The Ed Oliver 2018 Heisman Trophy push got underway on Christmas Eve. The 2017 Outland Award Winner had four tackles, two of them for a loss. He even scored the first touchdown for the Cougars. But while the Cougars may be aiming to get the country’s best college defensive player a Heisman, the team itself lost the game as Fresno State got the 33-27 win.
The Hawaii Bowl was an appropriate end for the Houston season. The Cougars struggled to find an offensive rhythm. The team had problems with execution on all sides of the ball. There were miscues on special teams. The offensive game plan, save for a flea-flicker and the Ed Oliver rush for the touchdown, was uninspired.
Yet somehow the Cougars were still in a position to win this game after scoring a touchdown with 45 seconds remaining. That’s due to the defense which often bent but didn’t break and was able to limit Fresno State to field goals on multiple occasions when touchdowns were possible. And then there was Alexander Myers who scooped up the football after Jeremy Winchester blocked a Fresno State field goal attempt and ran it 94 yards for a touchdown.
THE ED OLIVER SHOW
Ed Oliver is the best defensive player in college football. It’s not unfair to call him a college version of J.J. Watt. And like with J.J. Watt, the television broadcast was all about Ed Oliver. It was mentioned numerous times that Oliver stepped on a sea urchin several days before the game and was, as a result, playing in intense pain.
And just like J.J. Watt, it was decided to play Oliver on an offensive series when the Cougars got a first and goal at the one yard line. Oliver didn’t catch a touchdown pass, instead taking a handoff and running it in for the touchdown.
It’s obvious that the school is going to try and push Oliver for the Heisman next season. Though the award is supposed to go to the best player in college player, a defensive player winning the award almost never happens, thus allowing Oliver to rush the ball and score a touchdown. Of course, for that happen to more often next season, the offense is going to need to perform better.
THE OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR
Brian Johnson left the UH offensive coordinator job to become the offensive coordinator for Dan Mullen at Florida. Head coach Major Applewhite, last season’s offensive coordinator, assumed the role again for the bowl game. And as with last season’s bowl game, the Cougars underperformed on offense. Then again, it can be argued that the Cougars underperformed on offense the entire season.
Houston gained 341 yards on offense. Just 72 of those yards came by the rush as the Cougars struggled to get quarterback D’Eriq King involved in the game. He rushed for just 38 yards, and he completed just 23 of 43 passes for 269 yards. He did throw one TD pass, that coming with 45 seconds left in the game to bring the Cougars to within one touchdown. He also threw an interception.
D’Eriq King is a dynamic talent. And he didn’t begin the season as the starting quarterback. Let’s hope that at some point this offseason the Cougars find a way to take advantage of his talents in the same way that the Cougars, with then offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, found a way to harness the talents of Greg Ward, Jr.
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SO CLOSE YET SO FAR
The Cougars defeated USF, Navy, and SMU this season. They came close to upsetting Memphis and barely lost to Texas Tech. Yet this same team also lost to Tulane and Tulsa, two bad football teams. Houston lost a close game to a 10-win Fresno State team despite surrendering 473 yards on offense, so that fits in with the losses to the good teams like Memphis.
The Cougars went through three quarterbacks this season, going from Kyle Allen to Kyle Postma to King. The offense changed from a running game focused on the running backs to one focused on King. The passing game struggled the entire season, and the team was too often dependent upon the defense.
So what happens next year? Well we’ll get the answer to that starting sometime next August. Until then, aloha.