Thoughts on a bizarre night at Rice Stadium

There are a million different ways to go in discussing that game. But let’s start with the fact that it was comfortably inside the top five weirdest games I’ve ever seen. Just some next-day thoughts on the weird and wild from the 43-41 2OT disaster.

the daily #41 | 9/10/2023 | Archives

Salute To Zero. 28-0. I’m trying to recall when UH was down 28-0 to start a game. It was 27-0 against UTSA in 2014. Even Army wasn’t 28-0 (it was 63-7 at one point, though).

I believe the last time it happened was UCLA in 2012 when UH was down 30-0. Tony Levine’s manic first three games of his first season: steamrolled by Texas State in their first FBS game, fired his OC, ran an NCAA-record 115 plays against La Tech (and still lost), then went to the Rose Bowl without your best player (Charles Sims) and go down 30-0.

Then Levine beat Rice at Reliant Stadium the next week.

No one in that stadium or watching on NFL Network could have imagined that UH would go down 28-0. And it wasn’t a fluke: Rice went 10, 7, 3, and 11 plays for their four TDs in the first half. After UH scored, they ran ten more plays on the drive that ended in the INT. 326 yards on five drives is legit.

Nelson Ceaser had two sacks // Photo by Sean Thomas

35 Unanswered. When have you seen a team score 35 unanswered points? And then lose? I honestly cannot recall a time that ever happened. I tried looking it up five or six different ways and could not find any example.

35-straight points and lose. Maybe it would have been the right call to go for two at the end of regulation. UH had totally dominated the fourth quarter (21-0, 137 yards to 43, 79 rush yards to 2). Also, how does a team, up 21 points, only pick up two rush yards in the fourth quarter? They ran it six times: a sack, a kneel down, and four actual rush attempts.

Intellectual brutality!

For 2? Or Not For 2? Your team gave it everything they had in the 4th quarter to tie it up with 15 seconds to play. Maybe, as a head coach, you understand that dynamic and send them out to try to win the game with a two-point play. Or maybe you understand that you’re lucky to get to overtime, kick it, and regroup. It’s easy to look back 12 hours later, but I’m not sure there’s a definitive right or wrong answer.

Brutality. Rice ran 20 plays in the first quarter. Then ran 21 in the second quarter. Ten plays in the 3rd quarter. 13 in the fourth. How do you go from 21 plays to 10 quarter over quarter?

Here’s how: the JT Daniels INT deflated the Rice team. They died right then and there, but UH could not take advantage of the Owls’ putrid 3rd quarter. The Coogs had 170 yards in the 3rd quarter but came away with nothing to show for it.

Rice stayed dead through the fourth quarter. They played dumb – really dumb – by snapping it with too much time on the play clock.

Plenty of questions for Chris Pezman // Photo by Sean Thomas

Clock Management. You can’t have a comeback without some help from the opposing team. Rice did that with their inability to work a watch.

You can safely take a play clock down to two seconds and get it snapped. Based on that, and the fact that Rice only ran 13 plays in the fourth quarter, they could have run at least 35 seconds off the clock with smart game management in that final period.

That doesn’t even include changing the fact that every play in the 4th was taken out of the shotgun or that they attempted eight passes in the quarter, and three were incomplete. Two of those incompletions were on their drive that started with 3:38 to play. They went three and out and threw three passes, giving UH plenty of time to go down and tie it up.

Rice’s two most effective plays at running clock were the sack by Nelson Ceaser and the kneel down to go to OT.

Intellectual brutality.

It’s just bad football. UH was gifted an opportunity with horrific clock and game management by Rice. And the Cougars took advantage of it.

But after they scored in regulation to tie it up, Rice found new life.

To Kick? Some people are upset UH did not kick field goals in the third quarter. Dana (rightfully) believed he needed touchdowns. After a 7.5-minute drive to open the second half, should he have kicked a field goal from the eight-yard line? Maybe. It’s debatable.

Should Dana try for three points on fourth and five from the 33? No. By then, there were only 17 minutes to play in the game, and UH only had six possessions over the previous 43 minutes. They needed three TDs to tie and had to believe their chances would be limited.

EOTD. At the end of the day, there’s no excuse for the hole UH found itself in. Assignments were not picked up, energy was flat, blocks were not made, the game plan was not adjusted to counter what Rice was doing, and the team was focused on next weekend. UH was one bad Rice throw in the end zone from being down 35-7, and who knows what the hell would have happened then.

This might not be the most pivotal week in Dana Holgorsen’s tenure, but it is undoubtedly in the top two. The growing displeasure will be untenable if this team does not compete for 60 minutes against TCU.

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