As Houston left the field at halftime against Tulsa they weren't feeling great, but probably OK. They held a 10-7 lead over the Golden Hurricanes. Tulsa scored late in the 2nd, but Houston outgained Tulsa 263 to 93. They possessed the ball for almost twice the time Tulsa had. Then the second half game and the wheels came off.
In the second half, Tulsa outgained the Cougars 323 to 141. In the third quarter, the Golden Hurricanes gained 240 net yards to zero for Houston. Tulsa scored 17 unanswered in the 3rd quarter and effectively put the game away. In the second half, the Golden Hurricanes scored off Houston turnover deep in Houston territory, a strip sack and touchdowns of 46 and 70 yards. The game ended 45-17, Tulsa, their second win of the season.
Now, this isn't 2016 Tulsa. This was 2017, 1-5 Tulsa. Tulsa that was blown out by Tulane a week before. Tulane, by the way, lost to Florida International this week. Regardless, we aren't talking about the 2009 Crimson Tide here.
Major Applewhite moved to Kyle Postma in part because Postma didn't turn the ball over the way Kyle Allen had. Three starts into Postma's tenure he's turned it over at least the same rate, perhaps higher.
Houston's offense was done producing yards by the 13-minute mark of the 3rd quarter. They gained a yard the rest of the quarter. Tulsa meanwhile went on a seven minute, twenty play, 93-yard drive that was almost entirely on the ground. That drive took Houston's spirit and their legs. Tulsa doubled Houston up in time of possession for the 3rd quarter.
Houston had no answer for Tulsa physicality on offense and adjustments made by Tulsa Defensive coordinator Bill Young. Young took a page from David Gibbs' playbook and ran a three-man rush backed by an eight-man zone. Houston needs to learn to deal with that approach because other teams are going to school on it.
Particularly disturbing was Houston's inability to rush the ball consistently against a Tulsa defense that ranked last in the FBS in rush defense, yards allowed per attempt, and rushes of 20 yards or more. A week after averaging a season-best 6 yards per carry, the Cougars turned in their worst rushing afternoon with just 3.1 yards a carry on a day when Houston carried the ball 47 times. On the other side of the ball, Houston's run defense is giving up 5.2 yards a carry in their last four games, including 288 and 5.4 yards a carry to Tulsa. That's three yards more than the Cougars gave up in 2017.
In the 3rd quarter, the Golden Hurricanes rushed for 159 yards on 22 carries, a 7.2-yard average. Phillip Montgomery's play calling was intentional because he knew Tulsa had a physical advantage. That physical edge led to poor tackling, bad pursuit angles and big plays in the second half.
Things don't get easier for the Cougars with Memphis coming to town on a short week.