Before we begin to look ahead to 2018, GoCoogs.com looks back at the 2017 season:
After starting the 2017 season with a 5-star quarterback and an All-American defensive linemen, most fans were disappointed with the 7-5 result. After 2 successful seasons as the #HTownTakeover, Major Applewhite’s indifference to publicity led to #HTownUndercover. UH football disappeared from the public’s mind as attendance dropped every single game in 2017. The student section virtually disappeared by the end of the year.
Musical chairs at QB led to a stagnant, boring offense as 3 different QBs struggled to put points on the board. The offense never found a rhythm and was forced to reboot after every QB change, resulting in the lowest-scoring UH team since 2004.
Highly-touted transfer Kyle Allen never lived up to the hype and was benched after 3 starts. As OC and then head coach, Applewhite spent 18 months grooming Allen and deserves criticism for the QB’s struggles. OC Brian Johnson never showed a true offensive philosophy and couldn’t figure out how to use Allen properly. And from day one, Allen was a turnover machine, throwing 4 INTs and fumbling 3 times (1 lost) in his 3 starts.
Kyle Postma took over for Allen late against Texas Tech and went on to start the next 4 games. As opposed to Allen, Postma excelled in the zone read which required on-the-fly changes to the blocking schemes and assignments. Postma turned the ball over even more than Allen with 6 INTs and 3 fumbles in his 4 starts. Through 7 games, UH QBs had 14 turnovers – impossible to overcome. At 4-3, it was time to look to the future in the last month of a lost season. But Postma would get one last shot.
Unfortunately, Postma struggled in the first 2 drives at South Florida, thrusting sophomore D’Eriq King into the QB job. After a scoreless first half, King led the Coogs to 4 second-half touchdowns including a scramble for the game-winner with 11 seconds left. King took 5 sacks but never turned the ball over. The upset of #17 USF would be the season’s only high point for the Cougars.
King finished the final 3 regular season games as the starter. He played well against ECU and rallied the team to a win after a bad first half vs. Navy. But in losses to Tulane and in the bowl game, the offense struggled quite a bit. The 17 points against Tulane came after a decade averaging 42 ppg against the Greenies. And Major’s offense struggled again in a bowl game, scoring just 20 points against Fresno State.
As frustrated as I was with the quarterbacks in 2017, the running backs may have been worse. Major and Co never established a flow with the rushing attack, eerily similar to how Johnson mishandled the QBs. Duke Catalon received 50% of the RB carries with Mulbah Car and Dillon Birden splitting the rest. Despite Catalon getting double the attempts, Car (4.8 ypc) and Birden (5.6 ypc) dwarfed Duke’s per-carry output (4.3 ypc).
Even when Catalon wasn’t producing, he was still the go-to. Catalon had the most carries in 4 of the 5 losses in 2017 (he was injured early in the Tulane game). In those 4 games, Catalon ran 70 times for 194 yards – just 2.77 ypc. In the 3 losses he played in, Dillon Birden carried it 36 times for 228 yards – 6.33 ypc (Car saw meaningful playing time only in the Tulane loss).
The WR duo of Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar were solid receivers for UH and combined for 156 catches in 2017. It’s hard to critique WR play with so much uncertainty at the QB spot. Going forward, UH loses 81% of receptions from 2017.
It was a forgettable first year for Major as his offense lurched through the season. Attendance dropped, enthusiasm waned, and few players were developed leaving Major Applewhite with a lot of questions to answer. To his credit, he made an impact-hire at OC and found a way to bring in grad transfers that could be significant contributors in 2018.