Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Houston 31, Tulane 38

Good thing that the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda caused my flight to New Orleans to be canceled so I didn't have to witness this travesty in person. It was hard enough to have to watch on TV.

The Good: The Coogs scored on the first play from scrimmage and jumped out to a 28-7 lead early in the second quarter. D'Eriq King threw for 229 yards and two touchdown passes, while the Cougar ground attack accounted for 304 yards and two more touchdowns on the evening. The UH defense recovered a Tulane fumble, making it 21 games in a row - the longest active streak in FBS - that the Cougars have recorded a turnover.

The Bad: In what has become a pattern for the Coogs this season, Houston was completely impotent in the second half. The Green Wave scored 24 unanswered points to take the lead, 28-31, midway through the fourth. During that stretch the Cougars missed two field goals and punted three times.  The Cougars finally made a field goal of their own to tie the game with 21 seconds left. It looked like things were headed to overtime, but then this happened:

It was a stunning and bitter way to lose, but let's face it: after blowing a 21-point lead, the Cougars honestly had no business winning that game at all.

The Ugly: Third Quarters. As Ryan explains, ugly is the only description. Through four games the Cougars have scored a total of 10 points - and given up 42 - during the third quarter. Something is horribly wrong in the locker room if the team consistently comes out flat like this.

What It Means: The Cougars are now 1-3 on the season and at this point are probably looking at a losing record. This is perhaps one of the reasons quarterback D'Eriq King made a stunning announcement earlier this week that he has decided to take advantage of the NCAA's new redshirt rules and sit out the remainder of the 2019 season. Wide receiver Keith Corbin made a similar announcement.

Both players claim that they have no plans to transfer and will return to the team in 2020; I honestly have a hard time believing that. Coach Dana Holgorsen, for his part, claims that these developments do not mean that the Cougars are giving up on the 2019 season. However, given everything else that is wrong with this team right now, it's hard to believe that this team can be even remotely competitive without its main offensive weapon.

At the very least, the brutal Sunday-Saturday-Friday-Thursday stretch of six-day weeks is over (thanks alot, ESPN!). Next up for the Coogs is a trip to Denton for the 2019 Edition of the Mean Green Cougar Red Bowl.

The best Saturday Night Live skits

The 45th season of Saturday Night Live starts this weekend (alas, it will not include Leslie Jones).

A few weeks ago put up this slideshow (which was republished by the Houston Chronicle's website, because the dying newspaper relies on slideshows to inflate its pageview count) that lists fifty of the greatest Saturday Night Live skits in the 44-year history of the late-night comedy show. Stacker identifies these sketches as those "that have had the largest cultural comedic impact, those that bring humor to more serious social issues, and political satire at its finest. Added to that are skits that generated Emmy awards for the actors, and several funny pieces that have become a historic part of our social fabric."

To be fair, most of the "sketches" listed in this slideshow are actually recurring characters, but a lot of the classics are nevertheless acknowledged: the Coneheads, Gumby, Buckwheat, Wayne's World, the Church Lady, the Chippendales Audition, Schweddy BallsDick in A Box, More Cowbell, and, of course, Matt Foley.

But there are a handful of great SNL sketches missing from this list - wither Stuart Smalley's Affirmations or the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer? - including several that I've always thought to be among SNL's best (a handful of these skits do appear on other greatest SNL skits lists). Here are some of my favorites:

White Like Me (1984): Eddie Murphy discovers what it is like to be white in this take on race relations that is just as hilarious - and, sadly, relevant - today as it was back in 1984.

President Reagan, Mastermind (1986): At the height of the Iran-Contra scandal, Phil Hartman plays a Ronald Reagan who knew a lot more than he led on to the public.

Happy Fun Ball (1991): This long list of dangerous side effects of an apparently innocuous toy is reminiscent of your standard pharmaceutical commercial listing the myriad side effects, which I guess is the point. As far as I we know, Happy Fun Ball is still legal in 16 states!

Schiller Visions: Hidden Camera Commercials (1991): What happens when you inform somebody that the coffee they've been drinking is made from freeze-dried crystals, rather than freshly ground, and record their reaction on hidden camera? Most people might be good-natured about it, but Chris Farley's character was not.

Wake Up and Smile (1995): The teleprompter malfunctions, and a pair of blow-dried morning talk show hosts quickly lose their bearings. This TV studio - meets - Lord of The Flies sketch is Will Farrell at his best.

Neurotology (2015): This pitch-perfect parody of a 1990 promotional video by a certain religious organization founded by a science fiction writer that shall not be named (I don't want to get sued) came out right after HBO aired a documentary about said religious organization.

Black Jeopardy with Tom Hanks (2016): This one is relatively recent, which is why it might not appear on many lists. As the 2016 presidential election tossed America's racial tensions into the foreground, a MAGA-hat-wearing blue collar white guy discovers that has a lot in common with black people. Maybe race doesn't divide us as much as economic status unites us.

What are some of your all-time favorite sketches from Saturday Night Live?

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Houston 24, #20 Washington State 31

The Battle of the Cougars turned out to be surprisingly close, but the end result is still the Coogs' second loss of the season.

The Good: The first half. Houston led at halftime, 14-7, thanks to a suffocating run defense that held Washington State to ten rushing yards (Washington State gained only 49 rushing yards the entire game) and an amazing Gleson Sprewell interception in the endzone late in the first half that kept Wazzu from tying the game just before halftime. D'Eriq King connected with Marquez Stevenson on a 13-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter.

The Bad: The second half. The local Cougars were held scoreless in the third quarter while the Pullman Cougars found the endzone twice to retake the lead for good. UH simply didn't have an answer for WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon, who ended the night 36 of 48 with 440 yards and three touchdowns. Houston also fumbled the ball twice.

