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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Football

Offense looks for more early-down success


In their three losses, the Cougars have fallen just short.

The Cougars offense has struggled to either win or tie in each of their three loses by a total of 12 games. | File photo/The Daily Cougar

The Cougars offense has struggled to either win or tie in each of their three loses by a total of 12 games. | File photo/The Daily Cougar

Against BYU, UCF and Louisville, UH’s combined margin of defeat was 13 points. Many point to the final drive, where the Cougars had a chance for a walkoff win and failed each time, but the players and coaching staff said the games were decided much earlier.

For the past three weeks, the offense has narrowly missed connecting on the big plays that previously fueled a prolific squad. The old adage “football is a game of inches” has come to fruition for UH (7-3, 5-2). Against Louisville, the Cougars took several shots downfield in the second half, but came inches short of making a game-changing play, said offensive coordinator Doug Meacham.

“Late in the game, they knocked the ball out of (freshman quarterback John O’Korn’s) hand as he was throwing it. We had a post wide open — if we had just thrown it, it would have been a touchdown,” Meacham said.

“We missed Greg (Ward) on a post on the left side. We overthrew a takeoff route by about a foot that would have been a big chunk. We had a double move with two receivers on the boundary, and the receiver didn’t turn his head.”

Aside from throwing for a career low as a starter with 121 yards, O’Korn and the offense converted only 31 percent of their third downs against Louisville, and in the first, third and fourth quarters, UH gained only 55 net yards. For the past two weeks, UH has combined for 27 points, which is eight points less than its season point per game average.

This week, the Cougars have emphasized a better attention to detail and a simplified offensive scheme in practice. The team is working on limiting mistakes like penalties and improving on early downs to provide its freshman quarterback with third-and-short so conversion rates will be better and the offense will be able to find the consistent rhythm it has lacked the past two weeks.

“When you think about it, it is the little things that make teams like us — or any team that has a good record — a great team,” said sophomore running back Ryan Jackson. “The past couple of weeks, it’s the little things that we’ve been slacking off on. I guess it just caught up with us in the end.”

But the task doesn’t get any easier this week when Cincinnati (8-2, 5-1) comes to BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday in a battle for third place in the American Athletic Conference — the Bearcats allow only 18.6 points per game. However, head coach Tony Levine said the only thing that can stop UH is itself.

“When we execute, the team that can stop us is Houston. There were some things we needed to clean up, execution-wise, from those two games,” Levine said. “They’re very big and physical, especially at linebacker, and they’re talented in their secondary, so we have to take care of the football like we have been offensively.”

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