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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Commentary

Football’s roller coaster season drops with no climb in sight


Freshman Bryson Smith caught three touchdown passes against Temple, but his performance was not enough to win. | Corbin Ayres/The Cougar

After starting the season on fire and earning national recognition for its record-setting offense, Houston has hit a slump and lost two games in a row. Its Homecoming loss against Temple proves that the defense is just as important as the offense when it comes to winning games.

UH’s defense has been relatively questionable all season. The hype surrounding junior defensive tackle Ed Oliver before the season made it seem like the Cougars were going to be a defensive juggernaut. But after losing key starters in senior safety Garrett Davis and sophomore defensive lineman Isaiah Chambers to injuries, the defense hasn’t lived up to the hype.

With Oliver now out indefinitely due to injury, the defense has no relief in sight.

After hearing that Oliver was going to be out along with two other defensive linemen, Temple senior running back Ryquell Armstead must have been salivating at the opportunity to play the understaffed defense. Armed with the knowledge that the defense was going to be weaker than usual, Temple dared UH to stop its running attack.

The Cougars could not, and the team picked up its third loss of the season.

Armstead ran for six touchdowns, and the Owls scored 59 points against the Cougars. UH allowed Armstead to run for 210 yards. To put that into perspective, that is only seven yards less than his quarterback threw on the day.

Armstead was not the only running back having a field day, as senior Rob Ritrovato was only six yards short of reaching the century mark in the game.

Temple just kept running, picking up key first downs and scoring, and the Cougars could not do anything to stop it. UH laid an egg in its Homecoming Game — one of the most attended home games of the year. When the team started a comeback attempt late in the game, many of the fans had already made for the exit to escape the cold, embarrassing defeat of their team.

This loss hurts in many ways.

First, it continues a trend that the Cougars have created of getting big wins and gaining early season momentum before losing it with defeats to lesser teams in the middle of the year.

Second, it brought the Cougars into a three-way tie for first place for the AAC West. SMU, one of the teams that shares the tie, won the tie-breaker game against Houston one week before UH took the loss at the hands of Temple. UH was in the driver’s seat as the clear favorite to win the AAC West before the SMU game.

Now, the Cougars have to win out and hope the Mustangs lose another game if UH wants to reach the conference championship.

The final reason the loss hurts is the loss of Oliver, not to injury but to the NFL draft. When Oliver leaves for the draft in 2019, he will be leaving behind a defense that is allowing opposing teams to score an average of 34 points per game.

Something will need to change before UH reaches the end of the season. If not, Oliver and the Cougars will miss out on the opportunity to play for a conference championship for the third season in a row.

It’s a painful possibility, but it’s a likely one if Houston continues these poor performances.

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