was at its worst for much of the city. The area around our apartment complex, however, remained relatively well off. There was an eerie quiet between rain bands - although we could hear lots of rescue helicopters off in the distance - when my girlfriend, her dog and I went up to the sky lounge Sunday afternoon. The sky lounge is located on the southwest corner of our complex, giving us good views of both Greenway Plaza and the Uptown/West Loop area.

Monday August 28th: The rain continues! Although by now it was coming down at a lighter pace than before, it still wasn't allowing flooded roadways to drain, or making rescue efforts any easier.

Tuesday August 29th: After four days of non-stop rain, the deluge had finally slowed to a trickle. There's even traffic on the Southwest Freeway again. Mercifully, the rain finally cleared out of the area overnight, and blue skies even made a reappearance on Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Houston 17, Tulsa 45

My girlfriend and I were in New Orleans with some friends of hers last weekend, so I was luckily able to avoid watching this shitshow of a game. The Cougars, needless to say, were humiliated by the 1-5 Golden Hurricane in a game they were double-digit favorites to win.

There was nothing good, and everything bad, to write about in this loss. The Cougars led at the half but gave up 38 points to Tulsa in the second half. The defense was steamrolled for 288 rushing yards. The offense was stagnant and turned the ball over three times. As for the ugly, I'll let John Royal explain:
Tulsa lost by a 62-28 score to Tulane last week. Tulsa has also suffered losses to Toledo and New Mexico. Against the Cougars, Tulsa looked like the best team in the American Conference. This game was so ugly to watch that it can compete with losses like those to Texas State (Tony Levine’s first game as head coach) and to UTSA (the first ever game played at TDECU Stadium). There were no moral victories. There was nothing redeeming about the loss. 
“We didn’t play well at all,” head coach Major Applewhite said. “We didn’t play well enough to win the game, but give credit to Tulsa and to Coach Montgomery. They came ready to play; we didn’t. We didn’t come ready to play and that’s on me. We talk about it all the time, but week in and week out, you’ve got be ready to play your A-game every Saturday.”
Coach AppLevine Applewhite apparently went on to state that water is wet, that the sky is blue, and that the University of Houston settled for him instead of hiring a "name" coach to continue the program's momentum, and therefore now risks falling back into mediocrity.

Next up for the Coogs is a Thursday night home game against Memphis. UH will do well to not give up more points to the Tigers than they did to lowly Tulsa.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Houston 35, SMU 22

The Cougars bounced back from a 7-12 deficit in the first half to defeat the SMU Mustangs at TDECU Stadium last Saturday, avenging last year's miserable loss to the Ponies and winning that all-important first win in division play.

The Good: Running back Duke Catalon had a career game, rushing for 177 yards and two touchdowns; UH's ground game accounted for 265 yards overall. QB Kyle Postma completed 19 of 27 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a touchdown pass from D'Eriq King on a trick play, and was never sacked. The defense intercepted SMU QB Ben Hicks twice and also sacked him twice. The Mustangs struggled against the UH defense on third down, converting only 5 of 14 opportunities. SMU also missed a field goal right before halftime.

The Bad: Hicks and his receivers were nevertheless able to do damage, torching the Cougar defense for 397 passing yards. Postma had two interceptions, both of which were the result of poor decisions to throw into double coverage. Although he had a good game overall, Catalon also dropped a sure touchdown pass.

The Ugly: Although the Cougars were only flagged for four penalties overall, two of them were rather stupid and unnecessary personal foul penalties. The ability - or lack thereof - of the UH secondary to tackle in space is atrocious.

What it Means: the Cougar offense finally found two things that had eluded them up to this point in the season: a strong running game and an offense that could score in the second half. I can only hope that this is a sign of things to come.

The Coogs are now 4-1 and travel to Tulsa to play the struggling Golden Hurricane.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

There are no answers.

A bit over ten years go, I pondered about "the search for answers" after a deranged student went on a shooting rampage on the Virginia Tech campus and killed 32 people. At the time I wrote that:
[A]t the end of the day, it might be the only explanation: there are crazy people amongst us, and sometimes they do crazy, violent things, and sometimes people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Since the time I wrote that, more crazy people have done the same thing, time and time and time again. An elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. A movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. A church in Charleston. A nightclub in Orlando. Fort Hood. San Bernadino. There's a list.

Sometimes they've been motivated by religious or ethnic hatred. Sometimes they're just mentally deficient. In every case, they are crazy and deranged people that take advantage of our (uniquely American) society's penchant for easy access to firearms to do damage and take lives.

And now, 59 dead in Las Vegas. Courtesy of some guy who seemed like a perfectly normal person. Days later, they still can't find a motive.

Maybe we'll know the gunman's motivations as the investigation continues. But maybe, the "search for answers" is pointless:
At the moment, no one has any idea why Stephen Craig Paddock brought a deadly arsenal up to the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, hammered out a window, and opened fire on a crowd of country-music fans two nights ago, killing at least 59 and wounding more than 500. 
Eventually, the full story will come out. It has to, given the number of investigators currently on the case. And when it does, it’ll be morbidly fascinating, especially given Paddock’s lack of any sort of criminal record and the apparent absence of any hint of online anger or radicalization. But his story also, in a very real sense, doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because we already know many of the reasons why America is a dark outlier when it comes to gun violence in the developed world, with rates far, far higher than those found in similarly wealthy, developed nations. 
This might seem like an odd thing to say. Certainly there are important lessons to be learned from Paddock’s motives and thought processes, and from how he acquired his weapons. In a limited sense, yes. But from a policy perspective — from the perspective of actually figuring out how to prevent more massacres — no, not really. If the United States’ political system weren’t utterly broken with regard to gun policy and gun research, we’d be well on our way to ameliorating this problem based on the information we already have.
We'll offer meaningless "thoughts and prayers" about this, we'll have debates that go nowhere, and we'll deal with this again. Maybe next month. Maybe next spring. Maybe a year from now or maybe tomorrow. It won't matter.

There's nothing that can be done. There are crazy people, there are hateful people, and there is easy access to firearms that this nation's death merchants gun lobby will never allow to be limited, in the name of selling more firearms second amendment freedoms.

There are no answers. There is no solution. This will continue to happen.

God bless America.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Houston 20, Temple 13

The Cougars flew up to Philadelphia and flew home with a win.

The Good: Kyle Postma took over as starting quarterback and completed 25 of 36 passes for 266 yards and a touchdown. He was also the team's leading rusher with 81 yards. The Cougar defense only allowed Temple to complete 4 of 16 third down conversion attempts and intercepted the Owls three times.

The Bad: At times, the offensive playcalling was what could only be described as "bizarre." This was especially true in the second half, when the Cougars only scored seven points (I'm just not understanding the coaching staff's zeal for sideways screen passes that fail more often than they gain yardage!). Ed Oliver left the game with a knee injury late in the first half, and the defense was markedly worse without him.

The Ugly: The receivers dropped way too many catchable passes. Houston was penalized 12 times for 108 yards.

What It Means: It wasn't a pretty win, but it was an in-conference win on the road and that's all that matters. But as the season progresses, it's becoming clear that there are significant problems with the Coogs' offense.

Next up for the Coogs is a critical game at home against a strong (4-1) SMU team.