The Houston Cougars got the 2013 football season off to a nice start on Friday night, defeating Southern 62-13 before 26,205 inside Reliant Stadium. It's hard to really tell much about a team after a game like this -- teams like Southern are brought in for the guaranteed win, after all. But after UH was upset by Texas State in last year's opening game, it's easy to know this much: This season is already off to a much better start for the Cougars. With that said, a few things were learned from this game.
4. WHO IS THIS CHARLES SIMS GUY?
The Cougars supposedly took a major hit to the program when running back Charles Sims departed for West Virginia. But it was hard to tell the team was damaged on Friday as the running game looked the best it has looked since the Jack Pardee era. The Cougars had 627 yards of total offense against Southern, and 372 of those yards were generated by the running game. Sophomore Kenneth Farrow got the start, and he ran the ball 20 times for 101 yards. But the breakout star of the game was sophomore back Ryan Jackson, who carried the ball ten times for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Both were impressive, with Jackson providing a few jaw-dropping runs and Farrow powering the ball.
Head coach Tony Levine said after the game that each play the team runs is designed as a run and a pass with the defense that's being played dictating which option the quarterback will choose. And with Southern daring UH to run the ball, the Cougars did.
"It's all about execution," Jackson said. "We practice so much. We work so hard. The whole thing was just a blessing. We came out with an attitude that we wanted to execute our offense, and that's what I felt like I did, felt like we did that as a team."
3. WATCH OUT FOR THE PENALTIES
The win was a seemingly easy one for the Cougars, but despite the ease of the win, it was still a sloppy affair with way too many penalties. The Cougars were penalized 14 times for a total of 126 yards, and Levine called that disappointing, noting that they had numerous big offensive gains knocked out by a penalty. He noted that the squad has worked on execution and limiting penalties throughout camp, going so far as to call in officials to monitor workouts and scrimmages and call the penalties they see.
"That's unacceptable," he said. "That's something we have been emphasizing. We've had officials at practice quite often."
And while he was displeased with the number of penalties, he thought that much of it might have resulted from opening-game jitters and the large number of substitutes playing as the game progressed and the score got out of hand. It's a problem the team will work on, but it's something that should be easily fixable.
2. THE DAWNING OF THE JOHN O'KORN ERA
Red shirt junior David Piland started at quarterback for the Cougars, playing all but one series of the first half and playing the first series of the second half. He put up decent numbers (15x23, 148 yards, one touchdown pass), but the offense stalled on several of his drives, and the play looked like it did much of last season, kind of tentative and just a touch off. The Cougars elected to not red-shirt freshman John O'Korn, and he got some extensive action, playing one series in the first half and a majority of the second half. His numbers were comparable to Piland's (10X15, 107 yards, three TDs), but there was a crispness and efficiency to the offense that was missing last season. Levine was happy with the play of both of his quarterbacks, and reminded the media that it was always the plan to use both of his QBs in this game.
"I was happy with both of their play," Levine said. "I thought they operated the offense well. I think at times our tempo could've been better...I thought they operated extremely well. I thought they made good decisions. I thought they were very poised. David certainly has a ton of experience, and John just went to the prom three months ago, but I thought both of them, regardless of that, looked like seasoned veterans and handled themselves extremely well."
Levine would not commit to a plan for this week's game at Temple and would not say if both QBs would get game action. When pressed, he issued a simple "yes" as to whether Piland was still his quarterback. But if opposing teams continue daring the Cougars to run the ball, and if Jackson and Farrow continue to pile up the yards, it might not matter who the quarterback happens to be.
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1. A WIN IS A WIN IS A WIN
The Cougars got an easy win, doing to Southern what a team hoping to contend should do to a team like Southern. It wasn't always pretty, not with the penalties, but the Cougars pulled it off, something they were unable to do when opening the season last year.
"We got the win," Levine said. "We did what we needed to do to get the win in the fashion we did. And I think anytime you're plus four in turnover margin, which is our number one goal each week, you've got a great chance to win the football game."
The offense clicked for most of the game. The running game looked fantastic and John O'Korn looks like he was born to play quarterback. There are penalties to cut down. The defense was beat for a few passes, but otherwise did its job. The Cougars are 1-0 for the season, no offensive coordinators will be unemployed and things are bright in the world of UH football. Last year is forgotten for now, and it's only onward and upward for the 2013 Houston Cougars.