Not that any of us were surprised, but Houston was officially eliminated from bowl contention in Saturday’s loss to Memphis. Dana Holgorsen’s staff was already building towards the future, but now they have more reason to focus on the youth’s development. We saw a handful of new faces on the offensive side of the ball, and those players got reps on film that the staff can evaluate. There were some good things done by these new players, but we also saw similar results too.
The offensive line remains the biggest liability
When Clayton Tune had time to throw the football, he connected. Unfortunately for him, that didn’t happen often, and he rarely had time to go through more than one read. That falls on the offensive line. Granted, Memphis sent a ton of pressure all day, and many of the blitzes were complex even for a veteran group. The problem is Houston’s line is extremely inexperienced.
Even when Tune completed some passes, there were still Tigers defenders around him. He was able to make a couple throws on the run, but only finished with 157 yards passing. In terms of run blocking, the line wasn’t much better. Houston averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on Saturday, and if you take out Tune’s 68 yard touchdown run, it drops to 1.1 yards per carry. Obviously Houston’s building towards the future, but this line needs to start taking steps in the right direction. You can’t call quick passes and draws every play, and at some point you need to take shots deep down the field.
Houston’s first two drives ended in touchdowns, but the next two drives hurt them. Even though they kicked field goals on the third and fourth drives, they left points on the field. Holgorsen’s play calling in the red zone was interesting, at times calling for plays to go to sides where Memphis outnumbered Houston. The Cougars failed to score offensively for the rest of the game, and put too much pressure on their defense.
The coaching staff decided to try a few new wrinkles in the offense this week. To give Tune a better read of the defense, Houston used motion on nearly every play. That movement gave Tune an opportunity to see the coverage, and move Tigers players out of position for better passing and running lanes. Another thing the Coogs did was huddle. They didn’t do it every play, but it was a frequent occurrence in the first half. With how explosive the Tigers offense can be, that was a good strategy for Houston (even though it didn’t matter in the end).
- Marquez Stevenson’s the most explosive player on the team, and it’s not even a question. His touchdown in the first quarter displayed his speed and balance on his way to the endzone.
Marquez Stevenson with another big play. He's having a monster year. Underrated balance for a guy his size pic.twitter.com/9aTW96qEeH— Joe Broback (@joebroback) November 16, 2019
- Christian Trahan’s getting opportunities to catch the ball downfield, but his blocking continues to be a liability for the offense. Houston might be better moving him to receiver, because they blocking hasn’t gone well.
- Patrick Paul got his first start at left tackle for Josh Jones this week. His length jumped off the screen early, and made a handful of nice plays to thwart oncoming rushers. He’ll need to work on his strength and balance, as he got beat a few times by players who ran through him on the pass rush.
Quarterback- B: Tune did his best to keep plays alive, but he could only escape pressure so many times. It’s tough to have an efficient passing game when you only get time to make one read (or less).
Running back- C-: Arguably the worst game for the rushing attack by a mile. Kyle Porter didn’t find much room to run Saturday.
Wide Receivers- B: Stevenson’s touchdown was electric, but that was pretty much it.
Offensive Line- D-: Houston’s line is young, and Memphis sent a ton of pressure, but this was a poor performance by this group. Chalk it up to inexperience and no chemistry (Pancotti was playing his fourth position on the line at right tackle), but this was tough to watch.
Without Stevenson’s touchdown catch and Tune’s touchdown run (which both were results of poor protection), Houston produced just 135 yards on 50 plays offensively. Houston may get D’Eriq King and Keith Corbin back next year, but that won’t matter much if the line can’t block. This offense has the tools to be explosive, but they just don’t have the big guys up front that can keep things going. At least now there’s less pressure to win, and the focus can shift to the development of young players.