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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


SILENT ASSASSIN: Cougars in need of firmer footing

In just four games, the UH football squad has given fans quite a few different looks. Unfortunately for the Cougars, few have been good.

At times, the Cougars look like a team with an offense that doesn’t show up until the second half. Other times, the Cougars look like a team with a knack for committing turnovers at crucial points and whose defense (ranked 107th nationally out of 119 teams, with 438.25 yards allowed per game) could still use some work.

In short, the Cougars little resemble the elite squad that rookie head coach Kevin Sumlin hopes to put on the field someday.

Saturday’s 28-25 loss to Colorado State showcased more problems Sumlin and his staff need to correct over the Cougars’ final eight regular-season games. Lord knows they’ve had enough of those during this three-game slide.

UH struggled offensively out the gate against CSU, falling behind 21-3 in the first half. The Cougars committed four turnovers, including an interception in the end zone by sophomore quarterback Case Keenum in the final seconds that snuffed out any shot at a game-tying field goal attempt or game-winning touchdown.

It may be difficult for some fans to get over this tough loss. But it could be even tougher for them to maintain their patience in a season that may see even more pitfalls. More adjustments will have to be made. More hard lessons must be learned. This also means more losses could be incurred.

Some expect the Cougars to pick up where they left off after last season’s 8-5 campaign. This simply isn’t going to happen.

When Sumlin was hired to replace former head coach Art Briles, he brought in an almost entirely new coaching staff and different offensive and defensive schemes. He’ll need some more time to recruit players needed for his schemes, but he’ll have to work with a lot of Briles’ players for the time being.

The Cougars began the season a little thin on offensive firepower after graduating two of last season’s biggest playmakers, running back Anthony Alridge (1,597 yards, 14 touchdowns) and wide receiver Donnie Avery (1,456 yards, seven touchdowns). Their wide receiver and running back units are loaded with underclassmen. Most of the starters off last year’s embattled secondary are back in those same positions this year. The linebacker corps appears to be another area of concern.

The Cougars have serious issues to address on both sides of the ball, and don’t expect them to be resolved by the time the Cougars meet Associated Press No. 23 East Carolina on Saturday in Greenville, N.C. This is going to be a season-long project.

Fans will grumble, but will have to understand transitions such as the one the Cougars have undergone usually take quite some time before starting to produce benefits. The Cougars will still struggle in some areas, but their execution should improve somewhere along the way. It’s also not out of the question that they’ll win five more games and qualify for a postseason bowl.

Right now, the Cougars simply aren’t there as a team.

When they’ll get there is anybody’s guess.

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