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Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Four takeaways from the Cougars’ loss to SMU


The SMU Mustangs were able to limit the impact quarterback Greg Ward Jr. had on the ground Saturday. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

The football team dropped their second game in three weeks when they fell to the Southern Methodist University Mustangs Saturday. The 38-16 loss marks the first time since 2011 that SMU has defeated a ranked opponent.

The defeat drops the Cougars to 6-2 and completely out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since Oct. 8 of last season. Ironically, it was the team’s win against SMU last season that propelled them into the AP poll.

Here is what we learned in football’s loss to SMU:

The Cougars are tired

Football’s week-11 bye is one of the latest in the entire NCAA. With that said, it’s not hard to tell that the players are exhausted.

Herman stated that the late bye week is not an excuse for the team’s poor play of late, but it will make him reconsider the off-season regimen in future seasons.

Sluggish play has plagued the Cougars over the last three weeks and is likely a prime reason behind their struggle.

The Cougars have a slew of injured players on their roster, but their bye week should benefit them when they head into the season’s final games.

Greg Ward Jr. was neutralized

The Heisman Trophy hopeful was somewhat effective through the air Saturday as he went 21 for 33 with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

However, Ward’s biggest weapons are his legs, and SMU was able to hold him to only three yards on 17 carries. His rushing numbers were low due to, in part, the fact that he was sacked a season-high seven times Saturday.

SMU’s defense deserves credit for what they were able to accomplish against the Cougars’ offense. Each week is different, but the Mustangs played better defense statistically against the Cougars than the now-No. 16 University of Oklahoma Sooners.

First-quarter blunders hurt the Cougars

Football’s first four offensive drives ended as follows: fumble, fumble, punt, punt.

The slow start led to an early 21-0 deficit, which could’ve been 24-0 had SMU not missed a field goal.

The Cougars are used to playing with the lead in games. Saturday night proved that no matter how much talent you have on your team, it’s still difficult to escape a 21-point hole.

Scoring early and often is key for the Cougars, who run a blitz-heavy defense. A staple for the team in the last two seasons has been having a lead for more chances to be taken on defense.

In addition to helping the defense, teams are more likely to make mistakes when playing from behind. Normally, it is the Cougars who have benefited from this, but their recent struggles have made them the mistake-prone team.

Defense has to be better

Not all of the blame can be placed on the offense.

The Cougars gave up 228 yards passing to true freshman quarterback Ben Hicks, who hasn’t played well this season.

The team also allowed 178 yards rushing to the Mustangs despite being a defense that prides itself on stopping the run. Sophomore running back Braeden West accounted for 115 of those yards by himself.

Lastly, SMU’s first four scoring drives were all at least 50-yards long and three of them were over 70 yards. All of the scoring drives took five minutes or less, which means the Cougars’ defense was allowing chunks of yards to be gained at once.

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