ON THE FIELD

An early look: 2018 UH football preview

Ed Oliver is back and will be a big factor for UH. Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

In 2017 with first year head coach Major Applewhite at the helm, the Houston Cougars finished with a record of 7-5, which includes a tough season-ending loss to Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl. Though the Cougars season did hold the same level of success experienced at the end of the Tom Herman era, fans were pleased to see UH remain competitive, and should be optimistic heading into 2018. Yes, Applewhite inherited a talented squad from Herman, but we should not overlook the fact that he led his team to a bowl game appearance in his first season as a head coach, while also doing it with an inexperienced sophomore quarterback in D’Eriq King. There seems to be a bright future for the new regime in Houston, with plenty more room to grow.

The Cougars will return in 2018 with a large collection of new faces after losing six defensive starters, and multiple key contributing playmakers on offense.

When examining the offensive side of the ball, there a few particular players who held major roles that the Cougars will have to hope they can replace. Starting in the backfield, the Cougars will return in 2018 without lead running back Duke Catalon, who finished last season with just under 700 yards rushing and 8 touchdowns. Though only a junior, Catalon left the program for personal reasons, and has left UH’s backfield with a giant hole to fill. To add to the departure of Catalon, Houston will also have to find replacements for their top two receivers in 2017, seniors Linell Bonner and Steven Dunbar, who combined for a total of 1,900 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns in 2017. Each of the players provided versatile playmaking skills that the Cougars leaned on heavily. Needless to say, Coach Applewhite and the Cougars’ offense will have a serious challenge ahead of them with the loss of their three biggest offensive weapons.

Turning our attention to the defensive side of the ball, it could be argued that the Cougars will have even more work cut out for them to rebuild. Houston will have to replace six total starters in 2018 after losing multiple players from each position group, all of which were experienced seniors. Their biggest losses come in the form of senior linebackers D’juan Hines and Matthew Adams. Hines and Adams were the top two leading tacklers for the Cougars in 2017, and set the tone for Houston’s aggressive defense. Not only will UH have to worry about replacing their leading tacklers, they will also have to look to replace senior safety Terrell Williams, who was not only fourth on the team in tackles behind defensive lineman Ed Oliver, but also hauled in four interceptions.

Despite some glaring losses on each side of the ball for the Cougars, there are definite reasons to remain optimistic. Offensively, the Cougars welcome back their 2017 leader, now junior quarterback D’Eriq King. Though you cannot overlook the loss of King’s most experienced and reliable weapons, it will be easier for the Cougars to develop new talent and continue to produce offensively with King leading the huddle.

Defensively, much like on the other side of the ball, the Coogs will have to find new key players to rely on. The Cougars will at least have some sense of security in the form of junior defensive lineman Oliver, who has been a cornerstone in Houston’s defense since 2016. Houston can trust that Oliver will at least be an example for their younger and less experienced defensive starters as they learn what it takes to win on the collegiate level.

As for head coach Major Applewhite’s first recruiting class, he was able to land 11 three-star athletes. This might not sound like anything special, but for a first-year coach, Applewhite will have a collection of players with potential to build around in the near future, or in the least be able to maintain the standard of success in Houston.

In 2018, you can expect the Cougars to remain competitive once again but not all things will be pretty. Coach Applewhite will not only have to find and develop his new and inexperienced starters on both sides of the ball, but he will also have to work hard to make sure they can grasp and execute his offensive and defensive systems. Be confident in the Cougars but be patient as well. There is a lot this team will have to overcome, but I strongly believe it will be just a matter of time until Applewhite has this team back in the national spotlight.

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Houston is falling down the rankings

Tigers pound Odorizzi, Astros with homers as Houston drops fourth in a row

The Astros have not looked great in their last four games. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After watching their hot start of 6-1 cool down to a 6-4 record with three straight losses, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night, looking to do a better job at home against a beatable Tigers team.

Recent games' woes would continue, though, with Houston's pitching getting blasted by the opposing offense and their own bats primarily quiet.

Final Score: Tigers 8, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-5, tied for second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Matthew Boyd (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (0-1)

Astros score first, then Tigers unload on Odorizzi

Houston looked to have something brewing in the bottom of the second, with three singles in the first four batters of the inning, the third an RBI-single by Myles Straw to put the Astros in front 1-0. However, Matthew Boyd would limit the damage, getting back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.

After two easy innings for Jake Odorizzi in his regular-season debut for his new team, he would allow a game-tying solo homer to Akil Baddoo, his fourth of the year, in the top of the third. Detroit struck again in the top of the fourth, getting a leadoff double to set up a two-run go-ahead home run to jump ahead 3-1.

They didn't stop there, getting another two-run bomb later in the same inning; a frame that would take Odorizzi 31 pitches to get only one out before Houston would bring in Bryan Abreu to get the last two outs. Odorizzi's final line in his debut: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 0 BB, 4 K, 80 P.


Detroit continues home run parade, Houston loses fourth in a row

Abreu would hope to do what Luis Garcia did the night before, eat up as many innings as possible after a poor outing from Houston's starter. The Tigers would get yet another two-run homer, though, in the top of the fifth, extending their lead to 7-1, with all seven runs coming over a three-inning span. For good measure, they'd knock one more out with two outs in the top of the ninth, making it 8-1.

As far as Houston at the plate, other than their string of hits to bring in a run earlier in the second, they were getting nothing done against Boyd, who would go six and two-thirds innings. Detroit's bullpen would finish things off, despite an all-too-late sac fly by the Astros in the bottom of the ninth, with Houston dropping their fourth-straight game and continuing to lose ground in the division.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set with Detroit will be an hour earlier on Wednesday, getting underway at 6:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will try to maintain his perfect record and improve upon his two five-inning one-run starts for the Astros, going opposite of Michael Fulmer (0-0, 2.57 ERA) for the Tigers.

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