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Run it (Bro)back: Houston Film Breakdown - Offense vs. Cincinnati

The deep ball was working, but the blocking wasn’t.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Cincinnati at Houston Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Just like that, we’re back. Houston football returned to play Saturday against the Cincinnati Bearcats after another week of drama. We won’t dive into the comments made from a former player, but we will look at the team that’s supposedly tanking their season. The offense did some good things against a good Cincinnati defense. Accumulating 424 yards of total offense, this group did plenty of good, but there are also some questions and things to work on, so let’s dive into it.


Let’s end this notion right now. There is no tanking on this team. It’s insulting to imply these kids are quitting on a season when that’s simply not the truth. Take a look at this clip of Bryson Smith. Does his celebration look like a kid who doesn’t care about the season?

Losing a handful of starters doesn’t automatically mean a team is tanking. Smith and the guys taking the field clearly still care, and they played their hardest until the very end. Saying otherwise is absurd.

Bryson Smith the quarterback

Of the three quarterbacks that played (more on that later), Smith arguably looked the best in his limited reps. Recruited as a quarterback, we finally saw the cannon he has for an arm. Houston ran what looked to be a quarterback sweep to the outside, Cincinnati bit, and Smith unleashed a bomb to Jeremy Singleton.

Is this a look we should expect to see in the future? With the success Smith had running and throwing, it should be. Just sprinkle this look in between reps by Clayton Tune, and let Logan Holgorsen come in during blowouts.

Interior Blocking

We can put this here every week until it changes. Interior blocking (or blocking by players not named Josh Jones and Jarrid Williams) must get better. Williams didn’t play this week, and Dixie Wooten took over at right tackle. Dennis Bardwell and Keenan Murphy split reps at right guard, Jack Freeman played center, and Gio Pancotti started at left guard. All of them struggled against the Bearcats front seven. Miscommunication and quickness continue to be their biggest issues, and this play embodied those struggles. Here, Pancotti doesn’t get a hand on his man, tries to hold, and Tune gets destroyed.

That’s a quick way to find the bench and lose faith from your quarterback. If Houston’s offense wants to make strides this year, they’ll need more consistent play up the middle.

Deep passing game

Confusion about the number of quarterbacks used also led to a confusing gameplan. Tune’s hamstring injury warranted another quarterback to take reps, but that meant putting someone inexperienced into the game. Smith has played receiver his entire career with Houston, and Holgorsen’s a freshman. The gameplan in the first half seemed fairly vanilla and ineffective. One thing that did work was the deep ball.

Against arguably the best secondary in the conference, Houston found little resistance throwing deep. Smith’s pass to Singleton is a great example, but Tune also found Marquez Stevenson plenty too. Stevenson caught three passes for 120 yards and a touchdown, but had his way in the slot besides those catches. Cincinnati wanted to pressure Houston’s quarterback, which left man coverage on the outside. That led to success downfield, and is something to be excited about in the future.

Quick Notes

  • Logan Holgorsen showed he’s a freshman with his interception, but played with a lot of confidence and will be fun to watch in the future.
  • With Mulbah Car on track to redshirt, the third running back spot figures to be up for audition. Terrell “Smoke” Brown took most of the reps Saturday, but we should see Kelan Walker too.
  • A couple big drops hurt Houston on a couple key drives
  • Normally I don’t get too worked up about officials, but there were a handful of vital calls that were head scratchers.
  • Just because it was so sick, Bryson Smith’s pass was a thing of beauty. It deserves more love from me.


Quarterback- Smith- C+ Tune- C- Holgorsen- C: All three flashed potential, but struggled at the same time.

Running Back- B+: Brown fumbled, but overall this group continues to be the most consistent unit on the team.

Wide Receiver/Tight End- A-: A couple drops killed drives, but this group turned 10 catches into 234 yards and three touchdowns. That’s efficiency.

Offensive Line- D+: Josh Jones and Jarrid Williams bring the average up, but things don’t look good if they don’t play.


In the end, this team is what it is, and it’s not changing the rest of the season. This is a talented team that’s extremely inconsistent. That was the case when D’Eriq King and Keith Corbin (and others) were playing, and it would be true if they still were starting. Patience was always going to be the key for Holgorsen’s first year, so we need to watch this season with long-term expectations.