The Monday After: Texas Tech
Still in search of their first conference win in the Big 12, the University of Houston traveled to Lubbock to take on the Red Raiders of Texas Tech, a team looking to bounce back from a disappointing start to their season without their starting QB. Head Coach Dana Holgorsen has been imploring the team to start fast and that is exactly what the offense did this week scoring 28 points in the first half. While the first half offense was energetic and effective, the defense and special teams left much to be desired. As is common this year it seems it was one step forward, two steps back.
As mentioned, the offense finally came out swinging to start the game. From the first drive Quarterback Donovan Smith looked every bit as he had been advertised by the staff heading into the season. Standout wide receiver Sam Brown finally got into the end zone, Parker Jenkins continued his impressive form and Joseph Manjack made an amazing one handed catch to go along with a touchdown reception. Holgorsen has been criticized by fans for saying a few weeks ago that the play calling was not the issue the execution was. If the first half was any indication, it was indeed the play calling at fault. The play mixture, tempo and execution was the best it has been all season and was nothing like what we've been witness to through the first 4 games. Something seemingly changed. Scoring 28 points in 30 minutes must have meant that the Coogs were in a great position to come away with the win...right?
That was what Holgorsen said on the radio at halftime regarding the defensive and special teams performance. This was easily the worst defensive game of the year and the worst special teams game IN years. Earlier in the season against Rice, it looked like the offense hadn't practiced a snap leading up to the game. This week, it was defense's turn to look that bad. Tech was not forced to punt a single time in the first half scoring every time they had the ball. While Tech's defense was equally as bad, that is not our concern. Our concern is that the defense was unable to get stops against a backup QB as your offense is putting points on the board. What is even more confusing was the lack of basic skills. Missed tackles and slipping on the turf were prevalent across the board. There seems to be little excuse for this as the weather was perfect i.e. no moisture.
The special teams unit, which has been a highlight of this season, allowed a kickoff return and a blocked punt for a touchdown before the halftime whistle. Holgorsen said it was the worst special teams game in the 4 years and 4 games since he's been here. He is correct. Hopefully, the special teams just had a bad game and that doesn't become the norm. If so, then we are in for a very long rest of the season.
Anyone see the first half offense anywhere?
There isn't much to say of the second half offensive performance. They disappeared. Tech adjusted and it looked as bland as ever. The offense has to adjust in game to the defense's adjustments and that did not happen on Saturday. Combine that with a defense that didn't show up and you really didn't stand a chance to come out with a win.
Where we stand
Welcome to bye week! In reflecting on the season so far, some things stand out. Firstly, being 0-2 in conference play isn't shocking. What is shocking is how the team has played in those games. There is a difference between being competitive and coming up just short and not being anywhere near a win. Unfortunately, the Coogs have been on the latter half of that sentence in both conference games. This team looks rougher than expected and the loss against Rice makes it impossible to chalk it up as just playing tougher competition. There seems to be a problem within in program.
Secondly, this team does not look like a bowl team in any way. As stated before, Athletic Director Chris Pezman has publicly said that the goal is to make one. If that goal is not met in year 5 of the current administration, discussions have to take place.
Thirdly, if the play on the field does not drastically improve, it will not be shocking to see kids enter the portal. It will not be shocking to see recruiting take a dip. There is more at stake these last 7 games than just a bowl.
The joke on Twitter is that "we are a basketball school." We shouldn't be just a basketball school. There is no excuse or reason why both basketball and football can't dominate. Kelvin Sampson's program is different in nearly every way because the leadership and accountability at every level from Sampson to the ball boy is in another universe. Kelvin Sampson's program has to be to the standard across every athletic program within the athletic department. If you can't meet that same level of accountability, performance, recruiting and coaching then you shouldn't be at the University of Houston.
There is a lot that needs to be fixed with the clock ticking on a, so far, very disappointing season.