Post game analysis: East Carolina

(jimmyschofield) #1

Game 9 post game analysis: East Carolina
By: Jimmy Schofield

photo courtesy

Behind an explosive offense and an opportunistic defense, your Houston Cougars became bowl eligible for a fifth consecutive season with a convincing 52-17 victory over the East Carolina Pirates Saturday afternoon at TDECU Stadium on homecoming. breaks down all three phases of the game.


The offense could best be described as explosive and efficient in gaining 472 total yards (330 passing, 142 rushing) in just 20-minutes of possession time. Against a putrid ECU defense, one would figure offensive coordinator Brian Johnson would try to establish the run game first then hit the Pirates deep via play-action. The opposite occurred when quarterback D’Eriq King went deep on their very first play from scrimmage. That pass to wide receiver Linell Bonner was a tad overthrown, but little else went wrong as King completed 15-of-21 passes for 330 yards with 3 TD’s in his first official start. By my unofficial count, King completed 5-of-7 deep passes (balls over 20 yards in the air), for 209 yards and a TD. And that’s not including a 75-yard TD to Steven Dunbar that came on a simple 10-yard slant. Those YAC (yards after the catch) yards are because King placed the ball so well his receivers didn’t have to break stride after catching them.

The confidence Johnson and head coach Major Applewhite showed in their quarterback was refreshing, and rewarded as King beautifully placed the ball whether it was a comeback, a crossing pattern, a back-shoulder fade or a deep post. I also noticed King throwing over the middle more than Kyle Postma did.
His receivers also rewarded him as Bonner came up with 147 yards on 7 receptions and a TD from the slot. Dunbar had a career day with 6 grabs for 171 yards and a score from his outside spot. He also had a beautiful over the shoulder reception for 40 yards and a 32 yarder on a back-shoulder fade. Courtney Lark had just one catch, but it went for a TD on a 5-yard slant in the second quarter. Tight end Romello Brooker had a catch for 7 yards to round out the receiving. The wideouts also did a nice job on blocking on the perimeter when King went to the quick passing screen game.

With King able to connect deep early on, the offensive line of Jarrid Williams, Braylon Jones, Will Noble, Marcus Oliver and Na’Ty Rogers did a fantastic job blocking the interior and perimeter in their inside and outside zone run schemes. Williams particularly did a nice job clearing out the edge on the left side in his first career start. Rogers left in the third with an injury, so Oliver moved over to replace him as Mason Denley took over at right guard.

Duke Catalon rushed for 77 yards on 9 carries including a nice 22-yard TD in which he started left, cut back and exploded through the hole untouched. Mulbah Car ran for 29 physical yards on 8 carries and TD. The sophomore also made a nice kick-out block on a quarterback power run by King for a 3-yard TD. The Manvel product rushed for 14 yards on just 3 carries, including an 11 yarder on a zone read option keeper. Davion Mitchell showed he’s not afraid to run inside despite his size on his 2 carries, for 6 yards while Patrick Carr rushed for 16 yards on 4 carries to close out the game.


As aggressive as the play calling was for the offense, it was quite the opposite for the defense. That has to do with injuries, and point blank; a lack of talent. Without a bonafide pass rusher that can effectively pressure the quarterback and a lack of a shut-down corner, defensive cornerback Mark D’Onofrio must try to manufacture a pass rush via stunts and delayed blitzes off 3 and 4-man base fronts.

The cornerback quartet of Isaiah Johnson (2 pass breakups), Jeremy Winchester (3 tackles), Alexander Myres (a PBU) and Joeal Williams (7 tackles) were playing such soft coverage it was simple pitch-and-catch for East Carolina quarterback Gardner Minshew, who completed 52-of-68 passes for 463 yards with 3 TD’s in reserve of Thomas Sirk (2-for-6, 5 yards). The strategy of playing a soft zone only worked because the back end tackled decently in space, holding ECU receivers to just 8.9 yards-per-catch. It also allowed safeties Terrell Williams (5 solo tackles) and Brandon McDowell to sit back and read the QB’s eyes as they both intercepted passes after breaking on routes, leading to 14 points. McDowell had his best game of the season in extended playing time with a few hard hits over the middle (3 tackles) and a 75-yard “pick-6.” The secondary wasn’t helped with the absence of nickel back Khalil Williams not playing due to an ankle injury, Johnson leaving due to a arm/shoulder injury (though he later returned), and free safety Garrett Davis (5 solo tackles) playing limited time due to a lingering shoulder issue.

With limited blitzing, the down linemen and linebackers held ECU to just 36 rushing yards on 29 carries. It helped that the Pirates didn’t even try their first inside run until early in the second quarter of course. With inside linebacker Matt Adams (3 solo stops) still limited by knee and ankle issues, Austin Robinson continues to have his number called at an outside spot and he responded, leading the D with 12 total tackles (7 solo), including 1.5 for loss. D’Juan Hines added 7 tackles and a TFL from an inside spot while Emeke Egbule continues to fly all over the field from his outside spot with 6 tackles, a TFL and a fumble recovery. Youngster Leroy Godfrey will continue seeing more reps from his outside spot as he was second with 8 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and a sack.

