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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Football

Breaking down UH football’s season so far


Houston quarterback Clayton Tune scrambles with a flurry of UCF defenders in pursuit as he looks for positive yardage during a regular season game in the 2020 season at TDECU Stadium. | Courtesy of UH athletics

Houston quarterback Clayton Tune scrambles with a flurry of UCF defenders in pursuit as he looks for positive yardage during a regular season game in the 2020 season at TDECU Stadium. | Courtesy of UH athletics

Five games into the 2020 college football season and UH has had a lackluster start thus far with many highs and lows.

The team finished last season with a 4-8 record, so a rebuild was expected, but the Cougars (2-3, 2-2 American Athletic Conference) still look to make a statement towards progress this season and get above that four-win margin.

 UH offensive strengths

The Cougars sit seventh overall in the AAC, ranking eighth in offense and seventh in defense among the conference teams, with two of the three losses they have so far coming from nationally ranked teams in No. 7 Cincinnati and No. 8 BYU.

The Cougars’ success begins with junior quarterback Clayton Tune. Tune is currently completing 61 percent of his passes and averaging 279 passing yards per game, totaling 10 touchdowns so far in the season.

Most of UH’s effectiveness through the air has come from how well it is able to come down with the deep ball, and turn quick catches and runs into massive plays.

Much of this success comes from senior wide receiver Marquez Stevenson, who is known to burn defenses throughout the season, but has been out most of the past two games with an injury.

Where UH struggles

The Cougars currently sit seventh in the AAC points allowed per game, giving up an average of just over 35 points per game as they have given up more than 20 points in every game so far this season.

They have struggled to get things started in games as they have trailed by two possessions in the first half alone in four out of their five games played.

The running game for UH has yet to take off, currently sitting last in the conference in yards per game. An efficient run game would take some of the load off Tune and allow for him to have sluggish starts without compromising the entire game.

The front seven has also struggled as of recent to stop the run, giving up nearly 700 yards in the last two games while Cincinnati and UCF ran all over the Cougars’ defense. Houston currently allows an average of 202 yards per game from rushing alone.

Turnovers are another thing the Cougars need to focus on limiting if they want to turn things around. The Cougars currently have lost five fumbles alone and average two turnovers per game. This has been an issue for the team since the opener against Tulane.

Simple mistakes have cost UH on several occasions this season. Against Cincinnati, the team was within striking distance late in the second but gave up 14 points in less than two minute, one off a quick score and then the second that was set up by a blown kickoff coverage that gave Cincinnati a 28-10 lead going into the half.

There was a similar swing in the BYU game when Houston led 26-14 with just two minutes left until the fourth, but allowed a big strike downfield that led to a score. It was then caught off guard by an onside kick recovery. On top of that, there was also the 20-yard punt out of its own end zone that led to BYU’s go-ahead score.

Going forward

The season isn’t lost yet for the Cougars who need to fix the mistakes that lost them the big games earlier in the season.

Forcing turnovers and defending the run are among the key things that could go a long way in giving UH a fighting chance at a winning season, but will not be as easy to do.

The Cougars have four games left and will matchup against South Florida, SMU, Tulsa and Memphis, which will be tough challenges as three of the final four teams currently hold better records than Houston and SMU is also nationally ranked.

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