Houston gets another crack at a Power 5 opponent when Arizona comes to TDECU Saturday morning on national television. For the Coogs, the second half of the Rice game showed a glimpse of how explosive this offense can be. The first half showed its limitations.
Yes, Arizona Lost to BYU. So What?
By now everyone's seen the headlines coming out of Tucson, the Wildcats lost to BYU. Noel Mazzone can't call a play to save his life. Sumlin doesn't have the talent or the quarterback to run his system. Those are knee-jerk reactions to an opener with a new coach against a decent opponent. Arizona was a mediocre team in 2017; they lost four of five to limp in down the stretch.
Expect Sumlin to make some changes to the game plan; the most obvious is how he handles his quarterback. Khalil Tate, in spite of his tweets, is a running quarterback. One of the most electrifying runners in college football. And yet there he was last week, throwing 34 times and running eight. Sumlin's hinted that his quarterback will run more this week and that Mazzone has a better grasp of the situation. If you watch A&M the past two seasons running Mazzone's offense you have reasons for doubt.
This is still a Pac 12 team, and their sample size isn't determinative of how they'll perform the rest of the season. J.J. Taylor is a talented back, and Shun Brown looks capable at receiver in spite of just one catch last week.
For twenty minutes of game time, Houston fans saw the offensive onslaught they've been waiting for. The Cougars were fast, surgical, and unstoppable. D'Eriq King looked like the quarterback that pulled Houston out of its funk last season. Marquez Stevenson and Bryson Smith are special. Courtney Lark and Keith Corbin can be big contributors. And Houston's three backs all look like they can add to the mix without a significant drop-off.
Kendal Briles also found creative ways to get Smith and Stevenson the ball in green grass. The Cougars could be fantastic offensively this season. We don't think Arizona has the horses to keep up if this gets into a track meet and if there's one Sumlin trait, it's that he struggles to idle down and avoid those scenarios.
Houston let Rice hang around thanks to playing a wondrous mix of over-aggressiveness and losing their keys. As a result, Rice's play action packages had the Coogs chasing. Mark D'Onofrio's defense is talented, but we aren't sold on D'Onofrio as a play caller. Houston fell from 13th to 89th in total defense with D'Onofrio at the helm.
The Cougars still have one of the most dominant defensive players in college football and pieces around him to create chaos. Isaiah Chambers is a break out star next to Ed Oliver. Deontay Anderson looked the part in the secondary. But for all that talent, the Cougars were solid two-thirds of the time. Their lapses kept Rice around.
They'll need to tighten up the leaks and play assignment driven this week.