Cougars need aggression on field
UH head coach Kevin Sumlin is no stranger to the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Having spent seven seasons on Big 12 coaching staffs – two at Texas A’M and five at Oklahoma – Sumlin has faced the Cowboys many times.
But Houston’s (1-1) 56-37 loss to the Cowboys (2-0) in front of 45,001 on Saturday was probably not the outcome Sumlin wanted in his first showing against them as head coach. After handing Southwestern Athletic Conference Southern a 55-3 loss in their season-opener at Robertson Stadium, the Cougars hit the road for the first time under Sumlin to take on the Cowboys.
"In order for us to be a good team, when we go on the road we have to match the other’s intensity level, and we didn’t do that," Sumlin said.
In the first half of the game, it seemed like they had. Houston entered the half with a 16-14 lead. It took a while for the Cougars’ offense to get going – OSU was the first to score on a 58-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Kendall Hunter less than three minutes into the game, and Houston had to punt on its first two possessions, but the Cougars scored on three of their next four drives.
Freshman running back Bryce Beall ran it in from two yards out, and junior kicker Ben Bell hit the PAT to put the Cougars on the board at the end of the first quarter. In the second, Bell struck again, hitting a field goal from the 27-yard line, giving the Cougars a 10-7 lead. Sophomore quarterback Case Keenum (36-of-61, 387 yards, 4 TDs) connected with senior tight end Mark Hafner on a 6-yard touchdown pass to extend Houston’s lead.
The Cougars’ defense was able to stop the Cowboys from scoring on their next four drives. Four of the Cowboys’ six drives in the first half ended in a punt, fumble or interception, and they didn’t score again until their last drive of the half, when junior quarterback wide receiver Dez Bryant completed a 39-yard touchdown pass.
Then, in the third quarter, the Cougars began to fall apart. The Cowboys scored four touchdowns to the Cougars’ two, and OSU totaled 284 total yards in that quarter while Houston grabbed only 127.
Bryant caught two touchdown passes from junior quarterback Zac Robinson (14-21, 320 yards, 2 TDs) in that quarter and finished the night with 236 yards on nine catches, three receiving touchdowns and one kickoff return for a touchdown.
Sumlin said after the game against Southern that eliminating pre-snap penalties and taking care of the ball would be key to beating OSU, but the Cougars were unable to do either.
Houston finished the night with five penalties, resulting in a loss of 65 yards, including one that negated a touchdown in the third quarter. Half of the Cougars’ second-half drives ended in a punt or a fumble.
"I was very disappointed in how some guys just didn’t play. The guys who come on the plane, they’re one play away from playing all the time," Sumlin said.
Keenum had to rely on his feet instead of his arm. He rushed only three times against Southern, but led the team with 81 rushing yards on nine carries on Saturday. Keenum said the offensive line gave him enough time to throw the ball, but he had a hard time finding his receivers against the OSU defense.
"I just couldn’t get to them. The o-line did a great job protecting me. I (wasn’t) sacked the whole night," Keenum said.
Keenum said the Cougars will need to play more aggressively during the rest of the season.
"We did not play to our potential at all… and we’re going to be really good," Keenum said. "It’s our to take, and we have to take it. We have to grab it."