Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Houston Cougars 2010 Review

2010 Record: 5-7 (4-4), 3rd Conference USA West
2010 Bowl Game: None
2010 Schedule/Results: Texas State, W 68-28, UTEP, W 54-24, @ UCLA L 31-13, Tulane, W 42-23, Mississippi State, L 47-24, @ Rice, L 34-31, @ SMU, W 45-20, @ Memphis, W 56-17, UCF, L 40-33, Tulsa, L 28-25, @ Southern Mississippi, L 59-41, @ Texas Tech, L 35-20


     The Cougars were supposed to be the big party crasher to the BCS in 2010. Then came the injury bug. I am normally very critical about schools using the injury crutch as an excuse, but the Cougars got decimated at their most important position of QB, and the bug spread and went viral from there. Houston was a skeleton of who they were supposed to be at the end of the year compared to what they started with when they blasted Texas State out of the stratosphere.
     This was supposed to be the year of Case Keenum. That being said, I believe that he wopuld have posted great numbers, but never would have gotten any kind of real Heisman compassion based on the truly weak schedule that Houston played last season. He never had the chance to prove or disprove my theory, because he was lost for the season with a knee injury against UCLA, and already had a banged up shoulder going into that game. When all was said and done, Houston started 4 different QBs last season, because Cotton Turner, Keenum's main backup, also was injured and lost for the season in that very same game. Freshman David Piland became the go to guy, and played in 8 games, passing for 2641 yards and 24 TDs, but he also was forced into 14 INTs in those 8 games, and his inexperience showed at times. That being said, he showed enough moxey to believe that he can aptly replace Keenum in 2012, as Keenum returns with an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA.
     With the passing game in flux, the Cougars had to rely more on the run game than they would have liked. Bryce Beall and Michael Hayes both stepped up, and the juniors helped carry the day until the ultimate collapse happened in the final month to keep the Cougars out of the postseason. Beal rushed for 870 yards and 12 TDs, while Hayes added 629 yards and 8 more scores. Both will be back in 2011.
     Patrick Edwards stepped up big at WR in 2010, piling up a line of 71-1100-13. James Cleveland was considered to be the top dog returning in 2010, but he wound up seding that title to Edwards. Cleveland did have a very good season, however, and he finsished with a line of 57-800-6. Kierre Johnson was the third man, with 37-572-6, but he and Cleveland move on now. The next 5 receivers from 2010, though largely inexperienced, all return in 2011.
     The Cougars struggled on defense, though not exactly to the degree of East Carolina, but it was bad enough. The Cougars gave up 28 or more points 8 times in 2010, and gave up an average of 432.8 yards per game. Opposing teams rushed for a total of 208.8 yards per game against the Cougar front seven, and that had nothing to do with QB difficulties. More needs to be expected in 2010, otherwise Keenum is wasting his time coming back.
     As luck would have it, the top 5 tacklers from 2010 all return next fall, led by Marcus McGraw, who as a junior LB collected 110 tackles on the year. Phillip Steward and Tony Brown, both LBs, return to form up an intact LB corps for 2011, while Efram Oliphant, a freshman who collected 66 tackles as the 4th LB, returns to give the Cougars a 4 deep group. Nick Saenz, a DB who collected 72 tackles, returns as well.
     Brown return will be most welcome, as he was a huge playmaker in the backfield, collecting 19 TFLs on the season. Only Phillip Steward came close to joining him in double digits with 9. Brown's 7.5 sacks led the team, but it's a relative area of weakness, as the Cougars had no other regulars who was nearly as adept at getting to the QB.
     The secondary will be thin in 2011. Steward, a LB, is the best player returning when it ccame to passes defended with 7, as he tied with Jamal Robinson who is moving on. NO other returnees were adept at making big plays, and they are all quite young. It could get ugly defending the pass in 2011, and it wasn't pretty in 2010. Loyce Means, who led the team with 3 picks, is also gone now.
     Matt Hogan was as solid as can be at PK in 2010, as he hit on 14 of his 17 FG attempts. He may be even better in 2011, and may get more work with a more stabalized offensive situation. He needs to work on his PATs, as he missed 4 in 2010. Richie Leone had a very nice freshman season, having averaged 41.43 yards per punt on35 kicks. He could up that number in 2011 as a sophomore, as he is still a developing prospect.


No doubt that the pillaging injury bug crushed Houston in 2010, but that defense was a pretty major mess as well, and the offense never slipped to the depths that you would have expected after losing their top 2 QBs for the season in week 3. If the defense can be shored up, even just a little, than Keenum will take Houston bowling again, but it has to be more than just offense that gets them there. Kevin Sumlin took a big hit to his status as one of the hottest coaches in America in 2010, so this season will go a long way towards getting that back. I still think that he did a damn good job considering what this team got put through.

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