Scouting Report: Houston Cougars

This is just my opinion but I think it is very likely that Houston represents the best opponent that Oklahoma State will play in this four-game stretch at home including Troy and Texas A&M. The Cougars are loaded with athletes and they have enough on their offensive and defensive lines to get the job done.

First-year head coach Kevin Sumlin outdid himself on hiring his staff as he snagged former Texas Tech offensive assistant Dana Holgorsen as offensive coordinator and former Iowa State defensive coordinator John Skladany to direct the defense.

Add in as a bonus to coach the valuable defensive line former Dallas Cowboy All-Pro Jim Jeffcoat, who has a son that will be the number one player in Texas for the 2010 class in recruiting. To top it off, many first-year coaching staffs struggle out of the gate but not Houston.

"There's a lot of anxiety with any first game, but especially with a new coaching staff," said Sumlin. "In a new program that first game is good when it's a win and it's good that it is over with."

The opponent may have had something to do with it as Southern is not very good, but Houston pounded them and put them away the way a Bowl Subdivision team should. It was a smooth and very mistake free game with only one fumble and seven penalties for 65 yards.

"You are always worried a little bit in how you come out of the gate," said Sumlin of that 55-3 opening win over FCS member Southern University. "Obviously, we were pleased overall with how it went, but we need to make some strides and get better every week. Overall, I thought our kids came out and did what we asked them to try and do and if we will continue to do that then we will be fine."

Offensively, you will see some of the Texas Tech package although they are not as advanced with the option route type of stuff yet. They will run out of three, four, and even five wide sets. They will run the ball some with zone reads, zones, and draws.

The quarterback is not much of a runner, or didn't show it in the opener. They will run some OU packages including the double tight end and even like to use that throw back OU prefers in passing to the tight end. It's a new spread hybrid.

"I don't know how hybrid it is," started Sumlin in describing his offense. "We are in a very different situation here than Oklahoma. If we had a line like that and three or four running backs like they have we'd be a lot different, but we don't have that.

"We've got some guys that can run around a little bit and a pretty good quarterback and our line has been doing a good job. We have to spread it out and create some space and make some people miss."

Like most offenses the quarterback is the driver and usually the key to how far the offense can go. With 6-1, 210-pound sophomore Case Keenum, who won a three-way battle for the job in August, this offense goes very far if he keeps playing as sharp in the passing game as he was against Southern when he completed 33 of 42 passes without an interception for 392 yards and five touchdowns.

"We've got a ways to go and for him to complete his first 14 passes in a row that is pretty good," said Sumlin of Keenum. "It's hard to get any better than that early in the game with no interceptions. I thought that he executed our plan pretty well Saturday.

"He's not flashy and he's not the strongest arm guy or the biggest arm guy or a rah rah guy. He just goes about his business and throws catchable balls. It's kind of hard to explain."

Defensively, Houston is guided by Skladany, who served as defensive coordinator for Dan McCarney during his hey day at Iowa State. Skladany is sharp and came up in the multiple, but aggressive 4-3 defensive school. He has not changed and his defense was tough on Southern. They didn't show much, but being a coach that likes to force the issue expect plenty of blitzes attacking Zac Robinson on Saturday. This will be a good test for Zac and the offense as a whole.

"Like you said, John is the wily veteran and he has seen what it looks like and I think he has done a great job with creating energy on our defensive side and I think our intensity level has been very good in practice and it has carried over into the games," Sumlin said.

Sumlin likes what he saw on tape of Oklahoma State in the win over Washington State.

"I thought they were impressive. Defensively they flew around and really limited what Washington State could do," summized Sumlin. "Joe DeForest on special teams has always done a great job and you look at all the return yardage in that game and we were talking yesterday as a staff that there are really five or six players on that team that can play for anybody in the country.

"Very explosive, Zac Robinson is doing a great job at quarterback. Pettigrew is an All-American type player and so is Dez Bryant and so is Perrish Cox. Those are guys that can play for anybody in the country and can put points on the board in a hurry."

This will be fun. It will be a game, probably a four-quarter game that should have everybody on the edge of their seats including the new ones in the west end zone. Those extra fans may be the difference. A win and Oklahoma State really puts itself in a good position heading to the Big 12.

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