The Monday After: West Virginia
In the words of the late Milo Hamilton, "what a way to finish!" On Saturday night, the University of Houston, in remarkable fashion, secured their first win as a member of the Big 12 on a last gasp Hail Mary resulting in pandemonium. There was more at stake than just getting into the win column as pressure has been mounting against Coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff after a lackluster start to the season. There was also the business of his former team looking for revenge. There were areas of improvement as well as areas that can't seem to get fixed. Lets dive in.
The obvious good is finally getting into the win column in a Big 12 conference game. After really bad outings against TCU and Texas Tech, the Coogs needed to come out and look like a team that can compete in their new conference. They managed to do this, though the start of the game looked like it was going to be another long night.
The defense, which has been lacking at times this year, let West Virginia eat most of the first quarter as they marched down the field to get a field goal. Following a kickoff return by Matthew Golden, the defense then gave up a touchdown. West Virginia was also converting nearly every third down they were faced with, going 6 for 7 to start. So where is the good? The defense adapted. After the rocky start they found their footing for the end of the first half and the vast majority of the second. In game adjustments have been difficult to come by this year, minus their performance at Rice, and have to be made in order to win games. There is no question without the changes made, the Coogs would have lost. The good here also does not outweigh the bad at the end of the game by the defense. That will be covered further down.
The Good on the offense is very similar to the good on the defense. After another slow start, the offense closed the first half with a very solid two minute drive resulting in a touchdown. They also adapted and looked much crisper and were more effective in the second half. Again, making in game adjustments they weren't able to in the first two conference games. The biggest compliment that can possibly be given is how they reacted on the last drive of the game.
After the defense giving up an unconscionable touchdown with just 12 seconds left, the offense could have shut down completely and thrown in the towel. Instead, they executed two near perfect offensive plays. The first got them into position for the Hail Mary and the second to win the game. Donovan Smith threw a beautiful ball, Joseph Manjack tipped it perfectly and Stephon Johnson with the difficult bobble catch. This play doesn't work with out perfect execution and without every member of the offense's dedication.
Zone defense. Again and again and again and again and again. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. To many times over the last two seasons have we been in a tight spot at the end of a game and our defense has given up the tying or winning drive because our they drops so far back their is little stopping the opposing offense. If your team isn't able to stop the other team in a defensive scheme consistently, then stop using said scheme. Why were we so far back on 4th and 10? Instead of blitzing or at least pressuring the QB we dropped all the way back which gave the receiver acres of yardage to run. Then, he should have never made it into the end zone as there were two defensive players that should have brought him down. Defensive Coordinator Doug Belk's defense hasn't seemed to have the same magic over the last few seasons as it did in 2021.
On offense, the only criticism I can muster is that they started slow again. Holgorsen has made it know he wants a fast start on the offensive side of the ball and while they showed that against Texas Tech, it was missing this past week. But as the game went on the offense looked effective both in play calling and execution. If they can figure out how to consistently come out of the gates attacking then we will be cooking with fire.
Remember that scene from Jurassic Park when Samuel Jackson is rebooting the security system and mutters, "hold onto your butts"?
Well. Hold onto your butts because the University of Texas is coming to town on Saturday.