The Monday After: Baylor
The University of Houston came away with their first Big 12 road win in school history on Saturday as they faced in state rival Baylor. After a dominating first half, UH faced a strong comeback from the Bears and yet another game going into overtime. Coach Dana Holgorsen made the right decision to go for the game winning two point conversion as the defense was looking extremely gassed and Quarterback Donovan Smith executed the play to perfection. The biggest question from this game is why do these overtime scenarios keep happening?
First Half Magic
The first half was arguably one of the best halves of football we have seen from this team all year. The defense looked dominant, keeping Baylor completely off the board. The offense looked crisp, minus two interceptions from Smith, and the play calling was mixed effectively. The biggest question on the offensive side of the ball is injuries. Joseph Manjack has missed the past two weeks as he is in concussion protocol and Matthew Golden went down with a foot injury. Holgorsen said after the game he expects both to be back for Saturday's matchup against Cincinnati, but with injuries they can always take longer than expected to heal. Regardless, the first half was something to be proud of compared to the team's showing at Kansas State.
Second half slowdown
The team came out and had a very good opening drive, eating nearly all of the 3rd quarter time off the clock. After that drive however, the offense kind of stalled out and the dominant defense was getting owned. Both of these are understandable. An offense without two of your best wide receivers is going to have a challenge putting drives together and a defense getting pounded again and again on the line of scrimmage is going to be worn down. Late in the 4th, Smith connected a beautiful throw to running back Tony Mathis to take the lead. Here is where the same old problems really showed their face yet again.
Doing the same thing over and over again....
SMU 2021. UTSA 2022. Texas Tech 2022. Tulane 2022. West Virginia 2023. Baylor 2023.
These are games over the last three seasons, there might be more that this author couldn't remember, where the Coogs had a lead late in the 4th quarter and all that was needed was a defensive hold to prevent going to overtime or losing the game. On every single one the defense dropped back into zone defense and on every single one the opposing offense scored what was needed to either take the lead or tie the game. For some reason Defensive Coordinator Doug Belk does not grasp that this zone call does not work. At least not for this team. And yet, it is called over and over again. He also calls it during the flow of game when it is 3rd and 15+ and consistently the opposing teams get the yardage they need.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Regardless of whether zone defense is "supposed" to work or not in these situations, it does not. Full stop. These consistent failures are not on the players. They play the defensive scheme the coach calls. Coach Belk has to recognize this and adapt his play calling. If he can't see it or won't see it, then Coach Holgorsen needs to step in and change the scheme.
A brief note on the decision to go for two in the OT period. As stated at the top, this was 100% the right call from Coach Holgorsen. The defense probably would not have been able to hold on if faced with another overtime period. The play call, design and execution were flawless.
While the win is great and needed, it is inexcusable that we are unable to stop 3rd and 4th down plays when they are at or over 15 yards away from the sticks in both game winning situations and regular flow of the game situations. Something needs to change.
Even as turbulent as this season has been, the Coogs are still in the hunt for a bowl. If they lose Saturday to Cincinnati however, that is probably not going to happen. Stay tuned to Sidelines Houston as we continue to cover and focus on all things Houston Athletics.