Consistency is key for the Cougars
The first word that comes to mind when trying to define the Cougars’ play on the field to this point is consistent. They might just be the most consistent team in Conference USA.
Need proof? Look no further than the stat sheets to find the answers. We’ll start off with "The Good," skip "The Bad" and just go straight to "The Ugly" and close it out with "Man, that just ain’t right."
First there’s the offense. It’s a given that they will move the ball down the field, put points on the board and do it in style.
Houston boasts a unit that ranks eighth in the nation in total offense, averaging 514 yards per game. UH’s 35 points per game is the third best average in C-USA.
Big plays have become habitual thanks to speed burners wide receiver Donnie Avery and running back Anthony Alridge, or as they like to call themselves "The 2-22 Combination."
These guys are the most explosive combination in the country with the potential to take it the distance whenever they touch the ball.
Alridge is the eighth-ranked rusher in the country, averaging 124.7 yards per game to go along with 6.4 yards per carry. His second 200-yard performance of the year against Rice on Saturday would have received more press, were it not for Avery breaking UH and C-USA records in receiving yards (346) and all-purpose yards (427).
Now that it’s been established how explosive and domineering Houston’s offense has been thus far, it is time to address other areas it’s been consistent in.
It should not come as a surprise to anyone to see the Cougars turn the ball over at least three times a game.
They’ve left more presents on the field this year than the average puppy leaves on the carpet in its first month of house training, and this is coming from a guy that has raised two dogs.
This is a team that has had 20 turnovers in just six games. That’s 3.3 turnovers per game. This is a team that is ranked 114th out of 119 teams in the turnover margin category (-1.83).
So there will no longer be a need for gasps, moans, groans or yells of frustration when Alridge fumbles the ball while trying to gain an extra yard or when quarterback Blake Joseph mishandles a snap and turns the ball over at the opponent’s one-yard line – at least not until the fourth turnover.
Houston will be allotted three excusable turnovers a game until further notice, which means until it raises its expectations to that of last season’s highly efficient, Kevin Kolb-led team and meets its goals.
Man, that just ain’t right
Houston’s defense reminds me a little bit of the Incredible Hulk.
Explanation: Bruce Banner is a timid scientist that doesn’t like confrontation and gets pushed around by people. Then that gamma radiation stuff happens, and now whenever he gets mad, intimidated or pushed into a corner he turns into a weapon of mass destruction.
Then there is the UH defense. It is ranked 95th in scoring defense, giving up 33.3 points per game.
The only time it can stop the run is when the opponent decides it’s tired of gaining 4.2 yards per carry and wants to beat the Cougars’ secondary for a long gain.
All seems lost, but all of a sudden it’s the fourth quarter with the game on the line, and that same defense that got pushed around earlier in the game changes character. It becomes the aggressor, upping the intensity and making huge, momentum-swinging stands.
There’s a reason Houston has outscored its opponents 52-to-20 in the fourth quarter this season.
One can’t help but wonder if the Cougars would be 6-0 if it could get rid of some of its bad habits and fine-tune its good ones.