The Houston Cougars ended their 2023 campaign with a trip to Orlando to face the University of Central Florida Knights. The Coogs scored a touchdown on their opening possession and led 10-6 at the end of the first quarter, but were outscored 3-21 the rest of the way by a UCF team fighting for bowl eligibility. I'm not going to waste keystrokes on the good, bad or ugly of this loss; Ryan does a good job describing the game (and the Coogs' dismal second half of the season) for anybody who wants to read the gory details.
The Cougars end the 2023 season with a miserable 4-8 record, which matches my preseason prediction (I thought they'd beat Rice but lose to Baylor). One of those four wins was a comfortable victory over FBS newcomer Sam Houston State; the other three came by a combined total of 6 points. Despite having an "offensive guru" at their helm, the Cougars' 23.7 points per game is the fewest the Cougar offense has averaged since the 2004 season. The defense was atrocious as well; the 31.5 points per game the Coogs surrendered this season ranked them 105th out of 130 FBS teams.
The morning after the game, the University of Houston administration bit the bullet on head coach Dana Holgorsen's "fucking impossible buyout" and relieved him of coaching duties after five seasons and a very mediocre 31-28 record.
The University of Houston took a gamble on Dana Holgorsen: they hired him away from a West Virginia program that was about to dismiss him, made him the highest-paid coach in the Group of Five at the time, and fired Major Applewhite after only two (winning) seasons in order to make room for him. It was a gamble that, unfortunately, did not pay off. The exciting offense fans expected to see from him never materialized, the program was trending downward, attendance at TDECU Stadium was dwindling, and there was no hope that things would get better next year (especially given Holgorsen's excuses regarding his poorly-rated 2024 high school recruiting class). It was simply time for the University to cut its losses and move on.
Ryan believes that Holgorsen "was his own worst enemy" as Houston's head coach:
One of the biggest problems with Dana Holgorsen was the way he negatively recruited against UH. Opposing coaches did not even have to do it; they just had to keep a folder full of Dana’s quotes about his own program. By constantly shirking blame, by saying how hard it is at Houston, by saying facilities were not up to par, that he could not compete until he had upgraded facilities, by pushing players out, by losing starters like Alton McCaskill (NIL) and Cam’Ron Johnson (loyalty to Brandon Jones and NIL), by flailing in the transfer portal when UH had specific and immediate needs, and by not grinding in recruiting like those he was competing with.
The public perception of Dana was a whiner who was constantly focused on what UH could not do and what UH did not have. Some of what he said was 100% true, but when the only message that gets out is negative, that’s your public perception.
That's the way I see it was well: Dana gave us plenty of whining and plenty of excuses. He gave us bizarre playcalling and clock management decisions and poor team discipline. What he didn't give us was an explosive offense that attracts fans, teams that continually showed improvement over the course of the season, or signature victories. Of his 31 wins at Houston, only nine of them came against FBS programs that ended their season with a winning record. His only win over a Power 5 program with a winning season was this year's hail-mary fluke victory over West Virginia. Ryan continues:
You can’t point to one thing that pushed UH to make the change. But the totality of poor on-field performance, no optimism for the future, poor recruiting and efforts in the transfer portal, no serious commitment to NIL, his public persona, and fan and season ticket holder apathy forced UH decision-makers to fire him.