Photo by Stephen Pinchback/Houston Athletics Communications Kenneth Farrow looks to escape Memphis defenders
It was an incredibly sloppy game, full of penalties, turnovers, and misfiring offenses. The sloppiness fit the condition of the BBVA Compass turf, a turf that was essentially unplayable before the game even started, and looked as if it was battling the Reliant Stadium turf for the mythical title of worst stadium turf in Houston.
Yet the Cougars are 5-0 overall and 2-0 in conference. They found a way to win a game on a day when they could find absolutely no offensive rhythm. They suffered no serious injuries playing on a field that even Reliant Stadium would be disgusted by. There are still some problems to fix with the team, but the team is in a lot better shape than it was at this time last season.
THE BIG PICTURE
The team is undefeated as it heads into the more difficult part of its schedule. This is the same number of wins as the Cougars had for all of last season. Just one more win and the team's going bowling. All of this and the team is yet to get a complete game of excellence from the offense.
"Certainly excited to be sitting here before you with a win today," head coach Tony Levine said after the game. "Our goal each and every week is focusing on being 1-0 at the end of the week. We got that accomplished; it wasn't pretty, it wasn't perfect, it may never be perfect."
But it could be argued that this inability to play perfect football has made the team better. The defense can't rely on the offense to pile up tons of points each week, so the defense has to make stops. And making stops the defense has been doing. Like on Saturday when it held Memphis to a total of 149 yards in the second half. The defense was able to hold Memphis to 15 points on the strength of five field goals, keeping the Tigers out of the end zone. The defense also continued winning the turnover battle, forcing four Memphis turnovers. THE LITTLE PICTURE
For all of the fun of the team's 5-0 start, there are still many things going wrong, and those little things can kill a football team. The offense once again had problems getting into the flow of the game, looking discombobulated and out-of-sorts. On its first drive, the offense went 57 yards behind the pinpoint passing of QB John O'Korn. After that, absolutely nothing went right. There were bad penalties and execution problems, and one can't help but feel that, if Memphis had been a better offensive team, that the defense, which spent a large amount of time on the field would have given up more than just 15 points.
The offense generated just 247 total offensive yards for the game, 209 of those yards coming through the air. There were lots of third and long situations. Lots of missed blocks. John O'Korn was only 13-for-30 for 198 yards and a touchdown. A touchdown was called back because of penalties.
"I'll look at the film and have a better feel for, if there [were] execution mistakes, but we never got into a rhythm," Levine said. "That's the feeling I had on the sideline. We couldn't sustain, we'd get something going and a penalty would back us up or a tackle for a loss. We'd get in long yardage situations, which are certainly tough to call as a coordinator."
The offense needs to be more consistent. It needs to start executing. It needs to stop depending on the defense. It needs to start doing the little things correctly every play.
THE OUTSTANDING PLAY OF THE GAME
Kenneth Farrow scored from one-yard out late in the third quarter to put UH up 16-15 on Memphis. But instead of kicking the extra point, the Cougars went for the two point conversion. The play broke down and it appeared that O'Korn was going to be sacked. But just as he was going down, he found a way to flip the ball to Farrow who got through the Memphis defense for the two points, putting UH up 18-15.
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SHOW ME HOW
"There's times on the sideline that you're yelling 'no, no, no,' like on the two point conversion, and then as he's getting sacked he flips it up to Kenneth Farrow and he runs it in the end zone," Levine said about O'Korn. "He's talented, certainly, he's got great poise. He's getting better."
WHERE WERE THE FANS?
Attendance was announced as 20,103, less than capacity for BBVA Compass. But a look about the stands revealed a very empty stadium with lots and lots of bright orange seats. Perhaps about 12,000 people were actually in the stadium. UH fans like to bitch about a lack of respect, but until they can actually fill small stadiums like BBVA Compass, they have no room to complain.
The Cougars are hosting BYU at Reliant Stadium on Saturday. Here's hoping that UH fans do a better job of attending this game than they did at attending this Memphis game.