When we were kids, we either feared getting the report card sent home from school or were excited to see how well we did in our classes. Each football season, every college program needs to be evaluated on a report card-like system to look at what went right and what failed in preparation for getting better next year.

Overall, the Houston Cougars should be awarded at least a “B” grade and even higher like a B+. A twelve-win season capped off with playing in the AAC championship game and a bowl win over Auburn are hallmarks of a successful season. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has turned this program around and the future looks bright as Houston heads into the Big 12. The Cougars were ranked 17th in the final 2021 polls and moving forward fans can expect much of the same performance next season. The Cougars should be considered the early favorites to win the American Athletic Conference next year as Cincinnati will lose many of their impact starting players while Houston holds onto many of their stellar performers.

Houston finished 8-0 in conference play and averaged 35.9 points per game during the 2021 season.  QB Clayton Tune established himself as the starting play caller and passed for 3,544 yards and 30 TDs compared to ten INT’s. Tune’s favorite WR target was Nathaniel Dell who caught 90 of those passes for 1,329 yards and 12 TD’s.  Tune’s second passing target was TE Christian Trahan who hauled in an additional 37 passes.  Freshman RB Alton McCaskill added additional firepower on the ground and set a school record with 18 TD’s and 961 yards on 189 carries – all as a true freshman.

The Cougar defense also contributed to the success of the 2021 campaign. Houston averaged four sacks per game, and they gave up only 3.4 yards per rush during the season. In addition, Houston opponents only ran in for 13 rushing TD’s and the defense was stout in red zone defense while allowing 15 TDs in 34 series inside the 20. Despite these strong numbers, the Houston defense did have its meltdown moments. Witness the season opener against Texas Tech with Houston leading 21-7 at halftime. Texas Tech was able to put up 376 yards of total offense and put up an additional 31 points in the second half in that game which showed that the Cougars were vulnerable early on to the run by giving up 5.2 yards per carry in that game.  If Houston wants to contend again for the AAC title, they must learn how to prevent the run game from dominating the Cougar defense.

Overall, Dana Holgorsen and his staff should be optimistic about the 2022 season. Key players including Tune, McCaskill and Dell are expected to return and make a continued impact on the program. Houston has been busy signing recruits and picking up transfers to reload for another possible 12-win season and if the Cougars can fix their run defense, the expectation of another big year including a bowl bid and a final season ranking is within their grasp.

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