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Monday, November 19, 2018

Football

Offensive inefficiency plagues Cougars


offense

Kyle Postma came into the game to replace quarterback Kyle Allen, who struggled with two interceptions on the day. The offense moved the ball better with Postma under center and came within three points of the Red Raiders. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

The Cougar’s early-season momentum came to a screeching halt Saturday when the Cougars fell to the Texas Tech Red Raiders due to offensive inconsistency that has appeared in each of the team’s first three games.

Although still 2-1 on the year, Houston has failed to score more than three points in seven of its first 12 quarters this season — including five periods in which the Cougars posted zero. Add seven turnovers and rushing attacking that features just 3.6 yards per carry, and you have a recipe for stagnant offensive play that frustrates fans, players and coaches alike.

“We didn’t get into an offensive rhythm,” senior wide receiver Steven Dunbar said following the team’s 27-24 loss to Texas Tech on Saturday. “Some of the turnovers hurt us in that area. It’s hard when we can’t get in a rhythm of moving the ball (forward).”

Junior quarterback Kyle Allen entered the game just one week removed from completing 31-of-33 passes against Rice and setting a new team record for single-game completion at 94 percent. Coupled with a 25 for 32 showing in the team’s first game at Arizona, the previously efficient Allen struggled against the Red Raiders.

After throwing a pair of interceptions and losing a costly fumble Saturday, first-year head coach Major Applewhite had seen enough of his newly named starting QB. With just over seven minutes to play in the game and scoring opportunities running scarce, Applewhite turned to backup signal-caller Kyle Postma in search of a spark.

“We always go through personnel after a series,” Applewhite said. “It was apparent in the game that (Texas Tech) was going to drop into coverage. They were giving you quarterback-runs in terms of scrambles. He was going to give us the best opportunity at that point when the complexion of the game changed.”

Slow starts in every half are playing a major role in the Cougars’ lack of offensive production.

In its first game against Arizona, the Cougars’ offense produced only two points across six second-half possessions.

A week later against Rice, the unit was shut out in the second half with four drives ending in punts and two in interceptions.

Houston began the first half Saturday with four consecutive failed drives, including an opening-possession interception that turned into an early 3-0 deficit for the home team. The start of the second half went no better for Houston, which again surrendered a first-drive interception followed by four consecutive punts before switching QB’s.

The team has yet to score on an opening drive of any half this season — something they’ve become accustomed to in recent years.

With conference play set to begin this Saturday against the Temple Owls, the Cougars must find ways to score in the first and third quarters.

“This one stings, but we need to move on,” Applewhite said. “We’ve got eight more games left to play in this season. We did do some very good things in this game. The tackling and explosive plays were the most disappointing thing. There were plenty of opportunities for us to win this game on offense.”

A nonconference win against an in-state opponent would have been a treat for all involved, but the Cougars need to refocus their offense before kicking off American Athletic Conference play this weekend.

Saturday’s matchup against Temple will provide the perfect opportunity to return to form. The Owls are surrendering 31.5 points per game, which places them No. 95 among 130 FBS teams.

First, the Cougars must correct what went wrong in the loss.

“That’s the next task at hand, but we should learn from this game first,” Dunbar said. “I’m excited to see how we work this coming week and prepare for the game, but we have to learn from this one.”

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