I usually live by the stats and the game book. But in the case of the UH defense, the stats don’t tell the whole story. And the story is this: the Cougar defense had a deceptively great day Saturday.
On paper, the D gave up 204 yards rushing, 263 yards passing and 36 points. And just reading that, someone might think that UH had a bad day. But I think the defense might have had their best day of the year. And they did so without the All-American defensive lineman, Ed Oliver.
The defensive unit came out ready to play and set the tone early. They forced a 3-and-out in USF’s first drive and a punt on 6 plays in their second. USF was able to come back and make the first half competitive but those 2 possessions forced the Bulls to adjust their game plan and never allowed their offense to get into a rhythm.
My pregame key for the UH defense was to win 1st down and the Coogs did that well all day. In the 1st half, UH held USF to less than 3 yards on 1st down seven out of 20 attempts.
But the Coogs kicked it up a notch in the 2nd half, winning 9 of 17 opportunities and forcing 2 turnovers. This put USF in an uncomfortable down-and-distance much of the day and handcuffed their strong running game.
Sure, 36 points is a lot. But it’s a deceptive part of the stat sheet. Seven points came on the play after a questionable interception and another 7 came after a questionable reversal on a fumble. The safety was a very questionable grounding call in the end zone and the resulting field goal shouldn’t have occurred. In total, 19 of the 36 points would have never happened with a competent officiating crew.
Take those points off the board and this offense routs any team scoring 17 points. Especially when they were clicking like yesterday. But you’ve got to like the aggressiveness that the D has started to show. It only comes in spurts but it’s a lot better than what we saw 5-6 weeks ago.
Godfrey makes the play of the game
I want to circle back to the drive after the safety that led to the field goal. That was the turning point in the game for me. The safety cut the lead to 28-23 and, after the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on our sideline, we had to kick from our ten yard line.
USF fumbled the kick then returned it to our 28. This looked like total disaster. USF picks up a first down thanks to a 15 face mask penalty on 1st down. After a 9-yard run to the 4 yard line, it looked like UH was on tilt and about to give up the lead.
But on 2nd down Leroy Godfrey made the play of the game: he stopped USF RB Johnny Ford for a 3-yard loss. One play later, the defense swarmed on 3rd down to force a FG. If the defense gives up the lead there, the momentum shifts and perhaps the game ends up looking completely different.
Other defensive notes:
- UH was without all world DT Ed Oliver vs USF and his replacement Aymiel Fleming filled in admirably. He finished with 6 tackles on the day.
- The first 5 games of the season the defense had 4 sacks and 25 tackles for loss. But in the last 3 games, the Coogs have stepped it up with 7 sacks and 26 tackles for loss. What makes that more remarkable is that Ed Oliver has missed 5 of those 12 quarters … and Isaiah Chambers has missed them all.
- Gleson Sprewell is starting to come on in a big way for this defense. He had 8 tackles and two pass breakups on Saturday.
- For the 2nd week in a row, Nick Watkins picked off a pass.
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