When a Win Feels Like a Loss

The University of Houston football team had one of its biggest wins of the year last night, but you wouldn’t think that from the sports talk today. D’eriq King was injured and is more than likely done for the year. Once again, King’s injury was not the main topic of discussion about the game. The main topic that everyone wants to speak about is a player that did not even play in the game, the great Ed Oliver.

In case you didn’t see the game last night, Oliver put on a jacket that is reserved for active players only. One of the equipment managers confronted him about wearing it. He pulled away to ignore the manager. It was at this point Coach Applewhite got involved. He told Oliver he had to follow the rules, the same as the rest of the players on the sidelines who tried to wear the jackets. Applewhite grabbed the sleeve of the jacket to start removing it from Oliver, before walking away.

That is when all hell broke out. Oliver, in a fury, started cursing, screaming, and acting like he was going to fight Applewhite to the point that he had to be restrained. He never reemerged from the locker room. Applewhite did his best to downplay the incident in the post-game press conference, but the damage was done. Everyone has taken sides on the issue. So here is mine:

Major Applewhite is no Cougar fan’s favorite coach right now. The SMU and Temple games ruined a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl game. He should still be judged fairly. This moment is one that he had no way out without hurting someone. Applewhite may be frustrated by Oliver not playing. I do not believe he was trying to embarrass Ed.

Applewhite probably shouldn’t have grabbed the jacket. He had to intervene, though. Make no mistake: acting was necessary. It wasn’t about the jacket. Ed Oliver disregarding that equipment manager, made him bigger than the team. A head coach can never allow that to happen. Applewhite had to show the rest of the team that even a player as great as Oliver must follow the rules. In truth, I think this will help Major more than it will hurt him in the long run. Teams like to see that the rules apply to everyone. I think that will help in recruiting and rallying the team.

I also want to make clear that I hold no grudges against Ed Oliver. He has been one of the most amazing players that I have ever had the privilege of watching in Scarlet and White. I believe he wants to be playing right now, and that is part of what made him so upset. I would hold no ill will if Ed doesn’t play for UH again. I hope he does, just for selfish reasons. The main thing from here is that Oliver must realize that if he wants to remain on the team, he is subject to the same rules as everyone else.

No matter what happens from here, I hope Oliver and Applewhite can work things out. I do not want Ed Oliver regretting spending his time at our great university.

Major Cooged It

“Houston sports” is a phrase that can cause fear with everyone in this great city. We have seen our fair share of heartbreak. The rare occasions where it all goes right is what makes sports special. The joy of the Astros’ World Series victory was boosted by the collapse of the 2015 team in the ALDS even with a late four run lead.

The Cougars have their own phrase that has become a moniker for collapsing: it’s “Cooging it.” It’s happened countless times, yet it hurts no less each time. Head Coach Major Applewhite had his first run in with really Cooging it, against SMU in Dallas. He then let Temple stomp all over his defense at Homecoming. Coach Applewhite better figure everything out quick or he will be out of a job.

Coach Applewhite wasn’t the choice for most Cougars. He wasn’t an inspiring hire. He isn’t very fiery. Coming from the likes of Tom Herman to him was hard to take. I was one who said he needed a fair shot. His first season was full of hits and misses. His hire of Kendal Briles to lead the offense was a brilliant one.

Applewhite’s decision to stick with Mark D’Onofrio seems to be a glaring mistake. There has been a rash of injuries. There just hasn’t been enough signs that there is an actual method to playing defense with this team. That omission has cost UH a possible trip to a big bowl game and more. Opportunities like this season do not come around very often.

Cooging it is something I wish I haven’t experienced, but I have. The heartbreak of the 2011 Conference title game is still fresh in my mind. Coming so close to the Sugar Bowl, only to be relegated to playing a post-scandal Penn State. I will also never forget ruining the opening of the brand new TDECU Stadium by losing to the great football power that is the University of Texas at San Antonio. It doesn’t sound bad until you realize it’s not The University of Texas. Luckily, that one game hasn’t defined the wonderful stadium that the football program now calls home. My hope is that we don’t to have to say our hire at Head Coach was an example of Cooging it as well.

The rest of this season should now become a job interview for his future. Applewhite must realize that he must show that he can effectively manage this team out of this funk into a respectable finish. If the administration decides to keep Major, he must show that he can be an effective leader. He will have to replace his defensive coordinator.

Applewhite managed to nail his Offensive Coordinator hire when given a second shot. He can’t get a second chance on every decision, though. I hope he can turn his tenure around. I like Applewhite a lot. I hope he can be the coach we Cougar fans want him to be. More importantly, though, I want to start winning again, and fast. Major Applewhite should too, because he is quickly running out of chances to prove he isn’t another Cooging it mistake.

Houston Cougars – Three Keys Versus Temple

With only three games left in the season, the Houston Cougars look to keep a one-game lead in the American Athletic Conference West Division as they play host to AAC foe Temple this Saturday at 6 p.m. in TDECU Stadium.

Here are the three keys to a victory for the Cougars over Temple. All stats are from American Digital Network, NCAA and the school websites.

Key One: Pass the football

The Cougars enter this week still holding onto the conference’s top passing offense, and they still rank in the top 15 nationally, averaging 315.9 yards per game. Starting quarterback D’Eriq King ranks 13th in the country in passing yards (2,578 yards). King has thrown for 30 touchdowns this season, ranking first in the conference and fourth in the NCAA.

Temple counters with the conference’s best passing defense, only allowing 165.8 yards per contest and a total of 12 touchdowns. Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin leads the team in passes intercepted and sits third in the AAC in passes defended. Temple is also tied for third in the American in sacks, having taken down the quarterback 23 times this season.

In the first half of the Cougars’ game against SMU, the Cougars completely abandoned the passing game. King only attempted eight passes, completing two, for 56 yards in the first half of the game. This included a 50-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marquez Stevenson. Houston would ultimately fall 45-31 against SMU with King attempting 22 passes, completing 11, for 175 yards.

The Cougars’ offense has always used the run to set up the pass, but the team seemingly ventured away from its strength. This ultimately cost them the game and put them in a tough position in the conference standings.

Key Two: Keep the home field advantage

The Houston Cougars have only lost five games in 31 contests at TDECU stadium. This includes the 2015 American Athletic Conference Championship where UH took down the Temple Owls 24-13. Since 2014, Houston has averaged 38.3 points per game while in the friendly confines of TDECU stadium, allowing 19.4 points per game to opponents.

This season, the team is a perfect 4-0 at home, averaging 53.25 points per game and giving up a total of 94 points. In their five road games this season, the Cougars have allowed 38.2 points per game and scored an average of 43.2 points per game. UH has rushed for 223 more yards at home than on the road in one less game.

King also thrives when at home. He has completed 66 percent of his passes at TDECU versus only 60 percent when on the road. He also has run for more yards (276) at home than on the road (191).

Key Three: Score when in the red zone

The Cougars have entered the red zone 39 times so far this season and have managed to score points in 34 tries, for an 87 percent clip. Houston has found pay dirt 31 times, with 14 rushing scores and 17 passing touchdowns. The team has turned the ball over twice on downs when in the red zone but has never turned the ball over via an interception or fumble.

Temple currently sits in the top spot in red zone defense, allowing a slim 72 percent scoring rate to opponents. The Owls have limited opponents to only 19 touchdowns, with ten on the ground and nine in the air. The key stat is that they have forced two interceptions and stopped opponents on downs twice.

Points will be crucial in this game as the Cougars take on the conference’s third-best scoring defense. Temple allows a mere 24.3 points per game on the season.