The Houston Cougars waited until the last minute to release a depth chart. The Cougars waited until the very last minute to announce the starting quarterback. And the Cougars waited until the very end to ensure a victory, eking out the 19-16 win over the Arizona Wildcats Saturday night.
It was not a very pretty game. The Cougars scored only two points in the second half — a safety that resulted from Arizona QB Brandon Dawkins fumbling a snap that was recovered by one of his linemen in the end zone. The UH offense did almost nothing else that half. Arizona’s offense did move the ball up and down the field in the second half, seemingly with ease, but when push came to shove, there would be a turnover, or a wide open receiver in the end zone would be missed, or there would be some other kind of stupid play.
Kyle Allen beat out Kyle Postma for the starting nod at quarterback for Houston. His numbers were not exceptional: two interceptions, only 225 passing yards and one touchdown. But with the way Arizona kept shooting itself in the foot, Allen and the offense didn’t have to be exceptional.
The excellent play was left to the UH defense. Ed Oliver was all over the place, rushing the quarterback, making tackles and forcing fumbles. He finished with eight solo tackles and teamed up for three more. He didn’t get any sacks, but the Arizona quarterbacks were constantly under pressure and attempting to get away from Oliver.
The game was about as even as a football game can be. The Cougars gained 383 yards. Arizona gained 371. Houston rushed for 158 yards, while Arizona rushed for 152. UH threw for 225 and the Wildcats passed for 219. Arizona’s time of possession was 30:37, while Houston’s was 29:23. Each team turned the ball over twice.
Houston head coach Major Applewhite said earlier in the week not to be surprised if Arizona threw the football, even coming off a game in which the Wildcats had gained more than 500 yards on the ground. Arizona did throw the ball, primarily because UH seemed focused on stopping the rush. And if Arizona’s quarterbacks had been better, the Wildcats' switching to a passing game probably would have doomed UH. But whenever Arizona needed that one pass completion, whether for a touchdown or for a first down, the pass was always off, for which Houston should be grateful seeing as how open some of the Arizona receivers were able to get.
Arizona QB Brandon Dawkins will probably always regret his third quarter in this game. His inability to handle a snap led to the safety that accounted for Houston’s only two points of the second half. Then he had a wide open receiver in the end zone on a third down play, but he thew the pass too high, which resulted in Arizona settling for a field goal.
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But all that matters is that Houston got the win, even though there are many questions that still probably need to be settled. The offense never really got into any kind of rhythm, especially when it came to passing the ball. A lot of that may be attributed to what the Cougars have dealt with the past several weeks in going on the road to Austin because of Hurricane Harvey, which disrupted the team’s practices and routines. Then there was the cancelation of what was supposed to be the season-opening game against UTSA. So maybe the team was just rusty.
The Cougars finally get to play a home game next as the team plays host to the Rice Owls on Saturday night. The Owls got the 31-14 win over UTEP last night to move to 1-1 on the season, and Rice looked really good in getting the win. Sure, they faced a weak opponent, but Rice still showed some explosive abilities on offense, though how explosive the Owls will be when Ed Oliver is on the prowl is a different story.
Applewhite notched his first win as a head coach. The Cougars won their first game of the season, something that Texas schools like UT, A&M and Baylor were unable to do. And UH has a quarterback, for now. There’s room for improvement, but it’s improvement to be made after a win, when everyone is in a better mood. And as long as Ed Oliver is around, the chances of other wins will always be good.