First-half failure upends UH’s carefully laid plans

First-half failure upends UH’s carefully laid plans


Houston Cougars fans are hurting after Saturday’s devastating loss to the Rice Owls.

Not only did Houston (1-1) get embarrassed against its cross-town rival that for years has been seen as a little brother, but for fans, it ripped open the Band-Aid and unveiled a still fresh wound when it comes to head coach Dana Holgorsen and the current coaching staff.

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UH was down 21-0 before many in the crowd found their seats. Houston quarterback Donovan Smith threw a dreadful pick in the first quarter while being hurried by 315-pound Izeya Floyd. As was the case the entire first half, the UH defense couldn’t stop Rice’s offense from marching down the field.

The Owls’ fast start and the Cougars’ whimper to open the game left Holgorsen scratching his head.

“I don’t know, maybe we practiced too hard on Tuesday. I can’t explain it,” he told reporters in a hot, swampy room in the bowels of Rice Stadium Saturday night. “Maybe it is a trap game. Maybe it is a trophy game. Maybe it is a rivalry game. Maybe we were looking forward to Big 12, TCU. I don’t know. Maybe we didn’t respect our opponent, and they whipped our tail. At the end of the day, it is on me.”

After the scare the Owls put into Houston a season ago, it was hard to see the Cougars looking past them again. But they did: defensive lineman Nelson Ceaser confirmed it.

“I feel like we looked at them like they was a smaller opponent,” a candid Ceaser said. “I feel like it was a lot of us in the locker room, including myself, that was looking forward to next week more than taking it one week at a time.”

Overlooking any opponent is unthinkable after the season Houston endured last year. The Cougars had dreadful losses to Tulane, SMU, and Tulsa as they looked ahead to the Big 12. To say Saturday’s loss to Rice was terrible would be an understatement. But it can be summed up in one phrase – same ole’ Coogs.

After the first quarter, Houston had run 15 plays and accumulated just 32 yards of total offense. Shortly thereafter, Rice led 28-0. The game highlighted the fact that UH is not ready to compete at a Power Five level. And the bigger issue? Fans don’t believe they will ever get there under the current coaching staff.

Left guard Tyler Johnson walks off after the Rice win // Photo by Sean Thomas

Do the Cougars deserve credit for clawing back from the deficit? Sure. Rice, who is not a Power Five school, as was so smugly pointed out by an Owls reporter in the press box on Saturday, tried its best to give the game away. UH took advantage of it in regulation, but Houston should have never been in that position.

Eventually, UH looked like a competent team. Smith barreled his way through Rice defenders for three rushing touchdowns and threw for two more scores. But the deficit was too much to overcome. UH did not deserve to win. Houston scored 35 unanswered points, which was not enough to beat the Owls.

With this loss, all the excitement that was carefully built in the offseason is out the window. Many UH fans and alumni are back calling for the heads of Holgorsen, defensive coordinator Doug Belk, and just about everyone else affiliated with the football team.


The official Houston Athletics Twitter/X account posted a video on Sunday trying to hype up the Big 12 opener against TCU, and the replies went exactly how you would expect.

Fear Of Missing Out? UH fans don’t think there is anything to miss.

Saturday’s loss to Rice again broke the faith in the program’s leadership. Could an improbable Big 12 run change that? Certainly, but it is improbable for a reason, and until that happens, no one expects Houston to right the ship.

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Andy Yanez
Andy Yanez
Andy Yanez is a Contributing Editor and columnist for 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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