A look at some of Dana Holgorsen’s comments in his Monday Zoom call and adding context, specifically examining UH’s struggles in the first half.
“I keep talking about starting fast. I think there’s an element of just settling into a game. We didn’t do a whole lot of good stuff against Cincinnati.
“Good news, we didn’t screw anything up on offense. We punted and we won field position. I’ll keep talking about starting fast, I’ll keep talking about settling in, I’ll keep talking about preparation and having a good week of practice.”
Slow starts have been an issue in every game for the Cougars. Of the 19 drives that started in the first quarter, UH has scored two touchdowns, three field goals, had 4 turnovers and punted 10 times. Cincinnati was the first game in which the Cougars did not score in the first quarter.
The Coogs have been outscored 55-20 in the opening quarter through five games. UH is the lowest-scoring AAC team in the first quarter.
Protecting the QB
“I wish I coulda threw it a little more…I was trying not to get our quarterback killed by calling pass plays. I know it frustrates (the media), it frustrates the fan base when it’s like, ‘man you guys are down by a couple touchdowns, you need to start throwing the ball.’ Yeah, well, I’m still trying to protect my quarterback, too.”
The issue with “protecting” Tune isn’t when the Coogs are down by a couple of touchdowns. Holgorsen has done it a lot early in games when it wasn’t out of hand. That’s especially true on first down when a play-caller has the most options.
In the first half of the last two games, the Cougars have run the ball on 1st down 72.4% of the time (21 runs, eight passes). After UH went down 13 to Cincinnati, Dana elected to throw it on three of the next 4 first-down calls; before that, UH had run it on 20 of 25 first-half first downs (80%).
In those two first halves, UH was behind the chains on 10 of 19 second down attempts (2nd & 8 or worse). Houston averaged 7.47 yards to-go on second down in those halves. Overall, they have run it 35 times in those two halves for just 3.4 ypc (120 yards total).
Being predictable in the way you protect the quarterback has resulted in putting the offense in bad spots and playing catch-up. Besides being predictable in running on first down, UH is also the worst rushing team in the conference.
Looking for consistency
Still looking for consistency but by no means is any of this stuff not fixable.
This week is the chance to correct as much as possible. After facing the 1-6 USF Bulls, UH’s last three opponents combine for a 14-4 record.
UH has to fix the rush defense in the first half, too. Since Payton Turner went down midway through the 2nd quarter vs. UCF, the Cougar defense has given up 275 rushing yards on 23 first-half carries (12 ypc).