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Houston dominates and struggles in Kevin Sumlin’s return

A blowout turned into a potentially close game.

NCAA Football: Arizona at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It was a blowout, and Houston fans were loving everything they saw on Saturday. Until the starters were taken out. A strong start gave way to anxiety in the fourth quarter, but the Cougars eventually hung on, 45-18.

The Good

Houston looks like a completely different team from last year, and it’s not because of the new players. The Cougars dominated Arizona from the opening kickoff, and the Wildcats were never really in the game. So what makes this team different? The offense mostly. Kendal Briles’ effect on the offense has made the Cougars a dangerous team in all facets of that side of the ball.

Briles dialed up numerous deep passes, giving D’Eriq King plenty of homerun threats. Those threats came in the form of fast players. Marquez Stevenson, Keith Corbin, and Courtney Lark all dominated their matchups, which allowed King to showcase his arm. The one flaw in this game that is a concern is the amount of drops the receivers had.

Defensively, the Cougars limited Khalil Tate’s impact running the ball. Houston forced Arizona to get the ball out of Tate’s hands early and often, and some questionable playcalling by the Wildcats helped too. It seems that Arizona is trying to make Tate into a better passer, but they also took away his best trait. Once he got hurt, they couldn’t utilize his running ability.

The Bad

After going up by 38 early in the third quarter, Major Applewhite decided to take the starters out. The result was Arizona gaining some momentum, bringing the score to 38-16. Applewhite finally put the starters back in as Arizona was driving yet again, and the defense stuffed the Wildcats on fourth down.

I understand what Applewhite was trying to do, but you need to be up by more if you’re going to take the starters out that early. This shouldn’t be something we have to worry about in Applewhite’s second year. Taking your starters out is reserved for overwhelmed FCS teams and 45+ point leads.....close to or in the fourth quarter.

Overall

Houston showed their potential on Saturday, and the future looks bright. Ultimately, Arizona made things interesting against the backups, but Houston eventually ended any comeback hopes. The offense looked great, and the starters on defense stifled Khalil Tate. It was far from perfect, but at least the Cougars’ record still is. Another tough test awaits in Texas Tech.