If the 2016 version of the Houston Cougars football team wants to be the first non-Power 5 team to make the College Football Playoff, then the Coogs need to be even more flawless than they were in 2015. The Coogs have zero margin of error to keep their playoff hopes alive and can’t have any slip-ups like against UConn last season. With Greg Ward, Jr. entering his senior season, it’s fair to say anything less than a perfect season for the boys from Cullen Boulevard will be a huge disappointment. More from ESPN.
William Jackson III was drafted #24 to the Cincinnati Bengals! Congrats William!!!
At a point in the season when the Houston Cougars need quality wins, they will be given the opportunity, when they travel to New Orleans to take on the No. 20 Tulane Green Wave. This weekend series, the first of two remaining against the team from New Orleans, will do much to shape the trajectory of the season for the Cougars.
This is because they are currently a slightly disappointing 23-16, and have lost many games that they were expected to win. Their offense has, at times, disappeared. Or, at least, hasn’t shown up in the right scenarios. This reared its head in an ugly sweep at the hands of UConn earlier this month, which caused Houston to disappear from many national rankings and post season conversations.
They did win a midweek matchup against the fairly good, regional opponent, in Sam Houston State. But they must rack up some impressive series victories going forward if they want to reach the post-season for a third consecutive year under head coach Todd Whitting. And a win against Tulane will be a good start.
But Tulane is a good baseball team. They are nationally ranked, at 27-13 overall and second in the American with a 7-4 conference record. They have impressive series victories against Texas, East Carolina, and even two wins against national powerhouse, LSU.
The Green Wave’s batting lineup has depth. No one in it is hitting below .250. Stephen Alemais leads the team, at .328. But Hunter Hope does the most damage to opposing teams. On the season, he has 42 hits, 34 runs, and 10 homeruns. These are just two weapons that the Tulane offense has at its disposal.
Their weekend pitching is also impressive. Emerson Gibbs will likely start on Friday. He is 4-2, with a 1.86 ERA, and leads the team in strikeouts, with 59. Ross Massey will likely start on the mound on Saturday. He is 6-2, with a 1.43 ERA. And Alex Massey is expected to start on Sunday.
Houston’s pitching has been great over the season, with a 2.37 team ERA. The weekend starters are aces Andrew Lantrip and Seth Romero, and on Sunday, Mitch Ullom. They will likely pitch well. It is the offense that has come up short throughout the season.
As a team, they are hitting .262. They are led by Freshmen Joe Davis, who is hitting at .336, with 51 hits, 19 runs, and 7 homeruns. The problem for the offense, though, has been hitting with runners in scoring position. If the Cougars can be opportunistic in that category going forward, perhaps they can make some noise going into post-season. If not, it could be a disappointing season.
On Tuesday, April 27th, the Houston Cougars got a win against a fairly good, regional opponent, in Sam Houston State. This victory lifts the Cougars to 23-16, though does nothing to help their unimpressive 5-7 conference record. Hopefully, though, the win will give them momentum going forward into this weekend, when they take on No.20 Tulane in New Orleans.
SHSU came into Schroeder Park having won seven straight, including two series sweeps and a win against Baylor in Waco. The Cougars, on the other hand, had won only two of their last six, which included a sweep from UConn and a subsequent loss of their national ranking. Many publications no longer had them regional bound.
Houston’s pitching has been great, with a team 2.37 ERA. Aces Andrew Lantrip and Seth Romero are pitching 1.82 and 2.18, respectively. And the new Sunday starter, Freshman Mitch Ullom, also has an impressive 2.59 ERA.
It has been the hitting, however, that has gotten the Cougars in trouble in recent weeks. On Tuesday, though, the offense did enough to help secure the victory.
Freshman, Trey Cumbie, got the pitching start. In his impressive outing, he threw five strikeouts, no walks, and allowed only two runs. He pitched until the eighth, when trusty closer Nick Hernandez came in to swiftly end the game. Although there was a scare in the top of the ninth, which included the loading of the bases, and a runner scoring on a wild pitch, Hernandez got out of it with the Cougars still on top, and Cumbie got his second win of the season, and Houston its 25th.
