Coming into the 2022 season, UH Football had high expectations. There were several holes to fill from a team that went 12-2 and made it to the conference title game. But this team was primed and ready to repeat the success of last year and take another step forward.
Just consider the ESPN preview August that Holgorsen and staff participated in:
“And yet, if all goes according to plan in 2022 — a plan Holgorsen conjured from two decades of study — his Cougars will follow up a 12-2 season with another stellar campaign, win the American, push for playoff consideration (as last year’s AAC winner, Cincinnati, did) and then head off to the Big 12 in 2023…”
Leading that plan were quarterback Clayton Tune and superstar receiver Tank Dell. The 2022 UH media guide touted the duo as one of only two returning quarterback-receiver duos nationally, with 3,500 passing yards and 1,300 receiving yards in 2021. In addition, entering the 2022 season, they were recognized as the best at their positions in Texas by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.
The stage was set: This was the most hyped returning QB-WR duo at UH since Case Keenum and Patrick Edwards. Clayton Tune was a 5th-year senior, while Dell was a 4th-year junior. They had the experience and success needed to make a massive statement this year.
Unfortunately, the UH offense didn’t live up to expectations in the first half of the season. The offense produced 24 points per game in regulation through the first six games, averaging only three touchdowns. Going into the Memphis game, UH was 2-3 on the season and was staring at 2-4 late into the 4th quarter at the Liberty Bowl. Fortunately, something clicked for the UH offense. They rediscovered their cheat code again, Nathaniel “Tank” Dell.
In the first five games, Tune averaged 29.2 passing attempts per game and had thrown only seven touchdown passes in regulation. Against Memphis, Tune threw the ball 58 times and had 3 TD passes. For the first time this season, he threw for 350+ yards.
Before Memphis, Dell averaged 6.5 catches and nine targets but caught ten balls against the Tigers. He was also targeted 17 times which was only the 2nd time he had 10+ targets this season (the first was the double OT loss to Texas Tech).
Since Memphis and the off-week that followed, the UH offense has erupted, becoming the offense expected in the preseason. Tune-to-Dell has ripped defenses apart, with the offense producing 45 ppg and averaging nearly six and a half TDs per game.
Their numbers before and after Memphis tell the tale:
Clayton Tune Splits
|First 5 Games||Last 6 Games|
|% of Throws to Dell:||27.9||31.4|
Tank Dell Splits
|First 5 Games||Last 6 Games|
Dana Holgorsen and OC Shannon Dawson have indeed opened the offense up more since the beginning of October. And they’ve focused the gameplan more on Tune to Tank. But they’ve done it against six of the bottom seven teams in the league (Tulsa is the other, and UH gets them tomorrow).
UH’s five conference wins are against teams with a combined 11-25 league record, and the six teams UH has played in October and November average out to 88th in the nation in scoring defense.
You can only play and beat the teams on your schedule, but the opening up of the offense has coincided neatly with playing some really awful teams. The good news is you should expect big numbers against Tulsa Saturday, as it will be the last game for Tune and Tank at TDECU.