Dana Holgorsen, Houston Cougars geared up for second half of season

Houston Cougars receiver Kesean Carter after scoring UH’s go-ahead touchdown against the Tigers on Oct. 7. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)

Dana Holgorsen, Houston Cougars geared up for second half of season

The Houston Cougars football team’s bye week is in the rearview mirror. After an up-and-down first six games of the season, head coach Dana Holgorsen and UH are gearing up for a battle against Navy.

Houston (3-3, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) is coming off a thrilling comeback win against Memphis prior to the bye week, which provided much-needed positive momentum for the program.

“I think from a mental health perspective, rest, being able to get out and recruit coming out of a positive victory on the road, I think all of that stuff was really good. I think it is what we really needed,” Holgorsen said.

The bye week for Houston will not cause the Cougars to engage in a huge seismic shift, Holgorsen said during his weekly news conference on Monday. Mid-season assessments are fun to talk about, and coaches always self-scout, but making a significant change in the middle of the year is tough, the head coach added.

“Are we happy we are sitting at 3-3? No,” Holgorsen said. “A couple of those games could have gone either way. We could be 5-1. We could be 1-5. If we win at (Texas) Tech, are we in a better place against Kansas? Probably. Does that have a difference in the outcome of the game? Maybe. You know, I don’t know. Ball bounces your way sometimes like it did the last time that we played.”

For Holgorsen, it is always about the next game, he said. Against the Tigers, Houston faced a 19-point deficit early in the fourth quarter, forcing the Cougars to play up-tempo on offense.

Houston scored 26 points in the final period against Memphis. While the Cougars found success versus the Tigers late, the head coach said he will not tie his offense into being a fast-paced, air-raid style system.

“It is situational,” Holgorsen said. “I’m not going to commit to a fast-ball offense for the sake of just running a fast-ball offense. I think that is easy to defend. A lot of people do it, and a lot of people know how to defend it.”

Holgorsen added that going into the game against Memphis, Houston wanted to pick up the pace. In particular, there was an emphasis on running their one-minute offense after failing to do so against Tulane in the conference opener.

Houston showed improvement against the Tigers with its final-minute offense, Holgorsen said. While the Cougars came away with 0 points at the end of the first half against Memphis, Houston executed an 11-play, 70-yard drive in under two minutes that ended in a botched field-goal attempt by Bubba Baxa inside of the Memphis four-yard line.

Houston also came away with two touchdowns on two drives with under five minutes left in the game, which helped seal the win.

The head coach also pointed out how Houston has won a lot of games by controlling the ball and the clock, Holgorsen said. He prefers for Houston to win the time of possession battle because it helps keep the defense fresh and out of difficult positions, he added.

So far in the 2022 season, Houston has won the time of possession in three games—UTSA, Rice, and Tulane. Two of those games ended in wins for the Cougars. Against the Owls, Houston won the time of possession battle by only 10 seconds.

“I’m not going to stop doing that just for the sake of people wanting to see an uptempo offense,” Holgorsen said. “We need to be effective in an uptempo offense when it is time to be uptempo. If we are sputtering doing what we are doing, then that is an opportunity to be able to pick things up. We will have the ability to be able to do that. I’m not going to commit to it full-time.”

Around the American Athletic

Across the AAC, Central Florida (5-1, 2-0 AAC) quarterback John Rhys Plumlee was named the league’s offensive player of the week for going 18-of-22 on his passes for a career-high 373 yards and four passing touchdowns. He also ran for 37 yards and three touchdowns in UCF’s 70-13 rout of Temple (2-4, 0-2 AAC).

East Carolina (4-3, 2-2 AAC) safety Julius Wood was the AAC defensive player of the week for accumulating 11 tackles and a pick-six that helped lift the Pirates over Memphis (4-3, 2-2 AAC) in a quadruple overtime thriller. ECU won 47-45.

On Friday night, SMU (3-3, 1-1 AAC) defeated Navy (2-4, 2-2 AAC), Houston’s next opponent, by a score of 40-34. Tulane (6-1, 3-0 AAC) remains red hot after beating South Florida (1-6, 0-3) 45-31.

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