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 loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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