Houston’s offense did well on the big stage against Oklahoma on Sunday, but the same can’t be said for the defense. However, there are still things to be excited about with this group. Heads were certainly turned with the depth chart released before the game, and even more when things changed for the first play. Joe Cauthen will get things turned around, but for now it’s still a group with many bad habits.
Battle in the trenches
Let’s get the bad out of the way first. The front four did not fair well against Oklahoma’s offensive line. Sooners’ running backs found gaping holes for them to run through and forced the secondary and linebackers to save the play. At one point, Oklahoma was averaging 14 yards per carry. That’s unacceptable even from this group.
Houston's defense didn't get off to a good start (to the game or season). The first play brought back some bad memories. Gaping holes and missed tackles were a theme pic.twitter.com/q4QmUZ01jz— Joe Broback (@joebroback) September 4, 2019
As you can also see, missed tackles continue to be a problem for the Cougars. The defensive line is in a tough situation. They have athletic and quick guys and they have big guys who take up space. There aren’t any right now that can do both. Guys like David Anenih and Alexander Duke pressured the quarterback, but were pushed back in the run game. Aymiel Fleming and Blake Young took up space as best they could, but couldn’t pressure the quarterback. To throw another wrench into the defensive issues, effort was an issue from the start.
Effort early on was not up to par, and made some think Mark D’Onofrio was still coaching. Cauthen most likely addressed that in the film session earlier this week. Plays like the one below could have gone for minimal yardage, but poor effort allows for first downs to be gained.
Effort had a lot to do with Houston's struggles too. This play was most likely addressed in film. Owens initially goes forward, but then stops and shuffles backwards, leading to a first down pic.twitter.com/x4xjJkLB6J— Joe Broback (@joebroback) September 4, 2019
Overall, same issues as before. Front four struggled, and all three levels were average at best (some weren’t even that). Oklahoma’s offense will make many defenses look silly this year, and Houston’s just another team on the list. Like I said earlier, there are things to be excited about with this group. Not everything was bad.
Damarion Williams drew CeeDee Lamb all night, and kept the potential All-American mostly in check. Besides Lamb’s touchdown catch that was due to miscommunication, he had just one catch for one yard. Yes, you read that right. If not for Houston blowing a coverage, one of the best receivers in the country was held to a single catch for a single yard. That’s something to be excited about going forward.
There were also a handful of plays sprinkled in throughout the game by different players, but it’s tough to string too many of them together against an offense like Oklahoma. Yes, Cauthen has plenty to fix, but this will be a different defense from the last two years.
There’s more negative film than there is positive, but we need to focus on the positives. Williams is a big positive for this group with his performance, and there are other things to like as well. It’s not going to be an elite defense, but this group has solid potential to improve every week and help out the offense at times. Houston’s produced a turnover in 18 consecutive games now, so that will also help even if they give up a ton of yards. Stay positive people, it’s just one game.