Beyond the box score: East Carolina

David Anenih forces the fumble and recovers it / Photo by Mario Puente

The Cougar defense is #1 in the country on third-downs. UH tops the country in both percentages – teams are just 22/94 against UH (23.4%) – and fewest 3rd downs converted.

It was just three years ago that UH gave up more 3rd down conversions than anyone in the country (104) and was 120th nationally in third-down conversion percentage (46.4%). Over the last decade, only one team in the country gave up more 3rd down conversions than Mark D’Onofrio’s 2018 defense. Now, UH is #1 in FBS. What a turnaround.

UH has 95 offensive touchdowns and 14 non-offensive touchdowns under Dana Holgorsen (27 games).

East Carolina recorded 13 tackles for loss Saturday, tied for the second-most against Houston since at least 2006. UCF had 17 TFL in 2019.

UH is 3rd in FBS in first down defense. Three years ago, the Coogs were 128th in the category (out of 129).

The UH offense has failed to get to 300 total yards six times since Dana Holgorsen took over:

Total Yards – Opponent
230 – Tulsa 2019
251 – Texas Tech 2021
256 – ECU 2021 (231 before OT)
256 – Memphis 2019
282 – Cincinnati 2020
284 – UConn 2019**

Prior to 2019, the last time it happened was in 2016.

Doug Belk’s defense is 4th in total defense, 14th in scoring defense, and tied for 24th in rushing touchdowns allowed. Three years ago? 126th in total defense, 118th in scoring defense (20 points more per game), and second to last in FBS in rushing touchdowns allowed.

The Cougars are 6-1 or better for the 12th time in 76 seasons. Houston has accomplished the feat seven times since 2009 but three of the previous 6 have ended in fewer than 10 wins.

Since the Tech game, UH has dominated the first and third periods. The Coogs lead in those quarters 134-24 in the last six games. For the season overall, UH has outscored opponents 90-17 in the 1st quarter. ECU had 10 of those 17 points.

A win over SMU will get UH to seven straight wins which would tie for the 9th longest streak in school history. A loss to the Ponies would be the 3rd straight which would be UH’s longest losing streak in the series.

Beating SMU would get UH to 7 wins, tying the number of wins in Dana’s first two seasons. It would also even his career record at UH at 14-14.

Laine Wilkens gets overlooked but he’s done an incredible job as a punter. If his career ended today, he’d be #2 all-time at UH in punting average (43.33 ypp).

With an untimed touchdown in OT, a kick return for a touchdown, and a scoring drive starting from the 13, and another from the 32, UH’s touchdown drives accounted for just 3:09 of possession – 2:47 of that on one drive. The three offensive TDs accounted for just 70 yards.

UH and ECU combined to go 4/25 on 3rd downs. ECU’s 1/12 (8.3%) is still better than Grambling’s 0/14.

The ECU game was the 7th time Clayton Tune has taken 4+ sacks in a game in his 24 starts. He’s taken three or more in 11 of his starts. Some sacks you can blame on Tune but many others on the non-existent blocking in front of him.

Tune has taken 69 sacks in 24 starts.

The five worst rushing games under Dana Holgorsen came in a 365-day span ending Saturday:

Yards – Opponent (Attempts)
58 – Hawaii (38)
77 – Texas Tech (35)
86 – Navy 2020 (31)
87 – ECU 2021 (36)
93 – Cincinnati 2020 (28)

The 62 yards rushing in regulation vs. ECU was the lowest rush game output in four quarters in a regular-season game since SMU 2016. To compare, UH ran for 83 yards in the 4th quarter alone against Tulane in the previous game.

The four worst rushing games in Dana’s UH career have come in the last eight contests, dating back to the bowl game last year. Even with a talent like Alton McCaskill, the running game is abysmal.

The worst rushing per play games under Dana Holgorsen:

Yards Per Carry – Opponent
1.53 – Hawaii 2020
2.20 – Texas Tech 2020
2.42 – ECU (1.77 before OT)
2.58 – SMU 2019
2.77 – Navy 2020
2.91 – BYU 2020
3.02 – Tulsa 2019
3.03 – UConn 2019
3.30 – Memphis 2019
3.31 – Cincinnati 2019
3.32 – Cincinnati 2020

That’s 11 out of 27 games (41%) where three average rushes would not pick up a first down.

The Coogs are 8-13 on ESPN2 – their worst performance on channels they’ve played 10+ games on. UH plays SMU on ESPN2 Saturday.

UH is now 4-1 in games that go into a single overtime period.

Alton McCaskill leads the team in scoring (60 points). Only two non-kickers have led the team outright in scoring over the last decade – Greg Ward, Jr (2015) and Deontay Greenberry (2013).

Only five UH players have ever gotten to 100 points scored via TDs. McCaskill is on pace to get there. No freshman has ever done it.

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