Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Houston 17, Tulane 20

The Cougars went to New Orleans and got thoroughly outplayed and outcoached by the Green Wave.

The Good: Tulane has a pretty campus (this was my first time there) and Yulman Stadium is a nice, intimate venue for the Green Wave. It's a much better place to watch a game than the sterile and cavernous Superdome, and the St. Charles streetcar makes getting to and from campus easy.

The Bad: The Cougar offense. In spite of out-gaining Tulane in total yardage, they simply couldn't put points on the board. They managed only three points in three trips inside the red zone. The offensive playcalling was either predictably boring or incomprehensibly stupid (a 1-yard pass on 3rd and 10? Seriously?). The offense turned the ball over twice (including D'Eriq King's ill-advised pass into double coverage in the endzone that killed a promising drive), and failed on two critical fourth down attempts (one of which probably should have been a field goal attempt instead, and the other of which would turn out to be the game-losing play). It did not help that RB Duke Catalon was injured and had to leave the game early.

The Ugly: The Cougar defense. It was dreadful, allowing Tulane to gain 417 total yards of offense (including 251 yards through the air, which is significant because Tulane is not a pass-happy offense), convert 8 out of 15 third down attempts (the Cougars simply couldn't get the Green Wave off the field; Tulane's last two scoring drives of the first half were of 94 and 77 yards, respectively), and eat up clock in the process (the Green Wave dominated time of possession, 36:24 to 23:36). In the fourth quarter, the Cougars finally scored a touchdown to go ahead 17-13. The defense allowed the Green Wave to retake the lead for good only 33 seconds later, when they were utterly embarrassed by a 64-yard touchdown pass from Tulane QB Johnathan Banks to WR Terren Encalade (who utterly owned the UH secondary and finished the day with 8 receptions for 168 yards).

What It Means: In the overall scheme of things, not much - the Cougars already have the six wins they need to be bowl eligible, and were not in contention for the AAC West division title even before Memphis clinched it Saturday.

That being said, this loss, which is almost as bad as the flop against Tulsa, suggests that this team has some real problems that can't be rectified simply by putting in D'Eriq King at quarterback. John Royal notes:
The Cougars are still searching for an identity. The swagger from the Tom Herman years is missing. Putting in King and letting him try to recreate Greg Ward Jr.’s magic as the quarterback has brought some spark to the team, but there’s still too much inconsistency. The injury to running back Duke Catalon early in the first quarter appeared to strip the team of some effectiveness in the running game.
From my perspective, it's looking more and more like the Major Applewhite hire was a mistake.

The Cougars end their regular season with a home game against Navy on the day after Thanksgiving in front of what will likely be the smallest crowd in TDECU Stadium history.

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