Yanez: Suddenly the Coogs find themselves in a favorable spot

Yanez: Suddenly the Coogs find themselves in a favorable spot


They did it again.

The Houston Cougars football team has you ready to throw in the towel one week, and then they reel you back in the next. Sometimes, they do it from quarter to quarter within the same game. That was the case last Saturday against Baylor.

the daily #101 | 11/9/2023 | Archives

UH’s defense put together a dominating performance for about three-and-a-half quarters against the Bears. Entering the fourth quarter, Houston had held Baylor to just seven points, and the Coogs had sacked quarterback Blake Shapen three times.

But Houston’s offense could not create any substantial separation against Baylor, and it ultimately came back and bit them. The Bears scored 17 points and accumulated 181 yards of offense in the fourth quarter and overtime. Baylor had 232 yards and seven points in the game’s first three quarters.

Late-game heroics from quarterback Donovan Smith and a bold call from head coach Dana Holgorsen on a two-point play allowed Houston to escape Waco with the win.

First things first, Houston’s victory was far from perfect. As has often been the case with the 2023 Cougars, there were moments of frustration and flat-out disbelief—cough, cough, the 4th-and-17 conversion given up in the waning moments of the fourth quarter on an impromptu quarterback scramble by Shapen, of all things. That is unacceptable.

But the bright spots deserve credit, too. Smith and the short-handed offense’s ability to respond after Baylor’s game-tying drive and their go-ahead score in the overtime period belong at the top of the list. The Cougars, thanks to two penalties, went 45 yards in OT. That’s a significant hurdle they had once shot at overcoming. And they did.

There was no Joseph Manjack IV, no Matthew Golden for the last three quarters, and Brandon Campbell left the team during the week, but UH’s offense made just enough plays to win.

Houston’s defense gave Shapen and the Baylor offense fits all game long. Linebacker Treylin Payne, in his first start this year, sacked the Bears’ quarterback 1.5 times, while Ceaser had 2.5 sacks.

Defensive lineman Chidozie Nwankwo continued to eat up opposing offensive linemen, while David Ugwoegbu nearly came away with a pick. Malik Robinson intercepted Shapen.

Of course, the struggles linger. Opposing defenses continue to succeed against the Cougars along the right side of the offensive line. Once again, Baylor’s offense moved the ball and scored when needed against Houston’s defense late.

Somehow, the Cougars find themselves at 4-5. Is it time to throw a celebration? Absolutely not. But Houston is currently the only school of the old American Athletic Conference members to say it has two Big 12 wins. Heading into the weekend, UCF and Cincinnati had zero wins, but the Knights only got their first conference win against the Bearcats.

BYU wasn’t in the AAC but is also in its first year after leaping to the Big 12. But Houston has the same conference record as the other Cougars and has jumped over Baylor in the conference standings.

Had the officials opted to review the spot on Stacy Sneed’s third-and-one two weeks ago against Texas, would UH fans be singing a much different tune overall? Holgorsen once again proclaimed what UH did against Baylor successfully is what it intended to do against the Longhorns.

While it is all woulda coulda shoulda at this point, Houston suddenly finds itself in a unique position to end the year strong and even become bowl-eligible. Two of its final three games are against Cincinnati and UCF. Sandwiched in between those meetings is a date against Oklahoma State.

For a season with plenty of controversy, slow starts, and wild finishes, this Houston team cannot be questioned in one area: its mental fortitude. The players have shown they can brush off one lousy performance and show flashes of potential time after time.

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Andy Yanez
Andy Yanez
Andy Yanez is a Contributing Editor and columnist for GoCoogs.com. He also hosts the weekly Pawd Slama Jama Podcast and Let's Rage Coogs after football and MBB games. In his spare time, he is a teacher and coaches youth basketball.

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