Saturday, September 03, 2011

Houston Downs UCLA 38-34; Did the Cougars' Defense Get The Job Done?

(Photo by Darla Tamulitis-La Vita Loco Photography, Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved)

By Robert H Kelly
Copyright 2011 TexSport Publications

HOUSTON, TEXAS (September 3, 2011) The Houston Cougars came right out at the start of the game and showed UCLA that this year was not going to be a repeat of last season.

The Cougars (1-0, 0-0 C-USA) downed a determined UCLA Bruins (0-1, 0-0, Pac-10) 38-34 in front of 31,144 fans at Robertson Stadium in Houston.

Houston is now 1-0 and has passed the first test of the season; beating a team that destroyed them in 2010.

But as they begin Sunday to prepare to face North Texas in Denton next Saturday, the Cougars still have issues that need to be addressed.

The issue is the defense? What can I say? What can anyone say?

In Houston’s 31-13 loss to UCLA in 2010, the Cougars gave up a total of 365 yards to the Bruins.

This year, they gave up 554 yards and won the game.

Let’s start out and look at the positive outcomes of the win over their West Coast opponent.

Yes, the Cougars pulled this game out and beat UCLA.

Yes, Case Keenum looked healthy without any indication that he was hampered by his injury sustained against the Bruins last year.

Yes, the offense did crank out 469 yards, five touchdowns, one field goal and score 38 points.

Yes, they Cougars played like a team that was possessed and wanted some payback against UCLA.

But let’s look at the defense?

The Bruins had 42 carries for 232 yards while passing for 322 net yards.

Combined, Bruin quarterbacks Richar Brehaut and Kevin Prince went 20-of-29 in the air and were not sacked once or throw any interceptions.

But my question is how can a team expect to win week after week giving up over 500 yards on defense?

That strategy cannot work. The Cougars cannot hope to be successful this season by just simply outscoring their opponents.

They have to field a solid defense and hone the skills of those defensive players to a fine edge so that they give up as few points as possible.

Do not get me wrong. I am not coming down on head coach Kevin Sumlin and the preparation and hard work he has put into the past nine months to put a defensive scheme on the field that will be successful.

I realize the process is an ongoing affair. The defense will get better as the season goes on.

However, with what the Cougars want to accomplish this season, the defense cannot give up over 500 points every game and expect to have a successful season.

On a positive side, the Cougars had 34 unassisted and 46 assisted tackles. That comes out to 80 total tackles.

It is interesting to note that the Bruins had exactly the same total number.

Marcus McGraw led the Cougars with 16 tackles, five of those unassisted while Colton Valencia and Derrick Mathews had four solo tackles each.

A total of 20 Houston players got in tackles.

But where the sacks? Where were the interceptions?

The defense somewhat got the job done but they must get better.

Both Brehaut and Prince had time to stay in the pocket and look for receivers. If the receivers were not there, they both had ample time to look for other options.

The Cougars will now have six days to prepare to take on North Texas next Saturday in Denton.

The Mean Green dropped their season opener to Florida International 41-16 this past Thursday in Miami.

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