D'Eriq King's passing struggles continue, as he was 13 of 24 for only 170 yards and one TD. King did score two rushing touchdowns, including one late in the game that gave the Coogs a faint ray of hope. WSU, however, was then able to run out the clock for the win.

The Ugly: Penalties. There were more flags on the NRG Stadium field than at UN's headquarters in New York. The refs really didn't let either team get into a rhythm and the two teams combined for 19 penalties. Washington State was actually called for more fouls, but the Pac-12 officiating crew certainly did Houston no favors. A holding call away from the play negated what would have been a 72-yard touchdown run by D'Eriq King in the third quarter, a questionable spot on third town led to the end of what was a promising UH drive, and what looked to be a clear targeting call was overturned.

This game at NRG Stadium was technically a "home" game for Houston, but it was hard to tell given the Washington State commercials throughout the game, the WSU fans who ended up with better seats than UH fans, and the announcer that seemed more excited whenever Wazzu got a first down than when UH did. The Friday night time slot was stupid, and don't get me started on the pre-game honor ceremony that featured former Texas AD DeLoss Dodds, who historically has been one of UH's biggest antagonists. What would have been a great game experience at TDECU turned into a poor, if not downright insulting, one at NRG.

Ryan Monceaux and Brad Towns explain in this podcast why the UH Athletics Department needs to stop farming out the program's marquee home games to NRG Stadium for the benefit of a game whose title sponsor is a multilevel marketing outfit. The only teams Houston should agree to play at NRG are Texas, Texas A&M, LSU, Oklahoma or Alabama. Every other game needs to be played on campus at TDECU, i.e. the stadium we built for a reason.

What It Means: For the second time this season, the Cougars performed admirably against a ranked Power Five school. Just a fewer mistakes here or there, and the Coogs might have actually won this one. Hopefully the team learns from this tough experience as they continue to rebuild under the new coaching staff.

Things get no easier for Houston, as they travel to New Orleans to play their conference opener against a solid Tulane team on Thursday night.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Houston 37, Prairie View 17

The Coogs notch their first win of the season, albeit in underwhelming fashion.

The Good: The Coogs jumped out to a quick lead and led 34-3 midway through the second quarter. Running backs had a productive evening, with Kyle Porter carrying 19 times for 120 yards and a touchdown, and Chandler Smith adding another 90 yards. The Cougar defense held Prairie View to 5 of 16 on third-down conversions and came away with its first interception on the season.

Also, Prairie View brought their band:

The Bad: Once the Coogs got out to that 34-4 lead, they shut things down. From that point on they were actually outscored by Prairie View, 3-14.

D'Eriq King didn't have his best game; he looked very tentative at times and missed open receivers on multiple occasions. He finished with a rather pedestrian 15 of 26 for 139 yards and one touchdown (he also ran for a score). However, he was also sacked four times and threw his first pick of the season.

Houston's pass defense continues to be an area of concern. Prairie View racked up 248 yards through the air - and that was in spite of them completing less than half of their pass attempts.

The Ugly: Junior transfer DL Olivier Charles-Pierre doesn't appear on the stat sheet, but he participated in one play. On 3rd and 14 from the Prairie View 4, he was flagged for tackling the Panther quarterback well after the play was whistled dead. This gave Prairie View a fresh set of downs and moved them out of the shadow of their own endzone. There's simply no excuse for bonehead penalties like that.

What It Means: Normally, the fact that the Coogs failed to beat an FCS opponent by 40 or 50 points would be a concern. The fact that the Coogs didn't may be because that Dana Holgorsen and his staff purposely slowed things down in the second half (as the Cougars are playing four games in 19 days - thanks, ESPN!). But if the pass defense does not improve, and if D'Eriq King continues to struggle, UH is looking at a rough season ahead.

They'll get tested at NRG Stadium on Friday the 13th as Mike Leach's Washington State Cougars come to town.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Houston 31, #4 Oklahoma 49

About what I expected. At least the Coogs covered the spread.

The Good: Houston QB D'Eriq King came back from last year's injury to account for 270 total yards and three touchdowns, and Mulbah Car ran the ball for 76 yards and a TD, all in the second half. The UH defense recovered two Sooner fumbles (the Coogs had no fumbles of their own) and the team never gave up despite playing from behind the entire game; in fact, late in the game and down by 11, they even went for an onside kick (alas, it didn't work and led led to the Sooners' final score).

The Bad: The Cougars started out very slow, punting on their first four possessions and not finding the endzone until Oklahoma was up by 21 points. D'Eriq King improved as the game progressed, but he still ended the night with a rather mediocre completion rate of 14 for 27 and was sacked twice.  The UH defense picked up where it left off last season - being horrible - and allowed new Oklahoma (and former Alabama) QB Jalen Hurts to light them up for 332 passing yards (he was 20 of 23 with 3 TDs) and 176 rushing yards (and another three touchdowns). The Sooners ended the game with 686 total yards of offense and averaged 11.6 yards per play.

The Ugly: I repeat. 11.6 yards per play. That's horrendous. The UH defense was a mess of missed tackles, out-of-position players and blown coverages. This was disappointing to see, given the raised expectations of a new coaching staff.

The Sooners had their share of opening-day mishaps, too. Oklahoma missed two field goals and committed some bone-headed penalties that extended UH drives.

What it Means: Don't try to take away too much from this one. This was a "trial-by-fire" game on the road against a team with vastly superior talent. The Cougars have a lot of work to do, especially on defense, and a lot of tough games coming up, but this opponent was by far their hardest.

Ryan Monceaux gives the Coogs (mostly bad) grades for this game, while head coach Dana Holgerson sees the game as a learning experience.

Next up for Houston is their first home game of the year, as they host Prairie View.