Lost season

As UH loses another game, Applewhite and his staff deserve more scrutiny

Major Applewhite's first season at UH is not going well. Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

The Houston Cougars lost their third game of the season Thursday night, blowing several big leads in a 42-38 setback against Memphis.

When Major Applewhite was hired, the joke was that “we fire coaches for going 8-4,” a reference to Tony Levine, who was dismissed after just such a mark.

What about 6-5? What will they do then?

People forget Levine’s recruits -- many who litter the NFL -- helped Tom Herman land the Texas job, and eventually got Applewhite the UH gig. That’s not to say Levine should not have been fired; there is no way they would have gone 13-1 with him at the helm. But Applewhite deserves the same scrutiny.

I believe Applewhite will be a good coach. But part of being a good coach is hiring the right people. Levine made one bad offensive coordinator hire after another and stubbornly stuck with John O’Korn at quarterback when he had a much better option with Greg Ward, Jr. It cost him his job.

Applewhite made a bad hire with his defensive coordinator. Mark D'Onofrio was a terrible DC at Miami. Before that, he was awful at Temple. He had been out of work for a year when Applewhite called him. It was a baffling hire at the time and looks worse now.

Last week, his defense was riddled by a bad Tulsa team. Thursday night, it gave up 42 points in the second half alone.  They did not get ONE stop in the half. A team with the defensive talent UH has should never do that. Memphis made adjustments at halftime and their offense looked like a video game in the second half. UH never adjusted.

Applewhite has to realize the hire was a mistake and learn from that. If he does not fix it fast, it could be a fatal mistake. Hiring a guy with a track record of failure -- and then watching him fail some more -- is unacceptable. UH fans should demand better. They have seen this act with Levine.

Oh, and the Cougars QB situation is also a mess, but they were going to miss Ward no matter what. He was a terrific college quarterback. Kyle Postma is a nice backup thrust into a starter’s role. He played poorly at Tulsa and was OK against Memphis, although his late turnovers doomed any comeback attempt. The Kyle Allen experiment was just as big a failure as it was at A&M. And maybe, just maybe, Applewhite making the same mistake as Levine by not giving D’Eriq King a chance.

Applewhite also made a bad call late in the game by not going for it on fourth and short and instead trusting a defense that did not have a stop in the second half. Did we mention that?

And things could get much worse. 

The Cougars get South Florida next and still have Navy on the schedule. At 4-3, they are likely staring at a 6-5 finish, 7-4 at best. They are probably lucky the UTSA game was canceled or they could have conceivably finished 6-6. They have way too much talent on the roster for that kind of season.

We have seen this act before in Levine era. If Applewhite is to succeed, it has to start with firing D'Onofrio and finding a competent replacement. If not? The Cougars will waste another year of Ed Oliver next season, and will be looking for a new coach. Again.

Of course,  I hear Levine is available.

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Texans fall to Browns. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans kept it closer than the experts thought they would, but couldn't pull out a victory. Here are 11 observations from the loss in Cleveland to the Browns.

1. The game looks totally different if Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor finishes the game. Taylor left at halftime with a hamstring injury. He was playing exceptionally well against his former team. Taylor is not expected to play Thursday according to NFL Network.

2. Davis Mills had a rocky NFL debut which was to be expected. Mills looked to have the wrong elements of a few plays. He also couldn't hit backup wideout Andre Roberts over the middle and threw an interception. It was a fine performance considering what Mills showed he could do in the preseason.

3. Mills didn't work with a full load of offensive weapons in the second half. Rookie wideout Nico Collins didn't return to the game after his lone catch and big run early in the game. Veteran slot receiver Danny Amendola left the game with an injury. Tight end Anthony Auclair left with an eye injury. The Texans entered the game without wide receiver Anthony Miller who was inactive.

4. Brandin Cooks is a monster through two games. He is the most dangerous skill position player on the team, and defenses still have trouble covering him and staying with him. Cooks turned in yet another impressive day for this team and hauled in a Davis Mills touchdown pass.

5. The Browns did a solid job against the ground game of the Texans. Mark Ingram averaged under three yards per carry and Tyrod Taylor was the only rusher to have a big play on the ground. This led to a fair number of third-and-long situations which the Texans usually had trouble converting.

6. Justin Reid was set to increase his payday on his next contract with his early play. Reid forced a fumble and had an interception in the first half. Unfortunately, Reid would leave the game multiple times with injuries. The knock on Reid has always been his health.

7. The Texans were worn down by the Browns rushing attack all day. Once Cleveland committed to the run they saw the success of their work culminating in a 26-yard scamper by Nick Chubb for a touchdown. The Browns didn't run as much as I excepted them to run early.

8. Tim Kelly had another nice day calling plays. Kelly remains creative in finding ways to get the ball out of Taylor's hands quickly as well as manufacturing matchups where the Texans can win and pick up yards. He even got creative to get Davis Mills a passing touchdown late in the game. Kelly has been very impressive through two games.

9. Andre Roberts was inexcusably bad today. The Texans defense held on the opening drive and his muffed punt eliminated the momentum from the defensive stand. He also had poor returns on kickoffs. His lone job is to be a solid returner, and he failed at that on Sunday.

10. David Culley had a head-scratching decision foregoing an offsides call on a third down. The head coach opted for the result of the third down, and a punt on fourth down, instead of another third down. He did not explain himself well postgame on the decision either.

11. The Texans hung tough and should feel solid about where they could have been without the injury to their quarterback. With no Taylor in the short week, it will not be easy to beat the Panthers who upset the Saints on Sunday.

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