Houston Cougars

Three Thoughts on Houston’s 17-14 Win Over UTSA

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Houston

It was the start of a new era for Houston Football as the Cougars began their 2023 season as members of the Big 12 Conference. It’s been a long time coming for UH and its fan base, but now that they’re back in the “big leagues”, so to speak, they wanted to get off on the right foot against a scrappy UTSA program that was favored going into this game (including some disrespect from the Roadrunners before the game).

It wasn’t pretty, but Houston got it done with a 17-14 win over the Roadrunners. Here are three thoughts on the game.


Turning Point in the Third

With Houston hanging onto a three-point lead with a few minutes to go in the third quarter, Houston was facing a 4th-and-2 from the UTSA 27-yard line. Houston knocked through a field goal to take a 13-7 lead, but an illegal formation from UTSA took the points off the board and gave Houston a first down to continue to drive. A couple plays later, Donovan Smith hit Joseph Manjack for a 16-yard gain and that set up a six-yard touchdown pass to Matthew Golden to put Houston in control and up 16-7, extra point pending.

Houston’s Secondary Steps Up

Last season, Houston ranked 10th-to-last in the FBS by allowing 279 passing yards per game, and those struggles were on full display during a 77-63 loss to SMU where Mustangs quarterback Tanner Mordecai posted 379 passing yards and nine touchdown passes. There was incredible skepticism of this unit coming into the season, but on Saturday they showed up in a big way.

Malik Fleming transferred in from East Carolina as a Second Team All-AAC cornerback and the multi-year starter for the Pirates made his presence felt right away with two interceptions on Saturday night. Treylin Payne, who led UH true freshmen with 22 tackles last season, had the other pick of UTSA quarterback Frank Harris.

The secondary had a strong night and if it’s a sign of things to come for this unit, the UH defense will be stingier than Big 12 fans expect, and certainly more so than what most fans saw under Dana Holgorsen at WVU.


Houston, We May Have An Offensive Line Problem?

Now UTSA was a very good test as the Roadrunners brought back a top-notch defensive with returning starters and high-quality talent at every level. But UTSA had more success than it should have had against Houston racking up three sacks, eight tackles for loss and holding the Cougars to just 2.7 yards per rush. There were several times when Donovan Smith was on the move in the backfield after the pocket collapsed quickly. If Houston is going to compete in Big 12 play, then this unit is going to have to improve from Saturday’s performance.

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