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All-22 Review: Tulane 27 - Houston 24

Houston’s offense hit on a pair of explosive plays but mainly struggled through being a 3-4 yards and a cloud of dust “run-first” offense vs Tulane.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 24 Middle Tennessee at Miami Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Miami Hurricanes have turned over nearly their entire coaching staff including both coordinators after Year One of the Mario Cristobal Era. Today we’ll take a look at new Miami offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who comes to Coral Gables via the Houston Cougars.

Houston and Tulane played a tough contest to a 27-24 Green Wave victory in overtime back in the 2022 season. Tulane was clearly one of the best defenses in college football in 2022, and the Green Wave showed an elite level of speed and explosiveness on film.

The Doppler

Cougs QB Clayton Tune finished with 6.3 yards per attempt, with two touchdowns and zero interceptions passing. Tune added 56 yards per rush and one fumble lost on the day. The Houston offense rushed for only 3.6 yards per attempt vs. Tulane.

Of Tune’s receivers, two really stood out against Tulane’s defense. Nathaniel Dell averaged only 9.1 yards per catch but caught two TD’s, KeSean Carter averaged 20.5 YPC. The Cougs offensive line allowed two sacks and four TFL’s.

The Cougs offense, as a unit, finished 9-of-18 on 3rd down and 1-of-1 on 4th down. Houston won the Josh Gattis Honorary Time of Possession Battle 36:23.

Back turned

Above- Both ‘back turn’ play calls I can remember went poorly for Houston in the game. This run which went no where, and a play-action later that was a costly sack. In this era of football the defenders are far too fast to turn your back. Keep your QB’s eyes on the defense.

Above- Here’s that other ‘back turn’ play I referred to above. Play-action deep shot stuff Dana Holgorsen really likes. He’s big on one guy in the route and using some max protection. It backfires here.

3rd and 15...

Above- I hope Dawson is ready for the boo birds because they flock to South Florida like an Ibis after a hurricane. After a procedure call, Houston lines up to hand the damn ball off on 3rd and 15. This “field position” stuff just results in the Cougs starting on their own 1-yard line the next possession.

Backed way up

Above- Tune is a pair of dropped interceptions away from this being a blowout. Here Tulane drops what could’ve been a pick 6 or at least an INT return to the five or so. Like former Miami OC Rhett Lashlee, Dawson doesn’t have the offense QB sneak out of the -1 yard line?

Above- Another play in the gun from the -1-yard line, and if the Tulane defender doesn’t let the RB go (and great effort from the back- I need to add that here) it’s 3rd and long instead of 3rd and one from inside their own 10.

WR Screens

Above- it’s concerning that Houston can’t win this look, but, why is the screen being ran so close to the box where there’s help? Also into the safety/linebacker that is typically a much better tackler than a cornerback? Why work in less space?

Above- Miami needs to use Elijah Arroyo out there on screens (if he’s healthy this season) rather than some little wide receiver. Miami has had a lot of trouble blocking the perimeter for quite some time now. Need willing participants out there.

Patience vs no patience

Above- Nice, patient run from the running back. Shows vision, patience, and quick cut ability.

Above- Well I hated on the RB in the tweet but on another viewing it’s 85 that screws this up. The TE rubs the OG sending the back behind him (lead blocker) and into more defenders. TE has to stick it up in the gap in a gap scheme.


Above- I have no idea why Dawson didn’t call mesh more often against Tulane. Crossers and settling in space seemed to be working. The Green Wave defenders under the hard deck were aggressive but the safeties played soft.

Above- They could’ve gotten this look a few more times in the game but went to it only once that I could tell. The spot route from the WR just sitting beautifully in space. RUN IT AGAIN!

Pass Run Option and Run Pass Option

Above- A Jacurri Brown package could use some PRO’s in it. Here it’s a simple screen-QB counter pass run option. There’s one read and if the screen isn’t there he just runs counter to the other side.

Above- For the folks that don’t know, this is why you tag an RPO on a run even inside the 5-yard line. Keep that option (pun) open. And much to the confusion of Joel Klatt, the QB doesn’t have to run on an RPO.

Perimeter blocking

Above- Again, this is some Miami level perimeter blocking. The ‘Canes have had this same issue, some unwilling participants out wide. Hope WR Coach Kevin Beard is solving that issue alongside S&C Coordinator Aaron Feld.

Above- How appropriate that 85, a TE for Houston, blows this block on the IZR and then turns around and drops the 1st down in OT. Forces a Cougs FG and Tulane scores a TD which gives them the win 27-24.

More crossers, please

Above- I still can’t figure out why Dawson didn’t dial up mesh more. What about shallow cross once the dig was working? He uses a Drive concept above.

Above- Fin+Seam or curl (he just hunts down maybe?) was working. Similar to drive concept.

Run game

Above- Tulane allows a big broken play explosive throw. Then Houston goes up tempo and rips a nice run off inside zone.

Above- Inside zone read with a wrapping TE as the lead blocker. Miami needs to do this if Tyler Van Dyke is going to run at all. He’ll need the help out there in space to avoid contact and buy some time with a lead blocker.

Broken pass pro = TD

Above- Dawson goes back to the max pro 2 man route stuff. This time it works. The fade is a TD in the end zone to tie the game 21 all. The extra TE and the RB both ignore that LB and allow a free rusher. Tune has grapefruits and throws a dime.

The Wrap

Shannon Dawson’s passing attack, with an Air Raid offense, averaged under seven yards per attempt and attempted to grind one out on the ground against Tulane. I was surprised at how little Houston ran the true Air Raid principles. One mesh call, no y-cross, no stick, no shallow cross... it was a strangely called game.

Tulane was clearly the faster, quicker, more powerful team on the field. Yet Houston attempted to run right at the Green Wave and their top-10 run defense. In the end, the Cougs only lost by 3 points in overtime. Miami fans are going to be frustrated by the amount of three yard inside zone and split zone runs from Dawson. Also the weak WR screen game, and poor perimeter blocking.

A key drop forced Houston into a field goal in OT, and Tulane countered with a TD to win the game. The lack of creativity in the offense left me bored at times watching them play. I really get why Mario Cristobal was interested in Dawson now: tight ends galore, inside runs a plenty, and another low scoring affair.