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Kevin Sumlin Gave Up

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A bold title, and the strong words I'm about to write, demand a huge prefacing statement. I am a huge Kevin Sumlin fan. He has done great things for the University of Houston. Recruiting and fan support are at their highest points in recent memory, and Sumlin and staff deserve a huge amount of credit for that.

I'm not calling for Sumlin to be fired. Quite the opposite. There may not be another coach in the country I'd trade him for.

But being a fan doesn't mean turning a blind eye when somebody makes a mistake. And boy, did the Cougar coaching staff screw up big time against UCLA on Saturday.

A lot of bad things happened in that game. Case Keenum's college career came to an end. I'm doing my best to come to terms with that.

The Cougars lost badly, ending any dreams of a BCS-busting season. I'm at peace with that. I'm looking forward to a new lease on life, cheering for a young quarterback, and having lessened expectations for my team.

My vehicle broke down on the ride back from Pasadena, and after a ride in a tow truck, I had to spend a night in a seven-seat SUV with seven other people, waiting for a mechanic to open in the morning, in backwoods Sonora, Texas. I can laugh about that now.

But what continues to eat at me this week is the way that Sumlin gave up on the game this past weekend.

You could argue that the coaching staff's insistence of having Terrance Broadway continually hand the ball off instead of actually - oh, I don't know - letting him put together a comeback attempt, was a de facto white flag. But maybe overextending the true freshman in a game that was, in all probability, out of reach, would hurt his confidence. So I'll gloss over that one. Even so, here are three situations that came off as indefensible:

Exhibit A: With just over four minutes left in the third quarter, Houston trails 31-3. They face a fourth-and-three situation, near midfield. The obvious choice: to go for it. What Sumlin did: punted.

Exhibit B: Six and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter, Houston trails 31-10 and faces fourth-and-12 from the UCLA 14-yard line. The obvious choice: go for it. If you can dial up a touchdown pass, suddenly you're a defensive stop, touchdown, onside kick and touchdown away from tying up the game. Is that likely to happen? No. But it's not inconceivable. It's also the only choice to make here, because a field goal doesn't do you one dang bit of good. What Sumlin did: kicked the field goal.

Exhibit C: The ensuing kickoff. Okay, maybe the field goal makes sense if you think you can recover the ensuing onside kick. (It really still doesn't make sense, but I'm trying to give Sumlin the benefit of the doubt, here.) UCLA brings its hands team up field in preparation. What Sumlin did: kicked the ball deep.

All I know is that I miss Dana Holgorsen. Houston's offensive coordinator the last two years, Holgorsen left to take the same position at Oklahoma State this off-season. I don't know if Sumlin or OC Jason Phillips had the final say in the scenarios listed above. But I know this: Holgorsen would've never let it happen.

Since when does the University of Houston play it safe? Since when does this football team take three points to make the final score look more respectable, instead of going out with guns blazing? If you have a chance, even a remote one, to win a football game, you have to take it. You owe that to your players, and your fans.

Instead, Sumlin gave up. That should never happen.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.