The Ball Control Offense Is Holding UH Back


Houston lost the Tulane game despite having the ball for more than 35 minutes in regulation. If that sounds weird, it’s because it is; it really doesn’t ever happen.

In fact, UH has had the ball for 35+ minutes and lost just 9 times since 1983.

Games UH has possessed the ball 35+ minutes and lost (1983-2022)

YearOpponentScoreUH TOP
2022Tulane27-24 (OT)36:55
2021Texas Tech38-2136:35

And yes, we went through 40 years of box scores – 227 losses – to make sure we got this stat right.

The obvious issue is that four of the nine occurrences have happened since Dana Holgorsen became head coach in 2019. That’s four times in 18 losses after the same thing happened just five times in 209 losses. The other five times this has happened since ’83? Twice during Kim Helton, twice during Dana Dimel, and Art Briles’ 2004 season with that horrendous OL and offense.

The ball control offense might have worked in a previous generation, but it isn’t getting it done now.

As someone that has a pretty deep knowledge of UH history and has written hundreds of articles about it, I can tell you I’ve never come across a game where UH had the ball longer than the 41:31 against UCF. I’m sure it happened at some point during the Veer days, but I haven’t found it.

If it is your belief that you have excellent skill position players, why would you not attempt to get them the ball more? Play with tempo, snap the ball more, and create more drives and scoring opportunities.

If your response is that you’re trying to save the defense, that’s understandable. But the defense has given up end-of-game drives in all four of your competitive games. Saving the defense has just put the team in bad situations, and you’ve eliminated scoring chances for yourself.

And opponents are not ‘saving’ their defenses, yet they’re still getting the job done.

Note: UH also held the ball 35:27 of regulation against UTSA but won in three overtimes.

Jack Freeman after the game / Photo by Mario Puente

UH is scoring 2.35 points per drive in 2022, accounting only for regulation and not for drives that end a half without trying to score. The Cougars have scored 129 points in 55 drives this season.

Here are the numbers for all of Dana’s four seasons.

Points Per Drive: 2019-2022

SeasonPointsDrivesPts Per Drive

If you look at just the first five FBS games each season, 2022 is the worst in points, drives, and points per game.

Points Per Drive: First 5 FBS Games 2019-2022

SeasonPointsDrivesPts Per Drive

Previous seasons omit FCS opponents. If you’re shortening the game with a ball-control offense, you have to take advantage of the drives you’re getting. That’s not happening and is a big reason for the 2-3 start.

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