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

An inconsistent group showed how well they can play, even if there’s work to do.

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

Just like the offense, Houston’s defense has it’s flaws. Joe Cauthen looks like he has some things figured out, but there’s still a long way to go before this group’s good. While it’s easy to pick on them, there were things that went well. Also like the offense, this is more of a long-term breakdown. Losing a game isn’t fun, but there are positives to take from this.

Awareness/Assignment issues

Before we dive into the negative, let’s start with the fact that I know this group can play fundamentally sound football. We see it every game, just not frequently enough. It just comes down to doing your job. Here, I don’t know what the call is, but it’s doomed from the start.

If you look at the numbers, Cincinnati has eight guys to Houston’s six within five yards of the ball. Grant Stuard’s off to the left, but he’s halfway between the tight end and the slot receiver. That’s a problem right off the bat. Also, Donavan Mutin and Zamar Kirven are essentially on the right side, leaving the left side exposed. Without knowing the gameplan, I’d say that’s an issue. The result was a Cincinnati touchdown with Desmond Ridder walking into the end zone untouched.

I understand the importance of stopping Michael Warren, but that put the Cougars in a tough position. Stuard was essentially taken out of the play by following the tight end, and Deontay Anderson went after Warren before realizing Ridder had the ball (by then it was too late). There are more plays from this game just like this one, but let’s look at the positive.

How Houston’s defense can play

Ignore down and distance for a second (which I know is everything to a defense), and just look at how each man plays his assignment. This is how Houston can play defense against the run. Here, the outside guys take their men head up, don’t get washed, and leave an opening for Deontay Anderson to fill. Anderson comes up and hits the back for a loss. Absolutely beautiful.

Again, consistency is the key with this group, but we can stop acting like they can’t do anything right. This group can play well and make an impact on the game.

Quick Notes

  • This group continues to play with high energy, which I attribute to Cauthen changing expectations for this group. Way different than last year.
  • They never quit. It doesn’t matter what the score is to these guys, they will never give up on a game. That might not payoff now, but it will in the long run.
  • Gervarrius Owens looks like he’s moving to cornerback, a position that needed an upgrade. Damarion Williams plays well, but the other side was struggling mightily. Owens appears to be benefiting himself as he appeared to track the ball better and make better plays at his new position.
  • Garrison Vaughn is the clear starter opposite of Deontay Anderson now.


Defensive Line- C: More pressure this game, but not enough of an impact (just two QB hurries and one sack).

Linebacker- B-: Mutin and Kirven play well, but sometimes get washed out of their gap too easily.

Defensive Back- C+: Poor play early led to scores and Bearcats moving the ball, but there’s long-term potential with the changes made.


Honestly, this is just an inconsistent group. There’s no better way to put it, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. We saw how this team can play defensively, and were seeing positive changes despite losing games. It’ll pay off down the road, but right now they’re learning how to play fundamentally sound football.