Houston is not going bowling for the first time since 2004. Here is a quick look at what went wrong this season.
How it happened: Easy. Heisman hopeful Case Keenum tore his ACL in the third game of the season against UCLA, and backup Cotton Turner broke his collarbone in the same game, leaving Houston with a true freshman quarterback in David Piland. The Cougars tried to rely on the run to take the pressure of Piland, but teams were daring them to beat them with the pass. Piland was able to throw for a bunch of yards -- 2,641 -- but he completed less than 60 percent of his passes and threw 14 interceptions. The running game was inconsistent, and so was the defensive effort under first-year coordinator Brian Stewart. The Cougars ranked No. 104 in the country in total defense, only a very slight improvement over last season. They also gave up an average of 32 points a game, up two points from last season.
What needs to change: Houston was thrown into an impossible situation with the injuries to Turner and Keenum. Coach Kevin Sumlin had every intention of redshirting Piland this season. The Cougars are awaiting word on Keenum’s status for next season. They have applied to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility. So much rests on what happens at quarterback. The defense has got to show signs of improvement after switching to the 3-4. A transition period is expected, but Sumlin cannot wait much longer to see improvements with this unit.
Bowling next season? Yes, with or without Keenum. This is a no brainer of Keenum returns, but even if Turner is in charge, the Cougars have a great shot at going back to a bowl game. The backfield will be loaded, too, with the return of Bryce Beall and Michael Hayes. Charles Sims should also be back after he was ruled academically ineligible for this season. Leading receiver Patrick Edwards also returns.