Even cut blocks and chips couldn’t stop Ed Oliver (3 solo stops and a TFL) from clogging the interior which is exactly what he and fellow down linemen Nick Thurman, Reggie Chevis (3 tackles), Jerard Carter (a hurry), Aymiel Fleming (3 tackles), Payton Turner (pass deflection) and Zach Vaughn did, allowing the linebackers to clean up.

Special Teams

Dane Roy continues his solid punting this season as he averaged 48 yards on his 3 punts as the coverage team didn’t allow a return. Caden Novikoff connected on a 44-yard field goal but had just 3 touchbacks on 9 kickoffs as the kick coverage teams allowed 5 kickoffs for a 23.4 yard average. McDowell didn’t have a punt or kick return as he’s become increasingly important this season.

Over all it was a great day at TDECU Stadium. The offense will continue to grow with King taking all the practice reps at QB while the defense still has a lot to improve on during the off-week. Applewhite saying as much after the game as he talked about “assignment and technique” errors from his secondary. The Coogs return to the gridiron Saturday November 18 in the Big Easy against Tulane. Stay logged into for all the latest news and a game preview next week.

2017 UH Pre- and Postgame Analysis by Jimmy Schofield
(G.W.) #2

How about on 3rd down get the CB up into the chest of the WR and not give him a free release EVERY SINGLE TIME.

That has nothing to do with injuries or talent and everything about being aggressive. Letting these guys pitch and catch without any CB pressure is ridiculous.

We were HOPING they would screw up. And they did. But this team is 2-6. When this team was Memphis they just scored at will.

The way D’nofrio runs this D takes the DL out of the Pass D game. You cannot pressure a QB when he flips the ball out as soon as he catches it because the DBs are giving a free pass to the WRs.

(jimmyschofield) #3

It is disheartening to realize opposing QB’s basically have a first down every play due to such soft coverage, but I’m sure if D’Onofrio had confidence in our corners he’d play them in man much more. It doesn’t help that we can’t get to the QB without blitzing. Putting the corners on islands would get them burned deep, instead of the “dink and dunk” strategy. Of course we’ve been getting burned in all three zones; in the flats, intermediate and deep. Smh

(G.W.) #4

You don’t need to put them on an island. But on 3rd and 5 you can try to run press coverage with safety help. Get into their chest for a second and at least make the QB have to look to find an open receiver.

Right now every receiver is open for 7 yards at the snap of the ball.

(Patrick) pinned #6

(Chris) #7

Thank you for the comments/analysis Jimmy.
I looked back at the Rice analysis just to “back pedal” a few weeks.

Call me cynical but in fairness we have to ask this question. Have we seen this type of performance before against a badly Coached defense? Pump fake me once but pump fake me four times with the same play?
Kudos to our offense for keeping on calling the same play over and over. ECU is going to have a hard time in the film room. Let’s keep building on the playbook please. I saw some improvements and some set backs on offense. We still have a ton to correct. For once I would like to see in some situations Postma back as a WR or even T.E. Our Defense played great then the “chain came off the derailleur” I frankly do not understand it. Was it adjustments, subbing players, injuries what was it? It has been a trend. We play great at times on defense and then we go dormant for a long stretch of times. Sometimes we come out of it and sometimes we never wake up. What matters is that for two weeks now we have King evolving and becoming better and a better passer. Let’s put four solid quarters together on both side of the ball. That’s our goal for the rest of the season. That is the only way to find out if we are improving.

(Mark Shapiro) #8

What setbacks did you see on offense? We basically scored at will. We put up 52 points in 20 minutes. That sounds like the best offensive performance of the season if you ask me.

(Chris) #9

Even though the numbers prove otherwise we still had some dropped passes that should not happen. King played great but he knows that he has two throws that he would like back. We are not nearly as effective as we should be in this offense with our bubble screens. We had some bad alignments from our OL that stopped the run before it even started. This has been a problem all season. Timing is critical. I am not being negative I am being objective. There is always room to improve but it is noticeable when we make the same mistakes over and over. That is what the film room is for. We become much better from repetition. It is not sexy but it wins games. I will tell you again that I see a foundation being laid. It is obvious that we have offensively a much better “Timing” with King at the helm. Let it continue and improve from it. We won handily against Rice then what? No offense to ECU but winning with great fundamentals against Tulane and Navy will tell us a lot more about our entire Team.

(Mark Shapiro) #10

I see where you’re coming from. There was only 1 dropped pass that I can remember and it was from the usual suspect. I also agree that our WR blocking on screens make me want to throw up. I don’t know enough about OL alignment to agree or disagree.


What we are seeing from the DB’s this year is exactly what we were told to expect from the fans who warned us about D’Onofrio when Applewhite hired him. He’s a typical east coast/B10 style coach who prefers zone defenses and 4 man defensive fronts with linebackers 5 yards off the ball.

He is what we thought he was.

But you can’t succeed defensively with that style against speed offenses, unless you have Alabama/Ohio State talent. What worked brilliantly for him as the DC at Temple under Al Golden, failed miserably when Golden took the job in Miami. And it will fail him here, unless Major forces him to make some changes in his style.

(PMM) #12

Spot on !!