Houston Cougars quarterback Clayton Tune waits for a snap during Friday’s game against the Memphis Tigers. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)
The Houston Cougars football team has reached the bye week after a roller coaster of emotions in their first six games of the season.
Houston sits at 3-3 overall and 1-1 against American Athletic Conference foes. Houston’s .500 record is a good reflection of how its season has gone. There have been flashes of strong play, lapses of bad mistakes, and everything imaginable in between.
“I’m exhausted. Our coaches are exhausted,” head coach Dana Holgorsen said after Friday’s win. “Our players are banged up. We had more guys go down with injuries today.”
Five of the Cougars’ first six games came down to the final play, and three of them went to overtime. Houston is still the worst team in all Football Bowl Subdivision college football, with 59 penalties through six games.
However, the Cougars have shown improvement in the past two games committing only nine against Tulane and seven against Memphis. Houston committed 10 more penalties in its first four games of the season.
Houston’s offense has struggled with consistency, particularly in the first half of games. The Cougars have scored 21 points total in the first quarter and 27 points in the second quarter of the team’s first six games. But the fourth quarter of games belonged to Houston in 2022. UH has outscored opponents 80-34, including edging out Memphis 26-12 on Friday.
The defense has struggled to close games in some matchups but has also secured three wins with stops. Against UTSA, Houston’s defense stopped quarterback Frank Harris and the Roadrunners’ offense from converting a final two-point conversion in triple overtime.
Against Rice, Houston defensive back Jayce Rogers broke up a pass to receiver Luke McCaffrey that would have been a touchdown that would have given the Owls a chance to tie the game or go for two and the win. Against Memphis, UH defensive lineman Atlias Bell recorded the game-ending sack on Henigan that sealed the win.
At the same time, Houston allowed Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith to rush for the game-winning touchdown; it failed to stop a high-powered Kansas offense that put up 48 points against Houston; it allowed Tulane to drive and score a walk-off touchdown in Week 5.
The Cougars’ first six games of the 2022 season can be described by one word: inconsistent. Despite the gutsy and gritty comeback victory over Memphis, Holgorsen acknowledged there is a lot the team needs to address, which he said it will.
“We will reevaluate where we are at offensively, defensively, special teams, and personnel as well,” Holgorsen said.
Houston has already seen subtle changes to its offense, most notably the resurgence of tight end Christian Trahan. After just having six catches through the first five games of the season, Trahan had five of them for 73 yards against Memphis.
Holgorsen said going into the game against Memphis; the team planned to pass the ball more, be more aggressive with play calls and be aggressive in play style. While quarterback Clayton Tune threw the ball 57 times in the win, the Cougars trailed for the majority of the contest.
When Houston returns from its bye week, it will have six games remaining in the regular season against Navy, South Florida, SMU, Temple, East Carolina, and Tulsa. Of those opponents, only ECU is at .500, while all others are below for the season. However, Navy does have a 2-1 record against American Athletic Conference opponents heading into Week 7.
“(The bye week) comes at a good time right now,” Holgorsen said. “We got a lot of guys that are sore, banged up, and tired, and we need to regroup. It’s going to be fun to do it with a little bit of momentum and a big win on the road.”
Around the AAC
Across the conference, Tune and defensive back Jayce Rogers were named the league’s offensive player of the week and special teams player of the week, respectively. Tune went 36-of-57 on his passes for 366 yards, and three fourth-quarter touchdown passes in Houston’s 33-32 win against Memphis (4-2, 2-1 AAC). Rogers had a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown that helped spark Houston’s rally.
Tulane (5-1, 2-0 AAC) senior safety Macon Clark was named the conference’s defensive player of the week for recording nine tackles, including two tackles for loss and a fourth-quarter interception against ECU (3-3, 1-2 AAC).
Cincinnati (5-1, 2-0 AAC) was able to hang on and defeat USF (1-5, 0-2 AAC) 28-24. Navy (2-3, 2-1 AAC) ran over Tulsa (2-4, 0-2 AAC) 53-21. UCF (4-1, 1-0 AAC) routed SMU 41-19 in a game played last Wednesday due to Hurricane Ian.