Houston Preview 2006
It's corner turning time. The chance will never be better for Houston to win the Conference USA title and have a shot to grow into a bit of a power than this season with a whopping 17 returning starters, good depth on defense, a loaded receiving corps, and a quarterback with 36 starts under his belt.
Depth Chart |
Head coach Art Briles has done a wonderful job of taking the
moribund program and making it competitive enough to play in two
bowl games in the last three seasons, but every time it seems like
the team is at the point of making a big statement, it collapses.
The 2005 team overcame injuries and inexperience at key spots to
have a strong season, but failed to come up with a big win when the
spotlight was on. There was the 44-41 overtime loss to UTEP with QB
Kevin Kolb having as much fun throwing it to the Miners as he did
getting it to his guys. There was the loss to UCF that killed any
dreams of playing for the Conference USA title. And then there was
the complete debacle in the Fort Worth Bowl getting blasted 42-13 by
an average Kansas team.
Head coach: Art Briles
4th year (16-20)
Off. 22, Def. 20, ST 6
Lettermen Lost: 20
Best Cougar Players
1. QB Kevin Kolb, Sr.
2. WR Vincent Marshall, Sr.
3. LB Wade Koehl, Sr.
4. SS Rocky Schwartz, Jr.
5. FS Will Gulley, Sr.
6. OT SirVincent Rogers, Jr.
7. CB Willie Gaston, Sr.
8. LB Brandon Pahulu, Jr.
9. NT Marquay Love, Sr.
10. WR Donnie Avery, Jr.
at Southern Miss
2005 Results: 6-6
2005 predicted wins
Oregon L 38-24
S Houston St
at UTEP L 44-41 2OT
at Tulsa W 30-23
at Tulane W 35-14
at Miss State W 28-16
Fort Worth Bowl
Kansas L 42-13
However, last year might have been what was needed for a big 2006.
Houston played well in a loss to an Oregon team that ended up being on the fringe
of playing in the BCS, beat eventual conference champion Tulsa, won at
Mississippi State, and lost to UTEP, UCF and SMU by a total of ten
points. A veteran team wins those types of close games, and this one has
experience to burn.
It all starts with Kolb, who has the ability to crank out 400 yards of
total offense when he gets hot, but has the knack for throwing interceptions
at the worst times. But that's a recent problem; he's generally a good
decision maker who should go ballistic this year with a receiving corps
that should be the best in the league thanks to the return of Vincent
Marshall and the arrival of Arizona transfer Biren Ealy.
The defense should make an even bigger jump with a linebacking corps and
a secondary that should be among the best in the league, and a front
three that has size and potential with sophomore end Cody Pree and
Phillip Hunt ready to break out.
So now it comes down to how well the team plays in the role as favorite.
UTEP and Tulsa will be good, but Houston should be the preseason
favorite in the West and will have to play like it out of the gate.
There will be plenty of shootouts, plenty of scoring, and plenty of big
plays for good and bad. In the end, the turnaround should be complete.
It's a picnic. The schedule can't be used as an excuse if Houston
doesn't end up playing for the Conference USA title thanks to a beauty
of a three-game home stretch playing UTEP, UCF and Tulsa after the big
road trip to Southern Miss. The regular season ender at Memphis will be
a battle, but a veteran team like the Cougars should be good enough to
pull that off if they play as well as expected. Considering one of the
road games is at Rice, which is right down the road, and one of the
other away dates is in Dallas to play SMU, the road schedule isn't all
that bad. There will be good national tests against Miami and Oklahoma
State. The Cougars can't beat the Canes, but they sure can hang with the
QB Kevin Kolb. The senior has cranked out 9,752 yards of career offense
with 55 touchdown passes and 17 touchdown runs. Considering the talent
he has at receiver to work with, and considering he threw for 3,258
yards last year, a 3,387-yard passing season, which would make him
Conference USA's all-time leading passer, isn't out of reach.
Senior LB Wade Koehl. There are several good defenders on the Cougars
with safeties Rocky Schwartz and Will Gulley also deserving of being
considered the team's best defensive player, but Koehl is the leader of
the D and the main playmaker in the front seven. He's a quick 6-2 and
230 pounds with a nose for getting into the backfield with 26 career
tackles for loss and eight sacks to go along with 262 career tackles.
to a successful season: Sophomore PK Ben Bell and junior PK T.J.
Lawrence. The offense will put up plenty of points and yards, but the
difference between a good, bowl-berth season and a Conference USA title
might come down to the kicking considering Houston lost to UTEP by
three, UCF by two, and SMU by five thanks to two missed field goals.
Lawrence is the long range bomber while Bell is the close range
specialist. The two have to be better than 13 of 22.
will be a success if ... Houston wins the Conference USA title. There won't be the same
mix of starting experience and a favorable schedule for a long time. The
first ten-win season since 1990 is also an attainable goal.
Oct. 14 at Southern Miss. If all goes as planned, Houston will be
5-1 or at worst 4-2 before going to play Southern Miss. A win over the
Golden Eagles would do wonders for the team's confidence before the
critical homestand against UTEP, UCF and Tulsa, while a loss might mean
there can't be a slip over those final three home dates.
The Last Time Houston…
- Houston first quarter scoring: 55. Houston second quarter scoring: 118
- Average yards per pass: Houston 7.7 - Opponents 6.4
- Rushing touchdowns: Houston 23 - Opponents 12
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Fort Worth Bowl v. Kansas)
…missed a bowl game…2004
…pitched a shutout…1999 (UL-Lafayette)
…was shutout…2000 (Texas)
…scored 50 points…2003 (UAB)
…won a conference title…1996 (share, C-USA)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2005 (Kevin Kolb)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Ryan Gilbert)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2004 (Vincent Marshall)
…had a first-round draft choice…1997 (RB Antowain Smith)