Raise your hand if you saw that coming...
SMU completely outplayed Houston and deserved to win that game. The Mustangs shredded Houston’s run defense and torched its secondary in the first half.
The Cougars played sloppy and then suffered injuries to the offensive line that they couldn’t afford.
Thus ended Houston’s hope of a New Year’s Six bowl. Barring a miracle, thus ends Houston’s hope of an appearance in the AAC Championship game.
The season is officially tarnished.
SMU just gashed Houston on the ground. The stats will be below.
SMU’s receivers were also wide open on several plays in the first half. It took a full two quarters for Houston’s secondary to start playing well.
Houston’s offensive line was abysmal ... and then Will Noble suffered another shoulder stinger and left the game, which forced Alex Fontana to move inside to center.
The Cougars lost fumbles on two of their first three drives.
Kicker Ty Cummings missed two fields.
Tale of the Tape
Total yards: SMU 406, Houston 297
Houston averaged 505 yards of offense per game prior to SMU.
Rush yards: SMU 178, Houston 62
Houston’s defense allowed a season average of 88 rushing yards per game.
Greg Ward: 21-33, 241 passing yards, 2 TDs; 17 carries, 3 yards
SACKED 7 TIMES
Ben Nicks: 16-31, 228 passing yards, 3 TDs; 3 carries, 12 rushing yards, 1 TD
What is there to say?
SMU just wanted it more. The Mustangs came out on fire. They had a great game plan: they established the run, then capitalized with the play-action pass, and drained the clock to keep Houston’s offense off the field.
The Cougars came out cold as ice.
Did Houston overlook SMU? Quite possibly.
That’s not the standard operating procedure of Tom Herman, who generally has his team prepared and motivated to play. But we’ve seen close calls against Cincinnati and Tulsa, and obviously the loss to Navy.
Houston is vulnerable. No doubt about it. SMU pushed Houston’s defensive line around for the most of the game. Mustang running back Braeden West rushed 18 times for 115 yards and a touchdown and he found HUGE holes to run through in the first half.
The Cougars had two 3-and-outs and two fumbles on their first four drives. Those set a terrible tone for the game.
Ward scrambled for a his life nearly all night. He was decidedly gimpy after he was sacked for the SEVENTH time, which came late in the fourth quarter. SMU’s defense blanketed Houston’s receivers so that even when Ward had a few precious seconds before the pocket collapsed around him, he rarely found open targets.
There were exactly two bright spots for the Cougars: Ed Oliver forced a fumble with 9:25 left in the second quarter and Matthew Adams scooped it up. That play gave Houston the ball on SMU’s 10-yard line and led to a 5-yard TD reception by Steven Dunbar.
In the third quarter, the Coogs sustained their only real drive of the game. They drove 70 yards in 12 plays that spanned 4:32 and resulted in a 2-yard TD pass from Ward to TE Tyler McCloskey.
Other than those two sequences, as I mentioned above, Catalon had some good moments. He finished with 21 touches for 120 total yards. The numbers aren’t spectacular, but they’re a good start for a guy who hasn’t played in three weeks.
So, it will be really interested to see how Herman responds to his worst loss as a head coach. Can he prepare the team for a resurgent UCF team that visits Houston next week? Can he motivate the Cougars the way we’ve grown accustomed to?