UH cranked offense up against Rice with Texas Tech looming

Kyle Allen was never worried. All the mistakes in a close road win against Arizona to begin the season, the University of Houston quarterback said, were “minor and correctable.”

While still very much a work-in-progress, the Cougars showed their offensive potential in Saturday’s 38-3 blowout of Rice. Next up: high-scoring Texas Tech at 11 a.m. Saturday at TDECU Stadium.

Things went so smoothly for the Cougars – taking advantage of three Rice turnovers – that coach Major Applewhite was able to sit Allen early in the third quarter and spend most of the second half evaluating players at key positions.


“I don’t think it was much of a difference,” Allen said when asked about the change from the 19-16 win at Arizona. “That was our first game. We had to get those first-game mistakes out of our way.”

For starters, the Cougars were turnover-free after committing three against Arizona. They also cut down on mistakes, flagged only two times against Rice after piling up 10 for 110 yards in the opener.

Allen did his part, completing 31 of 33 passes for 309 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The 93.9 percent completion percentage set a UH single-game record. Through two games, Allen leads the nation with an 86.2 percent completion rate.

UH rolled to 484 yards of total offense for the game and took control with scores on six straight possessions, five of them touchdowns, in the first half.

After watching practice this week, Applewhite admitted he didn’t expect the offense to be as efficient.

“This week I was on the offensive staff really hard,” he said. “How do we practice like this and score 19 points [against Arizona] and think its OK? They were able to play well and perform well, but our standard and the way we want to practice wasn’t the way it should be.”

With depth at receiver taking a hit with injuries to D’Eriq King (knee) and Ellis Jefferson (concussion/knee), the Cougars need younger players to step up to fill the void. Veterans Linell Bonner (10 catches for 132 yards) and Steven Dunbar (six catches for 57 yards) had usual productive games. Three others tossed their name into contention to be a bigger part of the passing game: John Leday, Keith Corbin and Courtney Lark.

“Those little wideouts, they’re so temperamental,” Applewhite joked. “It was good they all touched the football early and kind of got excited. They’re a good group; they just need to continue to work to get better.”

Another early season priority for the Cougars is finding a No. 3 tailback behind Duke Catalon and Dillon Birden. Mulbah Car, Patrick Carr and Davion Mitchell all got an audition Saturday. Car scored a touchdown and finished with a team-high 11 carries for 59 yards. Mitchell, a true freshman, was stopped at the goal line on fourth down in the third quarter.

Five players made their debuts for the Cougars: defensive end Payton Turner, offensive lineman Dennis Bardwell, offensive lineman Deon Mix, Mitchell and Carr. Turner had a big game with a sack and interception.

After the game Applewhite said he “challenged our 2s … we’re going to need you down the stretch.”

“Competitive experience is very important,” Applewhite said. “It was good to get a bunch of those young guys in and see how they played under the lights.”

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