HOUSTON COUGARS

Houston loses bowl game, offensive coordinator

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The last week hasn’t gone as well as Houston would have liked. 

The Cougars were demolished in the Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday against Army, losing 70-14. The result tied the most-ever points allowed in a bowl game as well as tying the largest margin.

“Not much to say,” Houston head Major Applewhite said after the bowl game, “I’m just disappointed in the way we coached and played today. (Army) Coach (Jeff) Monken and his players were well-prepared and outplayed us, outcoached us.”

Not long after the historic loss, offensive coordinator Kendal Briles resigned and took the offensive coordinator job at Florida State. The Houston Chronicle reported he was the highest-paid assistant at a non-Power 5 school after agreeing to a three-year deal earlier this season. 

This season was the first with Briles pulling the strings of the offense. Houston averaged nearly 50 points a game and more than 500 yards off total offense. Junior D’Eriq King was putting up video-game like numbers before an injury ended his season in November. 

This season, the Cougars were one of two teams to rank in the top-25 in passing and rushing offense, averaging 295.5 passing yards and 216.8 rushing yards per game to rank 16th and 23rd, respectively. 

“I am incredibly humbled by this opportunity and appreciate (Florida State) Coach (Willie) Taggart’s trust in me,” Briles said in a press release. “I also appreciate him supporting my desire to finish this season at my alma mater by coaching in our bowl game. We both understand what this offense should be, and I have complete confidence in our ability to meet the goals he has for us. Sarah and I are excited to be part of Florida State and are looking forward to integrating ourselves within the Tallahassee and FSU communities.”

The Chronicle reported that run-game coordinator/offensive line coach Randy Clements and a pair of graduate assistants are expected to join Briles at Florida State. 

Applewhite, who is 15-11 with three bowl losses in just over two seasons in charge at Houston, will be replacing both coordinators after Mark D’Onofrio was fired in November. 

The head coach’s job seems to be safe for now.

“Within the last several weeks, we have shown our commitment to our football program under Major with salary increases to specific positions in an attempt to retain his staff for the future,” Houston vice president for athletics Chris Pezman said in a release.

On Saturday, the Army rushing attack put on a show. 

The Black Knights rushed for 507 yards eight touchdowns and had nearly 600 yards of total offense in the game. Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. rushed for 170 yards and five touchdowns and passed for 90 yards. 

Clayton Tune made his second start for the Cougars and there for 230 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 16 yards and a touchdown. Romello Brooker caught four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. Patrick Carr had nine rushes for a team-best 52 yards. 

Consensus All-American and a top draft prospect Ed Oliver skipped the Bowl Game to get ready for the NFL. King traveled with the team to Fort Worth but didn’t appear for the second straight game. 

The Cougars were ranked in the Top 25 for the first time under Applewhite after starting the season 7-1, but dropped four of their final five games. Since climbing to the Top 10 in 2016 under Tom Herman, Houston is 19-14 with three postseason losses. 

Houston begins the 2019 season on the road against playoff team Oklahoma on Aug. 31 and takes on Washington State at NRG Stadium on Sept. 13. 

Follow @ByZachSmith and @HCNSports on Twitter and Instagram for the latest news on all local and regional sports. 

Email: sports@hillcountrynews.com

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