Another week, another football game for the Houston Cougars. But instead of upstart UTSA, the Cougars faced downtrodden Grambling State, a former small college powerhouse struggling to stay afloat. The Cougars scored on the game's first offensive series and didn't look back. The Cougars were up 10-0 after the first quarter and 34-0 at the half. The question became one of not would Houston win, but by how much? And once the clock hit 0:00, the Cougars (1-1) had defeated Grambling State (0-2) by a score of 47-0.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Cougars scored on the second offensive play of the game with QB Greg Ward, Jr. running a keeper wide right for the 12-yard touchdown. The score came 38 seconds into the game, a big change from the week before where the Cougars came within 1:03 of being shut out. The running game, which was nonexistent the week before, came out in force. Kenneth Farrow hit his career high when he hit the 119 rushing yard mark, in the first half (he finished with 130 yards for the game). The Cougars had 375 total offensive yards in the first half which was a far cry from the game total of 208 yards in the UTSA game.
The defense continued to stifle opponents, shutting out an opponent for the second time in the last four games dating back to last season. Grambling State had some success early running the football, but with a misfiring passing game, the Coogs finally shut down the rush. The defense continued the trend from last season, forcing six turnovers. Grambling State was limited to 11 first downs with only 238 total yards of offense (63 by rush), and they appeared to be lost and outclassed the entire game.
"We have some guys making plays on that side of the ball, and [they're] confident that someone is going to make the play, which I think goes a long way," head coach Tony Levine said about the defense.
WHAT WENT WRONG
John O'Korn still appeared to be a bit lost at times, throwing behind or over his receivers or throwing the ball into coverage. The offense also had trouble finishing drives, often opting for field goals when it appeared that a touchdown was there for the taking. One instance in the second quarter found the Coogs turn a first and goal at the five into a third and goal at the 21 due to multiple penalties. It's one thing to self-destruct time and time again Grambling State, but it'll probably be a different story against BYU on Thursday.
"There's still some things -- and I think this will be true over the course of the entire season -- that we have to continue to clean up," Levine said 'There'll be somethings over the course of the season each week that we have to clean up." WHAT WAS LEARNED
Grambling State is a struggling program. The players boycotted a game last season due to awful conditions and because of the firing of head coach Doug Williams. And they lost week to Lamar by a score of 42-27. So it's not like Grambling State provides the best of tests for determining if the Cougars are actually a good football team, or for learning if the UTSA loss was anything more than aberration.
The defense is still far, far ahead of the offense. The offense performed much better this week, but it's not like Grambling State was much of an obstacle or asserted much defensive effort. Still the unit continued to malfunction at the most mis-opportune of times, and it seemed to operate better when Greg Ward, Jr. came on as the change of pace QB in the role he served last season. And that's something Levine says will become a thing for the rest of this season.
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"I think that's going to be something you'll see week in and week out," Levine said. "It's a change of pace. It gives opponents something else to prepare for, and it goes back to what I've said in the past, I don't think [Ward's] a wildcat quarterback. I think he's dual threat. John's dual threat, and John can run as well. It can give us a spark at times."
It's a short week for the Cougars as the next game is in Provo, Utah on Thursday night against BYU. BYU's coming off of a throttling of Texas on Saturday, and will be a much, much tougher opponent for Houston than either UTSA or Grambling State. BYU won last year's contest, an exciting back-and-forth game that occurred during a part in the season when it everything was going right for Houston, something that can't be said about this year's team.
"BYU's not a one dimensional team," Levine said. "They throw it...and they're a physical football program. We know from having played them last year, one of top defenses in the nation. It'll be a great challenge."
The Cougars were a different looking football team Saturday. They scored points, controlled the flow of the game, forced turnovers, confused the opponent. Of course Grambling State's not UTSA. And UTSA is definitely not BYU. It's better to head into the BYU game at 1-1 on the season, but if the Cougars want to stay with BYU, then they're still going to have to up their game a few more notches.