UH Football steps into the big-time Saturday with their debut game in the Big 12. But the program faces an identity crisis: no one really seems to know what this program is or what they want to do. Ryan brought this up on Sirius XM’s Big 12 Today but I want to explore it further.
the daily #46 | 9/15/2023 | Archives
Some think UH Football is an Air Raid team, or power-run team, or a ball-control team, and some may think it is a defense-first team. At this point, everyone is right, and everyone is wrong. This team is all those things and none at the same time.
The problem is that those are all things that teams do but none define what they are. Figuring out the identity gets to the heart of the program. What are its defining characteristics or principles? It is an often over-used term in sports and business, but what is this team’s culture?
After watching every snap of Dana Holgorsen’s 49 games at UH, I still have no idea what the identity of this program is, and unfortunately, it doesn’t look like its leadership knows either. The Rice loss is a symptom of a larger problem. If this was a one-time thing, you just chalk it up to “stuff happens.”
It was easy to write off year one after the #HTownShutdown debacle. But, the oddities continued in the second half of that season. UH played a tight game with SMU before losing 34-31, a game Dana Holgorsen really wanted to win. It was a big deal to him. After that, UH lost three of the last four games, each by 15 or more points.
The second year had more of the same but most of that is written off to the COVID season. I’ll accept that.
Dana’s third year was a success, but it was still full of head-scratchers along the way. Opening the season against Texas Tech, UH jumped out to a 14-point lead and was up 21-7 at halftime. Then, Texas Tech scored 31 unanswered points in the second half for the win. Navy took a 10-point lead into halftime before UH kicked into gear and won. UH had a 14-point lead against ECU before being shut out in the second half and needing overtime for the win. They were down to a bad South Florida team, and it was a five-point game with four minutes left before the Coogs finally put it on ice.
Year four wasn’t as successful, but UH had a solid season. It was a solid season that had several confounding performances. They were down 21-7 against UTSA in the opener and needed triple overtime to win. They were down by ten at halftime against Texas Tech before taking the lead with 37 seconds left, only to lose in OT. Up 14 over Kansas before getting blown out. Rice had the lead at halftime and had another in the 4th quarter. Tulane was without their starting QB and lost their backup on the game’s first drive, but their redshirt freshman QB won it for the Greenies in overtime. Memphis led 32-19 with four minutes left before UH pulled off the miracle comeback for the win. UH gave up the most points in school history to SMU in an embarrassing loss. Temple had a one-point lead with 1:22 to play before UH scored to win. The Coogs had an eleven-point lead against Tulsa in the 2nd quarter, only to lose by 7 in the home finale. Louisiana had a 10-point lead in the bowl game, but UH pulled out the victory with a TD with 20 seconds to play.
Trailing bad teams before winning, leading good teams before losing, getting blown out by others, you never knew what UH team would show up. As you can see, Rice isn’t just a one-time thing. Rice isn’t the first game UH has fallen behind by a large margin only to rally to make it a game.
Why does this keep happening, and why is it so frequent? It all circles back to the question of what is this team and program. It looks like a team and a program that lacks leadership, an identity, and an embedded culture of excellence. Sure, there are “leaders,” and guys are named captains yearly. But where’s the leadership?
Part Two coming Saturday.