Corey Julks was the difference, offensively. He was 3-for-4 and drove in two runs for the Cougars. His timely hitting was an enormous factor in the eventual 4-3 victory, and could mean a lot going forward if it is sustained.
Houston will need the momentum, as they are currently unranked and on the outside looking in, when it comes to the post-season. But their remaining schedule does give them the opportunity to win back some praise. They still have to play two series against No.20 Tulane and one against conference leading Cincinnati. Also, too, they have midweek matchups against Rice and UL-Lafayette.
The Cougars must finish their season strong if they want to reach a regional for the third straight season.
Their road trip to Storrs, Connecticut, to take on the UConn Huskies, had the Houston Cougars struggling mightily. Against their conference mates, the Cougars lost all three games. The weekend sweep dropped them to 20-15, and 3-6 in conference.
While the 2016 season has been fairly up-and-down for Todd Whitting’s team, last weekend’s showing may be a new low. While UConn does have some good pitching, the Cougars likely expected to at least get a series victory over the inferior team. But their bats never really got going, and they scored a mere 5 runs through the three games, while the Huskies put up 16.
Friday’s game was their best chance for a win. But a 3-2 loss ended a day in which Andrew Lantrip pitched fairly well, but could not be helped by the Cougar offense.
Saturday’s game wasn’t even as close. Seth Romero allowed four runs in an uncharacteristic outing. The Houston offense, however, didn’t do much to help him. So another loss was put on the books.
In Sunday’s loss the wheels really fell off. A 9-1 result occurred against a team that was ready to return to Houston and regroup. Breakout freshman pitcher, Mitch Ullom, looked more human than usual pitching under difficult circumstances. He allowed 6 runs and was followed by three others on the mound. The Cougar offense could only muster one run, and it came in the 8th inning, when the result was all but assured.
While this weekend sweep is unfortunate, it only makes the margin of error for the rest of the season ever more smaller. This team can still achieve something this season, but they must put this weekend behind them and consistent baseball for the remainder of the season. Something they haven’t been able to do thus far.
Former Houston Cougars baseball legend, MLB All-Star, and 1990 Cy-Young Winner Doug Drabek sat down with The Weekly Brew podcast for an interview. Drabek discusses Phi Slama Jama and the current UH baseball squad and his communications with Coach Whitting, starting at the 29:55 mark in the interview.
Earlier in the podcast (5:39 minute mark) the team discusses the UH spring game and Tom Herman’s focus on having a tougher defense.
On Saturday, April 16th, the Houston Cougars held their Red & White game. This spring game was, more or less, the fan base’s introduction to the 2016 squad. Although it is tough to glean any actual conclusions from these events, and any such conclusion should be taken with a grain of salt, there were some things worth noting from the afternoon of football, which was largely for the fans.
Being back in TDECU Stadium was nice. And as the crowd trickled in a circle drill of tackling commenced in the middle of the field. The ferocity of this easily eclipsed the recorded versions that the athletics department includes in their spring practice updates. It was a good way to start the afternoon and definitely fulfilled Tom Herman’s expectations of competitive focus.
Once the actual scrimmage began, it became increasingly clear to me that I did not understand the scoring system in place. The non-traditional scoring was something that I was largely unable to figure out as the game unfolded. What I do know, however, is that the defense, in white, defeated the offense, in red, 74-72.
Although, again, the play in a spring game may be entirely unrepresentative of what may eventually unfold in the regular season, seeing players succeed is better than seeing them struggle. But unfortunately, some key players didn’t participate, due to various reasons.
The most intriguing newly eligible Cougar was Duke Catalon, a running back transfer from Texas. But he did not participate on Saturday. Catalon is the expected starter to replace the almost entirely depleted running back core. Incoming freshman, Mulbah Car, the expected second stringer, is not yet on campus. So, the running backs we saw were mostly third stringers and beyond. So the offensive position with the most mystery and intrigue will remain so for the fan base.
Blake Hirsch and Josh Burrell bore the brunt of the carries, with 17 and 14, respectively, and 58 and 49 yards each. Their rushing was made difficult by a robust defensive line that seemed to always penetrate the backfield.
Chance Allen, the Oregon transfer who had an impressive 2015 season, did not participate in the spring game. But we know that he will thrive, as he is not a mysterious commodity. Ra’Shaad Samples, too, did not participate.
