HOUSTON, TEXAS – We’ve seen two kick-sixes, as they happened. One live on TV and one live in the stadium. Both were equally boneheaded moves by the coach trying the field goal, but the first one was a lot more amusing than the second. Houston’s kick-six against the Sooners broke open a two-point game in NRG Stadium yesterday as Houston upset Oklahoma 33-23, in a game that wasn’t as close as the score. Indeed, a goal-line fumble in garbage time by Houston was the only thing that really kept it from being a 40-17 blowout.
The 109-1/2 yard TD return in the third quarter was set up when the Sooners couldn't manage to get the right personnel on the field to try a 53-yard field goal and had to call a time out as a result. This allowed Houston to set up for the long try and station a returner under the goal post. Meanwhile, Austin Siebert took a false step on his approach – he basically started early. That threw off the rhythm of the kick and resulted in it being just short. The Sooner field goal team was as inept at tackling as Alabama’s 2013 team. Indeed, as soon as we saw the returner coming out of the end zone with the ball, we knew we were in deep trouble.
Strangely enough, although the Sooner defense was shredded in the first half, allowing Houston to score on every possession, they only gave up one touchdown. This was particularly surprising given how the Sooner cornerbacks were abused by Houston’s receivers. Meanwhile, Baker Mayfield hit his first 12 passes, and the Sooner offense was basically carving up the Cougars. If you had told us that the Sooner defense would get untracked and only allow 77 yards and one TD in the second half, we’d have told you OU won the game by double-digits.
In the event, that’s exactly what happened, except for the winning part. Unfortunately, as the Sooner defense got things going, the Sooner offense sputtered through the second half. Sooner receivers couldn’t seem to get open and Mayfield seemed to hold the ball too long much of the time, resulting in sacks. After the kick-six put Houston up 9, a fumble on the next possession led to the only Cougar offensive touchdown of the second half, and the Sooners were scrambling after that.
Frankly, this was the wrong year to play this game in week 1. If this game is played two weeks from now, you likely see a different result. This team needed a patsy or two to work out the kinks of losing most of the linebacker corp and breaking in new secondary guys and some new offensive linemen. But, Joe Castiglione’s scheduling policy has worked up until now, and he shouldn't change it. Besides, when this game was scheduled, it looked like a patsy game.
Houston is very, very good, to be sure. They may end up the best team we play all year. Certainly, the best team won on Saturday. But the season is far from lost, although there is no margin for error. An 11-1 Sooner team in December will look far better to the playoff committee with this loss than last year’s team looked with a loss to sad-sack Texas, especially if Houston goes 13-0 and wins the American. At this point, however, much like last season, our confidence in running the table from here is less than strong. Indeed, we would be more likely to predict Houston to run the table than the Sooners.
Stranger things have happened. A huge opportunity awaits in two weeks against Ohio State. This team, at home in a newly renovated stadium, with a loud home crowd behind them and two more weeks of practice under their belt may look very different from the one we saw in Houston. For everyone’s sake, they had better.
The game experience itself was nice enough – wifi in the stadium and good seats. Afterward there were a few boneheads – a couple of UH students chanting “OU Sucks” right in our ear while walking out of the stadium. We shut them up quickly by turning, patting one on the shoulder, and congratulating him on a good game. Works every time.
All in all, though, other than the game, it was a fine weekend in Houston. We spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon watching football with relatives in Sugar Land, then partook of a private NASA tour, including sitting in the Apollo Mission Control flight director’s chair, courtesy of a fellow Sooner who happens to run the Spaceflight Meteorology Group there. After that, a nice Sunday afternoon at the beach in Galveston, followed by barbecue and watching a very entertaining Texas-Notre Dame game, which is currently at the half.
All is not lost, and we expect to see you Saturday night in Norman.