For Houston Cougars, costly penalties difference between 2-2, 4-0

The Houston Cougars are hoping a good week of practice and momentum from their win against Rice can help them cut back on the penalty issues that have plagued them early in 2022. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)

For Houston Cougars, costly penalties difference between 2-2, 4-0

The Houston Cougars are the most penalized team in all of college football entering their Week 5 matchup against Tulane.

The Cougars have committed 43 penalties through four games and have been flagged for 10 or more in every single game this season. In comparison, Houston only committed 10 more penalties in a single game only twice all of 2021.

“That’s the difference between being 2-2 and 4-0 in my eyes,” Houston defensive lineman D’Anthony Jones said. “We are going to clean it up altogether. It starts in practice. Coaches coach, players play. At the end of the day, it’s us. We are committing it, not the coaches.”

For Houston, nothing is worse defensively or as a team when it gets a stop on third down, and then the Cougars commit a personal foul, pass interference or another penalty to extend a drive, defensive coordinator Doug Belk said.

Early in the second quarter against Rice, Jones was flagged for an offside penalty that gave Owls quarterback TJ McMahon a free play. The quarterback threw a deep pass and connected with receiver Bradley Rozner for a gain of 30. Rice was in the end zone a play later.

Heading into the matchup against Tulane, Houston has been focusing on holding each other accountable in practice, Jones said.

“I will be the first and foremost to say I think the first touchdown we gave up was from me jumping offside, and then he threw the ball up,” Jones said. “Obviously I’m going to start with myself. I got to learn how to hold it down on third downs and not jump offside and not kill my team like that.”

The Houston Cougars are taking a day-by-day, step-by-step approach to cut down on the penalties, Belk said. The Cougars’ mistakes are obvious when they play, he said.

Houston’s had bright moments, bad moments and ugly moments, so trying to have consistency and performance is key for the Cougars, Belk said.

“It’s my responsibility to make sure defensively that we cut down on those issues, and we are able to get off the field because a lot of things that have happened, what we call good, bad and ugly, a lot of the bad and the ugly that happened, happened because of things we have done in penalties that have extended drives,” Belk said.

From the players’ perspective, Houston wants to focus on staying together and being disciplined, UH linebacker Jamal Morris said. Talent has not been the issue with the Cougars, it has been the discipline factor, focusing on the details and playing hard, Morris said.

Correcting Houston’s penalties issues begins in practice by emphasizing what they want to do, Morris said. How they practice translates to the game, he added. Morris feels the Cougars are beginning to see a shift they need to cut down on the penalties, he said.

“I really see a difference in the way we have been practicing, and I really feel like we are taking steps in the right direction,” Morris said.

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