UH offense struggles to find rhythm against Memphis
Normally, when the Cougars are outgained in the stat sheet, they lose.
UH was outgained by more than 100 yards on offense, but pulled out a 25-15 win, which was anchored by the defense’s four forced turnovers that negated the offensive woes to maintain an undefeated record.
“It’s exciting and it helps us on days when the offense isn’t clicking like it is supposed to. We know we can rely on them to go out there and get stops when we need it,” said sophomore running back Kenneth Farrow.
If it wasn’t for the defense’s ability to create turnovers, UH might have been the team to walk out of BBVA Compass Stadium with a loss — not Memphis.
“We need to get our offense together and hopefully have a complete game next week where they are getting turnovers and we are putting up a lot of points. That will get everything rolling for us,” said Farrow, who averaged only 2.2 yards per carry.
The offense often struggled to move the ball as effectively as it did against the first four opponents – UH was averaging 534 yards per game, compared to its 247-yard output against Memphis.
The running game has been the offense’s staple all season, but it mustered a season-low 38 rushing yards against a Memphis defense that is now ranked No. 3 in the nation in rush yards allowed. Sophomore running back Ryan Jackson ran for a mere seven rushing yards on the same amount of attempts — breaking his five-game streak of 100 all-purpose yards and at least one touchdown.
“They did a great job against the run. But we never got into a rhythm,” said head coach Tony Levine.
“That’s the feeling I had on the sideline. We couldn’t sustain. We’d get something going and a penalty would back us up or a tackle for a loss.”
Freshman quarterback John O’Korn was hit-and-miss with his throws all afternoon. He was often forced outside of the pocket and threw into tight coverage. After he went 3-4 for 60 yards on the Cougars’ first drive, which ended with a 17-yard strike to junior receiver Daniel Spencer, O’Korn struggled. He completed just 10 of his next 29 passes for 138 yards.
“He did (make some mistakes), and again, he’s a young man that, every week, (is) getting better,” Levine said.
“He improves every day and learns from the mistakes, which I absolutely think is important for coaches and student athletes. The more he plays, the better he is going to perform.”
The Cougars’ no-huddle scheme can be effective by forcing defenses to play at a different tempo. The weakness of it was on display Saturday, as the Cougars were able to go only 4-14 on third-down conversions, which included four three-and-out possessions and a turnover on downs. The defense was forced to stay on the field for more than 35 minutes.
“I think our fans are wondering at times what the other team is doing with the ball, and a whole bunch of guys are in a circle talking, and that’s a huddle,” Levine said.
“The other team is huddling on offense, they’re keeping the ball, and their time of possession is certainly longer than ours. We’re getting it back, but not getting in a rhythm offensively; we… didn’t take much time off the clock and put our defense back on the field.”
If the Cougars want to stay undefeated, the offense will have to find ways to stay on the field and sustain drives on Saturday in order to keep Brigham Young University’s offense off the field. BYU (4-2) is averaging 263 rush yards per game.
“Our focus now is on BYU,” Levine said. “Nothing we’ve done so far matters. We’re on to the next one. After that, we will certainly check our schedule and see who we play next.”