Stephen Dunn

Houston vs. SMU: Turnovers create Mustang upset, David Piland out with concussion

Everything went wrong for Houston on Thursday night - David Piland suffered a concussion, the Cougars couldn't hold onto the ball and SMU was ready to score the upset.

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David PIland day-to-day with concussion

Houston starting quarterback is officially listed as day-to-day after suffering a concussion against SMU.

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SMU Blows Out Coogs In Record Fashion

We called it a measuring stick game when Houston traveled up the road to Dallas to take on SMU on Thursday evening. And the Mustangs used that stick to give the Cougars a whipping of epic proportions. Both SMU and Houston set records in a 72-42 Pony victory - SMU for points scored, UH for points allowed.

The Cougars now sit at 3-4 on the year, with a 2-1 mark in Conference USA play. They still control their destiny in C-USA's west division, but barring a miracle turnaround, they will not factor into the conference race. And make no mistake, it has little to nothing to do with all of the talented players that Houston graduated last year.

Let's reiterate that last sentence, because it's important. Every program has years where they lose a stacked class to graduation, and struggle the following year. And while there are certainly plenty of talented players that are sorely missed for the Cougars right now, that is not their issue.

Poor preparation is their issue. And that falls 100% on the coaching staff.

Both the defensive and offensive lines returned mostly intact from last year. And despite some nice showings against the three previous cupcakes on the schedule, both lines continue to get dominated by good teams. Both have regressed measurably since last year.

The secondary returned most of its key players from last year, as well. Yet it continues to blow coverages and give up huge plays. On Thursday (with no help from an impotent pass rush) it made Garrett Gilbert, statistically the worst quarterback in the country, look like Davey O'Brien.

Arm tackling, leading to missed tackles, leading to big plays for the opposition, was a huge issue on Thursday, and has been a staple of the Cougar defense this year. It's one of the big reasons that Houston is giving up 13 more points per game than they did last year.

Offensively, the inability to hold onto the football has been inexcusable. The Cougar receiving corps, while young, has shown plenty of ability to run routes, get open, and make plays once they have the ball in their hands. What they haven't shown is the ability to consistently catch the football. And even when Houston does catch a pass, their three fumbles on Thursday gives them more fumbles lost (10) than they had all of last season.

Special teams were the worst offenders on Thursday. Expected to be a strength under head coach Tony Levine (a former special teams coordinator) and Jamie Christian, who came in with a very strong resume, the Cougar special teams ran one return man after the other out there, hoping to find somebody who could a) catch the ball, and b) not fumble it after he caught it. The one or two times that it actually happened, the rest of the team couldn't complete c) don't commit a holding penalty to back your team way up next to its own goal line.

Of course, the members of the special teams are hardly the only Cougars showing their lack of preparation and discipline in the penalty department. The Cougars are giving up 13 more penalty yards per game than last year. That's not always the most upsetting statistic, as long as you're committing penalties of being too aggressive within the framework of the game. But the myriad false starts and personal fouls that the Cougars have been stuck with all year long are indicative of a team that's just not being prepared well enough to play football.

The Cougar faithful (in their ever-dwindling numbers) had hoped that the 0-3 start would be a wake-up call for the team before conference play came around. But the alarm clock is ringing, and the Cougars have still yet to answer the bell.

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Houston head coach calls SMU loss 'embarrassing'

The Cougars turned the ball over nine times to the Mustangs and allowed the most points in the history of the football program.

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SMU 59 Houston 28 after three quarters

After scoring two straight touchdowns to end the second quarter, SMU forced a fumble on the opening kickoff of the third quarter and recovered it for a touchdown to extend its halftime lead to 35-14 in the opening seconds of the second half.

Houston starting quarterback David Piland did not play in the third quarter as he left the game after SMU's Taylor Reed intercepted him for a six-yard defensive score to put Mustangs up 28-14 at halftime.

Piland passed for 181 yards on 15-of-25 passing in the first half with two interceptions before leaving the game.

Bram Kohlausen opened the third quarter for Houston and went 2-for-7 for 13 yards and two interceptions, including one to SMU's Darrien Wright who returned it 10 yards for the Mustangs' second defensive touchdown of the game to extend their lead to 45-14.

Kohlausen was replaced in the the game by Crawford Jones who led Houston to 14 answered points on touchdown passes to Charles Sims and Daniel Spencer to cut SMU's lead to 45-28 with 5:04 left in the third quarter.

The Mustangs scored the final 14 points of the fourth quarter on Garrett Gilbert's third and fourth touchdown passes of the game to extend their lead to 59-28 after three quarters.

Houston has turned the ball over eight times through three quarters.

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David Piland out with concussion

Houston quarterback David Piland is being tested for a concussion.

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Houston vs. SMU score: SMU 28 Houston 14 at half

After falling behind to SMU 14-7 early, Houston scored at the onset of the second quarter on a two-yard touchdown run by Charlie Sims that concluded a 10-play, 72-yard drive that carried over from the first quarter, tying the game 14-14.