A wide receiver, though, was arguable the star of the game. Sophomore Isaiah Johnson hauled in three touchdowns and 292 yards. Having only 6 catches last season, his dominance was a surprise. Hopefully his impressive play will translate into the regular season.
On the other side of the spectrum, a scary moment occurred. After grabbing a pass, Steven Dunbar was tackled awkwardly, and remained on the turf for quite a while. He was able to hobble off of the field, and X-rays came back negative. But it was an anxious sequence of events for the receiver who is poised to have a great season.
Although it was fun to see Kyle Allen and Bowman Sells on the field, commanding the offense, Greg Ward Jr. and Kyle Postma were the main event on quarterback. Ward looked impressive. He went 18-28 for three touchdowns and 303 yards. Despite an interception, I was mostly impressed by his throwing, which has been developing in earnest since the day Herman arrived. Postma looked like a capable backup, going 22-38, with 235 yards and 1 touchdown.
I couldn’t make too many observations on the offensive line. While the defensive line kind of dominated, the o-line never appeared egregiously bad, and the d-line may just be significantly improved. Or, this was a spring game, and I shouldn’t read into it too much. Let’s go with that one.
On Defense, the most intriguing part is the secondary. With the departure of William Jackson III, Adrian McDonald, Lee Hightower III, and Trevon Stewart, it was almost entirely depleted. The only returning starter of note is corner back, Brandon Wilson. And he was did not participate in the spring game because he underwent knee surgery in the offseason.
To offset the departures in the secondary, the coaching staff recruited the positions hard. They brought in both freshman and JUCO transfers. J.J. Dallas, a safety transfer from Blinn Community College, made the biggest impact in the spring game. He had 11 total tackles, one for loss, and a sack. Corner Alexander Myers also had 7 tackles. Other than them, though, the secondary did appear to be newly constructed, and Ward was able to take advantage of them.
As already stated, the defensive line looked fairly robust. Defensive end, Zach Vaughan had four tackles, one for loss, a sack, and an interception. He filled the stats sheet in his dynamic performance. Cameron Malveaux, who we should see in a large role this season, also impressed, with a sack and a pass break up.
While the linebackers lost the dominant Elandon Roberts, others seem to be stepping up in his absence. Steven Taylor, who had an impressive year alongside Roberts in 2015, had 8 tackles and broke up a pass. D’Juan Hines had 7 tackles, two for loss, and a sack. The linebacking core looks primed for an impressive year.
In the previous paragraphs I have made myriad observations, despite my own warnings against this practice. So, again, take it all with a grain of salt. And remember, spring games are mostly just for the fans. And, as a fan, I enjoyed.
Houston added another commitment yesterday, the second tight end to commit to the Coogs in two days, from Katy’s Parker Eichenberger. Eichenberger is a 6’4″ 225 lbs. tight end and also had offers from Illinois, Texas State, UTSA, and North Texas amongst others.
The Coogs picked up another commit for the class of 2017 last night, this one from 3-star tight end Devin Miller from Metuchen High School in New Jersey. Miller is ranked as the #24 tight end in the nation by 247Sports and also had an offer from Rutgers. Good to see the H-Town Takeover going nationwide!
CFN annually ranks the best “Hoops & Helmets” programs which is a ranking of how strong a school’s basketball and football programs are combined. Houston’s 2016 football opener opponent Oklahoma ranks high, for example, since both their basketball and football teams both recently had final four finishes.
CFN predicts the Coogs will finish #6 in their “Hoops and Helmets” rankings for 2016-17 due to excellent coaching from Tom Herman and Kelvin Sampson. From the article:
It’s a very good time to be a Cougar, thanks in large part to two outstanding coaches.
With Tom Herman and Kelvin Sampson piloting football and basketball, respectively, the future is bright for Houston athletics. Herman has a Heisman-contending quarterback, Greg Ward Jr., and a realistic shot of running the table one year after going 13-1. Sampson is building something special at Hofheinz Pavilion.
He inherited a team in disrepair two years ago, but went 22-10 last season and returns guards Rob Gray and Damyean Dotson from that emerging squad.