Houston Football 2013 Bowl Capsule

Houston Cougars


In the first iteration of the American Athletic Conference, the Houston Cougars proved themselves to be serviceable but something not ideal: a bad good team. They won eight games in the regular season. None of the eight came against a ranked opponent, and it is arguable that their neutral site victory over Rice may have been the best one. On the other hand, Houston's four losses all came at the hands of good teams: BYU, UCF, Louisville and Cincinnati. The Cincinnati loss near the end of November was the biggie, as it put the Bearcats in a position to fight for a tie atop the conference and it relegated Houston to afterthought territory, AKA the home of the bad good teams.

2013 Record: 8-4, 5-3
Coach: Tony Levine
Coach Bowl Record: 1-0

Big Wins: 10/26 at Rutgers (49-14), 11/29 SMU (34-0)
Bad Losses: 10/19 BYU (47-46), 11/23 Cincinnati (24-17)

The strength of the Cougars is the same as it has been for years. They are a very good passing offense. Finishing near the top 25 in the nation in passing, Houston tallied 12.26 yards per completion this season. Freshman John O'Korn was the quarterback this season responsible for all the yardage. He threw for a shade under 3000 yards, while tossing 26 touchdowns and only eight picks. Perhaps a far cry from Case Keenum numbers a few years ago, O'Korn handled himself well this season as a freshman starting in the place of last year's QB David Piland, who was forced to end his football career because of multiple concussions. With the passing offense a known commodity, what made Houston a fringe good team this season was its surprising scoring defense. The Cougars finished the year as a top 20 scoring defense nationally. They also led the country in turnovers forced and turnover margin. While they gave the ball away 15 times, Houston nabbed 23 interceptions and recovered 17 fumbles for a +25 on the year. It was the first time in recent memory this team's defensive production approached its offense where things weren't so one-sided.

Balance between offense and defense is good, but balancing each side of the ball is important as well. Houston had a top-level passing offense but could generate nothing consistently running the football. The team's leading rusher, sophomore Ryan Jackson, finished with fewer than 700 yards on the ground. The team as a whole barely averaged four yards per carry. That figure is skewed by the rushing average of O'Korn, who tallied just a net 66 yards for the season, but it is what it is. Similarly, while the scoring defense was good, the total defense was suspect. Houston allowed 420 yards per game to its opponents. 'Bend but don't break' is a common cliché to talk up such a defense, but allowing that much yardage deflates a team's time of possession and offensive effectiveness. It took the elite turnover numbers to prevent this team from wallowing away in the dregs of defensive rankings for another season.

Statistical Leaders:
Rushing: Ryan Jackson, RB, 655 yards
Passing: John O’Korn, QB, 2,889 yards
Receiving: Deontay Greenberry, WR, 1,106 yards
Tackles: Efrem Oliphant, LB, 123
Sacks: Derrick Matthews, LB, 7.0
Interceptions: Adrian McDonald, S, 5

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 138.5 (94th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 284.1 (26, 4)
Total Offense: 422.5 (57, 5)
Scoring Offense: 33.9 (37, 4)
Rushing Defense: 143.8 (36, 8)
Pass Defense: 276.2 (114, 8)
Total Defense: 420.0 (85, 8)
Scoring Defense: 20.2 (16, 3)
Turnover Margin: 2.1 (1, 1)
Sacks: 2.50 (34, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 2.08 (69, 4)

Recent Bowl Appearances:
2011    TicketCity Bowl    Penn State (30-14)
2009    Armed Forces Bowl    Air Force (20-47)
2008    Armed Forces Bowl    Air Force (34-28)
2007    Texas Bowl        TCU (13-20)
2006    Liberty Bowl        South Carolina (36-44)

*all team stats through 11/30


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