Sims has 11 carries for 28 yards and two touchdowns so far on the night.

The game remained tied for most of the second quarter before SMU exploded for two touchdowns in 37 seconds late in the half to take a 28-14 lead at the break.

Garrett Gilbert threw his second touchdown pass of the game, this time to Jeremy Johnson for 18 yards to put SMU back up by a touchdown, 21-14, with 1:40 left in the second quarter.

On the ensuing Houston possession, Taylor Reed intercepted David Piland and returned the pick-six for SMU's second touchdown of the second quarter and gave the Mustangs at 14-point lead at the end of the half.

PIland passed for 181 yards on 15-of-25 passing in the first half, but also threw two interceptions.

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SMU 14, Houston 7 after first quarter

The Houston Cougars are attempting to stay undefeated in conference play, but find themselves down 14-7 to the SMU Mustangs after one quarter.

SMU opened the scoring on a Garrett Gilbert eight yard touchdown pass to Darius Johnson to put the Mustangs up 7-0.

Houston answered on an 11-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by Charlie Sims to tie the game at 7-7 with 8:22 left in the first quarter.

The Mustangs answered right back on the ensuing offensive possession as they went 75 yards in eight plays, ending with a Zach Line touchdown run of 12 yards and giving SMU the 14-7 lead after one quarter.

Houston is 3-3 and 2-0 in conference play while SMU has a 2-4 record overall and is 1-1 in conference play this season. Both Houston and SMU trail 4-0 Tulsa for first place in the Conference USA West standings. Tulsa plays Rice this Saturday.

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Cougars offensive coordinator fueling win streak

In the five games since the Cougars handed play-calling duties to Bush, Houston is averaging 575.6 yards per game

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Cougars need to stop SMU's Zach Line

SMU back Zach Line 'one of the best,' Tony Levine says

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Have Coogs Come Far Enough To Handle Mustangs?

Since a catastrophic opening of the season that saw the Houston Cougars struggle to an 0-3 record, Tony Levine's squad has quietly climbed back to respectability. As they head up to SMU on Thursday, the Coogs sport a 3-3 record, including an all-important 2-0 mark in Conference USA play.

But after getting back to .500 against three relatively weak squads, the difficulty knob gets turned up a little in Dallas. The Mustangs were expected to be part of a three-way race for the C-USA west title this year along with UH and Tulsa, but things haven't worked out that way for June Jones' team. They lost their first two games against FCS opponents by a combined score of 107-27. Things started looking up after a respectable showing against rival TCU, and a road shutout victory over UTEP, but then came a stunning 27-26 loss to perennial cellar-dweller Tulane.

The SMU defense has come and gone, but the startling aspect of how the Mustangs have played is the absence of any sort of real offensive threat. Highly-touted quarterback transfer Garrett Gilbert has thrown for 11 interceptions, tied for the highest mark in the country. His 4.99 yards per pass attempt ranks dead last among FBS passers. (Ironically, second-to-last in that category is Sean Schroeder of Jones' former school, Hawaii.) Bruising running back Zach Line, who averaged 6.0 yards per carry and ran for 27 touchdowns as a sophomore and junior, has been held to just 4.7 yard per rush, and has found the end zone only three times in six games, largely thanks to an offensive line that suffered massive losses to graduation.

And let's not forget that Houston has won six straight contests against SMU, including all four in Jones' tenure as head coach. Interestingly, the only time that the Mustangs have managed to stay within three scores of the Coogs during that streak was during their 1-11 campaign in Jones' first season.

So wait, SMU is struggling and Houston has their number...is this really still a measuring stick game for Houston? Doesn't this look more like a creampuff of a game, ala Rice, UNT and UAB?

Not necessarily. As we've previously mentioned, Houston tends to struggle in games that it seems like it "should" win. And despite the Mustangs' struggles, there is talent on the SMU squad. If the Coogs don't dominate in the trenches (something they've done the last couple of games, but something that has rarely been the case in recent years), then the Ponies could see a resurgence in their offense. Zach Line is still Zach Line, and Gilbert will hit an open receiver now and then if he's not under pressure.

David Piland will need to have a good game, the Cougar receivers will need to continue their new-found ability to not drop passes, and a fourth-straight 100-yard rushing game from Charles Sims would certainly help. But the game will ultimately come down to that one match-up: Houston's front seven against SMU's offensive line. If Gilbert and Line are running for their lives all day, this is a blowout. If they have enough room to get comfortable, this game is going to be a lot closer than the Cougar faithful would like.

That's what makes this game - against a team that's talented, but that the Cougars should beat - such an interesting measuring stick of how far UH has come since the season-opening...well, you know.

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SMU QB Garrett Gilbert starting slow in offense

Houston will try to further delay SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert's improvement in his new offense on Thursday night.

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