The Houston Cougars last started a season 0-3 in 2001. They also failed to win any games in 2001. But one would think that with both UAB and Tulane still on this season's schedule, the Cougars will at least win one game this season. But hoping and praying for wins against the likes of UAB and Tulane is what the Cougars (0-3) season is coming down to after Saturday's 37-6 loss to the UCLA Bruins (3-0).
It's not that the loss to the Bruins was unexpected. Anyone who watched UCLA destroy the defenses of Rice and Nebraska to open the season knew that the Cougars were going to lose. It's just that the Cougars, who had looked better in the game-two loss to Louisiana Tech, seemed to revert to the same football team that lost the opening game to Texas State.
The offense is best watched with the TV on mute and Boot's Randolph's "Yakety Sax" playing as the soundtrack. David Piland, who threw 77 passes without an interception against Louisiana Tech, threw five interceptions against the Bruins. Running back Charles Sims, the supposed focus of the offense, didn't play (depending on which report you believe, Sims was injured and/or he got sick before the game).
The Cougars were so bad that the best head coach Tony Levine could do was bust out the good job, good effort quotes, stating "I thought we had good effort tonight. I thought there were some things that we did poorly last week that we improved on, specifically tackling defensively against a great UCLA offense."
In fairness, the defense was improved. UCLA only gained 247 rushing yards, which is a bit shocking considering that Bruins' running back Johnathan Franklin had himself been averaging over 200 yards rushing per game and was held to only 117 yards on 25 carries. The defense forced several UCLA turnovers that put the offense into good position, and considering the great field position UCLA was in most of the night because of the inept UH offense, the fact that UCLA only scored 37 points should be considered a victory for this much-maligned unit (and UCLA's first seven points came from a UH fumble being returned for a TD).
The good news for the Cougars is that they're not going to lose a game this weekend. The bad news is that's because they're not playing a football game this weekend. Some wiseguy would probably say that the Cougars have yet to play any football this season. And think about this Cougar fans, the next game is against Rice. The Cougars playing Rice should normally be a slam-dunk UH win, but the Owls have won a game this season, and the Owls played far better football against UCLA and Louisiana Tech than the Cougars did.
Tony Levine will hold his weekly presser tomorrow, and the conversation will probably be like that heard weekly at Rice's presser. Levine will praise the team's effort and say they didn't give up. He'll probably talk about UH beating UH, and how the team can't afford to worry about the opposition, it has to focus on itself and playing its game perfectly. The defense can't give up big plays, he'll probably say, and the offense can't commit turnovers.
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They'll spend the bye week getting back to basics. They'll work on tackling. They'll work on execution. They'll work on holding on to the ball. They'll work on making the proper reads.
As someone who has been covering both Rice and Houston, it needs to be stated that it's nice to talk about returning to basics and stressing the fundamentals. But at some point, a team actually needs to go out onto the field and actually execute. It's been a problem for the Owls for years, and it's looking like this is also becoming a problem for the Cougars. It was about this time last season that talk began turning to the Cougars running the table and being a BCS-buster. The talk this season is to when the Cougars might actually be able to win a game. Sure the Cougars have a new head coach, and sure the Cougars lost Case Keenum and Bryce Beall and Michael Hayes and Patrick Edwards and Tyron Carrier and Justin Johnson and Marcus McGraw and so on and so on and so on, but still, going from possibly undefeated to possibly winless is quite a switch to make in just one year.
It could be worse. It's not like the Cougars are inviting their fans to attend luncheons with once-popular athletes who have been dead for several years like a certain pro franchise in the city. But then again, the Astros were expected to be bad this season, and while no one thought the Cougars would repeat last season, no one thought they'd be close to being this bad.