Cougars struggle to get it together in AAC Championship

Just some random thoughts from the Cincinnati game:
 

In the championship game era, the Cougars have gone 8-0 in the conference twice (C-USA 2011, AAC 2021) but lost the title game each year. UH has gone 7-1 in the conference twice during the title game era (C-USA 2006, AAC 2015) and won the championship game both seasons. Go figure.
 

If I told you that UH would:

  • hold a team to 45 plays for the game,
  • give up just nine plays in the 4th quarter,
  • give up only nine yards in the 4th quarter,
  • the opponent would go 0-fer on third downs,
  • and had the ball less than 20 minutes

you’d probably wonder how many points UH won by.
 
Cincinnati picked up just 14 first downs in the game but 13 of those came on plays of 12+ yards. They picked up only one first down on “short” yardage and that was a six-yard run on the first drive.

The Bearcats gashed UH on 14 “big” plays. In all, UC had 11 plays of 17+ yards – UH had just five.
 

In the second of our title game previews, we told you that UC cornerbacks Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner and Coby Bryant had given up just 10 TDs combined in their careers (all 10 were against Bryant). Late in Saturday’s game, Jake Herslow snared touchdown #11 on a well-designed hi-lo crosser.

UH lines up in 12 personnel with the tight ends stacked to the short side of the field. Seth Green runs a dig route, pulling Gardner up from the action while Ta’Zhawn Henry runs the wheel, dragging the MIKE linebacker #2 to the sideline. Herslow loses the corner Bryant #7 as he crosses underneath the linebacker and safety, both of whom overcommit. Christian Trahan crosses from the other side and picks them off easily.

The play is designed to give plenty of space for Herslow crossing underneath and also has a ‘hi’ read (Green) but that was obviously not going to be used against Gardner here. The receiver to the left and Henry were decoys meant to spread the defense, mitigating Cincinnati’s advantage of having a short field.
 

UH held Cincinnati to 0/8 on third down, the second time UH has done that this year (Grambling went 0/14). Obviously much different results.
 

Five of Cincinnati’s six plays in the first quarter went for 17 yards or more. The one-play drive where the RB scored from 79 yards came off of a weird alignment UH put on the field:

The Cougars struggled to get aligned at times. UH had to call a timeout in the 4th quarter because they only had 10 men on the field. And twice in the UConn game last week, a timeout was called because they had 12 men on the field.

Very odd for that to be happening in games 12 and 13.
 

Cincinnati had 9 yards in the 4th quarter. UH had -6 yards in the 3rd quarter. The quarter yardage breakdown is pretty weird.

Cincinnati: 161-36-194-9
Houston: 155-61–6-126

UH ran 28 plays for 55 yards in the middle two quarters. That cannot happen.
 

Cincinnati ran 45 plays. They ran 6 plays in the first quarter then 12 then 18 then 9. Going back to 2000, three teams have run 50 or fewer plays:

Louisville ran 50 plays in 2002 (lost)
Oklahoma State ran 49 in 2006 (lost)
Lamar ran 41 in 2006 (lost in a game with a 3.5 hour rain delay)

Has UH ever lost to a team running 45 plays? The school record for fewest plays by an opponent (38) is Southwestern Louisiana Institute in 1949 (now ULL).

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