Houston football’s search for answers continues. The same problems that haunted the Cougars in Week 1 are still prevalent and problematic five games into the season.
UH found itself in a familiar situation in its American Athletic Conference opener against Tulane on Friday night at TDECU Stadium — leading late and in a prime position to win the game.
Yet again, the Cougars dropped the ball, finding another way to come out defeated.
“We could of found a way to win and we didn’t,” said UH head coach Dana Holgorsen.
It’s not just one specific phase of the game that is holding the Cougars back. Rather, struggles with consistency spread throughout the entire team.
“Offense clearly didn’t do enough. Defense gave up another drive at the end. Special teams missed a couple of field goals,” Holgorsen said. “All three sides right there.”
First quarter offensive struggles were once again prevalent as the Cougars failed to score any points for the fourth time in five games. Only 21 total first quarter points on the season is not a recipe for success, as UH continuously finds itself having to dig out of hole in the second half to get back in the game.
“We just need to do a better job of starting fast so we don’t put ourselves in those situations,” said freshman runningback Brandon Campbell. “It’s hard to have to play from behind in the second half because you have to so much more dialed in and the mistakes you make, you can’t have as many of them.”
Just like the games against UTSA and Texas Tech, the UH defense failed to protect a late lead, allowing Tulane to march 75 yards in two minutes, 25 seconds to score the game-tying touchdown and force the Cougars to play in their third overtime of the season.
“They make more plays to win than we do,” said senior linebacker Donavan Mutin when asked about UH’s struggle to close out games.
A blocked first quarter field goal and another one missed from 47 yards out late in the third quarter were yet more squandered opportunities the Cougars failed to capitalize on.
These miscues and inconsistencies resulted in overtime, a situation which UH is far too familiar with.
“Third overtime game in five games,” Holgorsen. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
While the Cougars were able to pull out the overtime victory in their season opener against UTSA, the next two overtimes have not been kind to them.
Failure to stop Texas Tech on a fourth-and-20 led to a double overtime loss in Week 2. A three-and-out offensively, followed by a pass interference on Tulane’s first play in overtime led to another excruciating loss for UH.
All these extra periods of football through five games have taken a toll on the Cougars.
These games, they wear on you mentally,” Campbell said.
Frustration and deflation filled the UH locker room as the team knows it could and probably should be sitting at 4-1 instead of its actual record of 2-3.
“Not a good feeling right now,” Mutin said. “Not a good place to be right now. It can better or worse. We have the ability to choose that.”
While there are many questions that need to be answered inside the UH locker room, the Cougars are holding out hope that they can right their wrongs and turn the ship around over their final seven games of the regular season.
It starts with getting on the same page beginning in the film room, weight room and on the practice fields.
“It gonna be a team effort,” Mutin said. “From the head of the snake to the tail of the snake, we need alignment. It needs to be coherent. The message needs to be clear. We’re going to have a chance to do that or not and (the results of) our season will be the ramifications of whatever we do.”
If UH is able to find this alignment from top to bottom, it then ultimately comes down to execution under the bright lights, something the Cougars have struggled to do so far.
“Enough blame to go around,” Holgorsen said. “Coaches gotta coach better. Players gotta play better.”