Looking ahead: Houston Cougars, Dana Holgorsen will try to shake off SMU nightmare

Houston Cougars receiver KeSean Carter during UH’s loss to SMU on Nov. 5 in Dallas. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)

Looking ahead: Houston Cougars, Dana Holgorsen will try to shake off SMU nightmare

The Houston Cougars football team scored 63 points against SMU last Saturday and still lost by double digits in Dallas.

It was one of the Cougars’ worst defensive performances as the Mustangs scored touchdowns on their first nine drives of the game and scored 11 touchdowns on their 13 total drives of the night.

Houston Cougars Move Forward

Houston (5-4, 3-2 American Athletic Conference) will look to put the putrid performance in the rearview mirror as it hosts a Temple team on Saturday afternoon that is coming off a 54-point performance against South Florida.

“The key is moving forward,” Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “(SMU) played well. That is the single greatest quarterback performance I’ve seen in a long time.”

SMU’s Tanner Mordecai finished the game 28-of-37 passing with 379 yards and nine touchdown passes, a program record. The Mustangs’ 77 points against Houston were also a single-game school record.

SMU made every catch on Saturday, Holgorsen said. There were one-handed catches. SMU receiver Rashee Rice was as good as advertised. Dylan Goffney was a good player; RJ Maryland was a problem, and SMU’s offensive line had NFL-level talent, Holgorsen said.

On the flip side for the Houston defense, there were issues with technique and youth, Holgorsen stated. The team not only struggled to keep the Mustangs in front of them the entire night, but they also dealt with more injuries, he said.

Jayce Rogers went out of the game, and he is dealing with a concussion, Holgorsen said. The head coach stated that three starters did not play most of the game, including defensive back Thabo Mwaniki.

One silver lining for UH is that they continued to fight until the end of the game, Holgorsen remarked.

“Our guys competed. If I was looking at a defense … (that was) not playing with effort and not competing, we’d have a real problem. OK. It wasn’t that,” Holgorsen said. “Did we bust some coverages? Yes. Did we not get off blocks and tackle good? Yep, that was true. Was our four-minute defense pitiful? Yes. Did they make play after play? Yes. They made a lot of plays.”

Looking ahead at Temple, which proved it has an explosive offense of its own, Houston needs to shake off the bad taste left from Saturday and turn the page, Holgorsen noted.

“We need guys to respond quick,” he stated. “I don’t think that is who we are defensively. I don’t care who we got out there playing. Our guys don’t think that either, so we need to get out there and play.”

Saturday’s loss to SMU puts Houston on the outside looking in for a slot in the AAC Championship game. Holgorsen mentioned that he gave the players Sunday off from practice because the team has reached a point in the season where they are sore and beat up.

The coaches watched the video of Saturday’s game, said what they had to say, and they will see how they respond Tuesday, Holgorsen said.

“We got to fix some things,” the head coach stated. “We are running out of guys, but that doesn’t matter. Whoever has to go in there and play has to go in there and play.”

Around the American

Across the AAC, it was no surprise that Mordecai was named the offensive conference player of the week. The quarterback also set an NCAA record with seven first-half touchdown passes and became the first player in Football Bowl Subdivision history with seven touchdown passes and a touchdown run in a half. SMU improved to 5-4 and 3-2 against other AAC opponents.

Tulane (8-1, 5-0 AAC) linebacker Dorian Williams was named the league’s defensive player of the week. He recorded 13 tackles and two sacks in the Green Wave’s 27-13 win over Tulsa (3-6, 1-4 AAC).

Temple (3-6, 1-4 AAC) defeated South Florida (1-8, 0-5 AAC), 54-28. USF head coach Jeff Scott was fired as the head coach of the Bulls on Sunday. Central Florida (7-2, 4-1 AAC) defeated Memphis (4-5, 2-4 AAC), 35-28. Cincinnati (7-2, 4-1 AAC) defeated Navy (3-6, 3-4 AAC), 20-10.

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