Everything started out great for the Houston Cougars Friday night against Washington State. Houston only had three drives in the first half, but scored on two of them (three if Dalton Witherspoon doesn’t miss a 48 yard field goal). When the second half started, one mistake initiated the struggles. Today, we look at what went well, what went wrong, and why there’s still a lot to be excited about for Houston’s offense.
Obviously. No need to go deep into this one. Penalties took away big plays for Houston on Friday, including a 72 yard touchdown for King. Moving on.
King’s fast start
D’Eriq King got off the a great start Friday night, finishing the first half with 170 total yards. He displayed his quickness and elusiveness early, and the opposing Cougars struggled to contain him. Early in the second quarter, he eluded two Washington State players deep in the backfield and gained a few yards.
It became evident the coaching staff was letting him run given the number of designed quarterback runs and read option plays that were called. While he made a handful of spectacular plays throughout the game, Houston’s foreshadowed their struggles. King masked those concerns early, but he can’t do everything. On this play, King makes an incredible play, but he’s forced to do so. Interior blocking continues to be a problem, and they’re lucky that they have a mobile quarterback who can make up for those mistakes.
Lack of protection
Dana Holgorsen needs King to stay healthy for multiple reasons, so it makes sense that he wants his quarterback to take less hits. While he is running less, the hits aren’t declining. King took multiple shots as a passer Friday night, and found himself swarmed frequently in the second half. Most of that pressure came up the middle. Jarrid Williams and Josh Jones have things locked down on the outside, but the guards and center need work. This isn’t a bad group, but as you saw above, King hides many of Houston’s issues with his abilities.
Carr and Porter
This almost seems weird to say, but Houston has a good set of running backs this year. Patrick Carr and Kyle Porter combined for 130 yards against Washington State, and should give fans excitement for this season. Houston found themselves behind and needed to pass the ball more frequently in the second half, limiting the opportunities for these two. If the Cougars can find some balance in their offense (and consistency), their backs can help them out. This run by Carr showed his vision, but he and Porter need more opportunities to make an impact.
Beginning of the mistakes
Houston fumbled on fourth down to begin the second half, and that was just the beginning of the struggles. The Cougars only scored a field goal late in the third quarter and a touchdown on their last drive of the game. it appeared that they couldn’t get anything going, and Washington State applied more pressure on King.
Quarterback- B+: King fumbled in the second half, which led to a Washington State score, but he still put on a show running the ball. His accuracy was off at times though.
Running Back- B+: Porter and Carr are going to be good, but they need to get more opportunities.
Wide Receiver/Tight End- B: A fumble by Marquez Stevenson hurt, and this group can only do so much. If King doesn’t have time to throw, it doesn’t matter how open this group is downfield.
Offensive Line- C+: This group did well blocking the run, but the pass protection needs a lot of work.
Houston’s offense still presents matchup problems for opposing defenses, but they need to put together a complete game. If they kept up their first half pace, the Cougars could have won the game. King and Holgorsen appear to have found a balance on the number of runs he takes, so now he just needs time to pass. The offensive line is more than capable of doing their job, but they’ve struggled thus far.