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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Good, bad and ugly: Cougars blockade Commodores, but play far from perfect

With the win, the Cougars now sit at 8-0 this year and 4-0 in AAC play. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

While the Cougars captured a good win on Halloween, a couple of flaws are points for concern moving forward. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

The No. 18 Cougars were able to come away with another dominant performance, this time crushing the Vanderbilt University Commodores 34-0 Halloween night.

There is always more to the game than just the score. Let’s look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the first shutout win of the season.

The good: defensive showcase

When the lights came on Saturday, the Cougars showed the nation just what the best defense in the American Athletic Conference can do.

Three interceptions, one fumble recovery and three sacks during the team’s first shutout since defeating Grambling State University 47-0 last year is a good outing no matter who the opponent.

When that team happens to play in the best conference in college football though, it means all the more. The “Third Ward Defense” was able to come away with the first shutout of a Southeastern Conference school by a non-conference opponent since 2004.

Sure, Vanderbilt is not exactly the first team that comes to mind for most fans when they think of football in the SEC, but the Commodores still play some of the best the NCAA has to offer on a regular basis, so dominating them on a national stage is worthy of some recognition.

While it was truly a team effort by the defense, junior linebacker Steven Taylor got the most recognition for his performance. After finishing the night with 12 tackles, a sack and an interception, Taylor was named the AAC Defensive Player of the Week.

The bad: fumble for fumble

A big part of the Cougars’ success during their eight-game winning streak has been the plus-15 turnover margin created by the defense taking the ball away and the offense protecting it.

The offense’s own missteps did not make it easy for the team this weekend however, losing two fumbles and nearly a third.

To start the third quarter, the UH defense forced and recovered a Vanderbilt fumble, but the Houston offense returned the favor just four plays later.

Ward was again forced to lose the ball, but this time Vanderbilt was able to come up with it inside Houston territory.

The very next UH possession, Ward led his team out from the shadow of their own goal-line, just to cough up the ball again near midfield.

The Cougar defense was able to keep the Commodores from capitalizing on those mistakes this time, but giving away opportunities like these could prove costly as their schedule gets harder.

The ugly: a nearly unwatchable start

At the end of the day, football is a form of entertainment. The opening of Saturday’s game was dreadful.

With the exception of safety Adrian McDonald’s interception, the entire first quarter was painful to watch.

The first quarter of “action” saw the two teams combine for 124 total yards on 36 plays, the longest of which was a 15-yard catch by Houston receiver Demarcus Ayers.

The rest of the quarter was an exercise in dink-and-dunk football and punting, five punts on nine drives to be precise… yawn.

When the teams were not busy picking up two or three yards at a time, they were committing penalties. Of the game’s 12 total penalties, seven of them came in the first quarter alone.

Fortunately, that awful first quarter came to an end.

When the Cougars again take the field against the University of Cincinnati Bearcats Saturday at TDECU Stadium, hopefully they can regain the form that saw them score a touchdown on their opening possession in the first six games.

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