UH addresses offensive woes
The Houston Cougars (4-4, 3-1 Conference USA) look to bounce back from their first conference loss of the season when they host Tulane at Robertson Stadium at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Cougars’ slow offensive starts – six punts, two fumbles and only one touchdown in the first quarters of their last three games – caught up with them in Houston’s 37-23 loss to Marshall.
"We can talk about (not getting out to slow starts), but we need to just go out there and do it. We are tired of talking about it (and) the coaches are tired of talking about it," sophomore quarterback Case Keenum said.
The Cougars entered halftime trailing the Thundering Herd 16-3, and Houston’s defense has been forced to play from behind for much of the season as the offense has struggled to score early.
"We have to execute, and we need to get first downs and execute on third downs. We need to put drives together and score touchdowns," Keenum said.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin has made masterful halftime adjustments to help the Cougars recover from trailing at the half, to win two of their last three games, but he said the Cougars have been concentrating on playing well in the first half so those modifications aren’t necessary against Tulane.
"Our focus has been more about us, and our ability to come out and start a game fast…what we need to do is come out and play in a manner that we are capable of for four quarters," Sumlin said.
Sumlin and the coaching staff have been fine-tuning the offensive line, utilizing different combinations of players to patch the holes left by the injuries of senior SirVincent Rogers, redshirt freshman Chris Thompson and junior Josh Bell.
"You have to have five linemen that work as a nickel," Sumlin said. "You can’t have five pennies. Five pennies, five of the best guys, might not be your best offensive line. Those guys have to be able to communicate."
Senior offensive lineman Michael Bloesch said the loss of those players will be difficult, but not impossible, to overcome and stressed that communication between players is key.
"’I was really confident playing next to SirVincent Rogers, and I was excited to play with him. Once he went down, that was devastating," he said.
"That is football – guys get injured and others have to step up. We have to make the best of what we got and fight hard together, and we can win some games. I am more worried about communicating on and off the field and making sure everyone is on the same page."
In addition to losing three of the starting five lineman, Keenum will also be without one of his favorite targets, redshirt freshman wide receiver Patrick Edwards, who suffered a broken leg in the game against Marshall.
However, Keenum said other receivers on the team are ready to fill the void Edwards left in the offense.
"They are ready for the chance that they are going to get," Keenum said. "As far as the chemistry, it is the same as the offensive line. Coach does a great job of rotating guys in there. I have thrown a lot of balls to those guys. We aren’t going to miss a beat, and I am looking forward to this weekend."
The Cougars need to win two of their last four games to become bowl-eligible, but Sumlin said the Cougars will be the ones to decide their fate in those games.
"We are still in the thick of it and we control our destiny," Sumlin said.