Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Houston 45, Rice 27

It wasn't the prettiest game - the Cougars were down by 10 midway through the 3rd quarter - but UH was finally able to get things going afterwards, scoring 28 unanswered points en route to retaining the Bayou Bucket trophy.

The Good: once the UH offense, under the direction of new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, finally got things going, they were pretty much unstoppable. The Cougars scored 14 points in the 3rd quarter in spite of having possession for a total of one minute and 44 seconds, and they ended the day with 567 yards of total offense. Quarterback D’Eriq King was 17 of 24 for 320 yards passing, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. He rushed for a touchdown as well. WR Marquez Stevenson scored touchdowns on a 51-yard reverse run and a 57-yard catch, while WR Courtney Lark scored on catches of 40 and 18 yards. On the other side of the ball, Ed Oliver had 13 tackles, including 3 1/2 tackles for loss, while Isiah Chambers made the most of his UH debut with three sacks.

The Bad: the Cougars started the game slowly and didn't find the endzone until midway through the second quarter. The defense allowed the Owls to convert 11 of 22 third downs; part of the reason for this was the Cougar secondary, which struggled to contain Rice receivers Austin Trammel and Aaron Cephus. The Owls ended the day with 292 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air.

The Ugly: Cougar special teams were also a mess. Kick returner Bryson Smith muffed a kick that set up an easy Rice touchdown, Rice racked up 144 kick return yards to Houston's 36, and UH kicker Caden Novikoff missed a short field goal and an extra point. (Rice’s special teams weren’t much better; they missed three field goals in the second half).

Also ugly: Rice’s concession stands. They were understaffed and glacially slow. I spent most of the second quarter in line waiting to buy some water, because of...

The Stupid: the heat. My son described the game as “stupid hot” and he was right; it was utterly brutal. It’s simply stupid to have 11 am kickoffs in September in Houston.

Going into the game, I figured that if the Cougars had any trouble against the Owls, who were 25-point underdogs and who needed a field goal as time expired to defeat Prairie View (!) last week, it might not bode well for the season. Well, the Coogs obviously did have trouble against the Owls, so concern is warranted. However, I also must acknowledge that the Owls already had a game under their belt, while the Coogs were still rusty, and that they always give UH their best shot; even so, the Cougars walked all over them in the second half. Houston now leads the all-time series between the two schools, 31-11. This is Houston's fifth victory over Rice in a row; however, it is Houston's first win at Rice Stadium since their squeaker victory in 2006.

Next up for Houston is a home game against the Arizona Wildcats, led by new head coach - and former UH coach - Kevin $cumlin Sumlin.

ESPN's recap of the game is here, and a video of game highlights can be viewed here. Ryan Monceaux's thoughts from the season's first game are here.

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