The Good: The Cougars actually played inspired football through much of the game. They led 21-17 at halftime and were tied with the Tigers, 31-31, at the end of the third quarter. Freshman quarterback Clayton Tune, filling in for an injured D'Eriq King, threw for three touchdowns, while defensive back Gleson Sprewell intercepted a Memphis pass and returned it for a touchdown. Ed Oliver played in the first half, his first action since the Navy game.
The Bad: Ed Oliver did not play in the second half, as apparently his knee was still an issue for him. The Cougars finally collapsed in the fourth quarter, giving up 21 unanswered points to Memphis. The Tigers' interception of Clayton Tune's pass in the endzone in the fourth quarter quashed any remaining hope for Houston. Tune himself didn't have a great day, completing only 18 of 43 pass attempts and being sacked five times.
The Ugly: 401 yards. That's how many rushing yards Memphis gained against a completely ineffective Houston defense. Six of Memphis's seven touchdowns were rushing touchdowns.
Memphis has now beaten Houston three years in a row.
What It Means: The Cougars end the regular season with a rather mediocre 8-4 record and second in the American Athletic Conference West Division. Being right never felt so lousy.
Of the Coogs' 8 wins, only one came against a team with a winning record: USF, who finished 7-5 (those five losses coming in their last five games). Tulane finished with a 6-6 record, so the Cougars can at least claim that they beat two teams that didn’t have losing records.
Of the Coogs' 4 losses, 2 were against teams with losing records: Texas Tech (5-7) and SMU (5-7).
That's pretty much the definition of mediocrity.
Over the weekend, defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio was fired. This was a move that simply had to be made:
UH's had one of the worst defensive showings in school history, ending the regular season No. 97 in rushing defense (197.1 yards), No. 106 in scoring defense (34.4 points), No. 124 in total defense (488.5) and No. 129 – last in Football Bowl Subdivision – against the pass (291.4).
In four losses, UH allowed an average 54.8 points. In one particularly embarrassing game, the Cougars allowed 63 points and 704 yards to Texas Tech.
Certainly, the rash of injuries suffered by the defense didn’t help. But even when the defense was healthy, it wasn't that great: the beatdown they received at the hands of Texas Tech was mostly before the injury bug hit, and even back at the very beginning of the season they gave up 27 points to a horrible Rice program that averaged only 19.9 points per game this year.
Ryan Monceaux shares his thoughts on the season-ending loss; both he and Brad Towns take stock of D'Onofrio's utter failure here. In retrospect, the Miami fans who flooded the UH message boards to warn us that his hire was a mistake were right: D'Onofrio was simply not a competent defensive coordinator and honestly never should have been hired to begin with.
The Cougars will now search for a new defensive coordinator while they wait to find out their bowl date and opponent.