Just when it seemed Houston was going to move forward at the injury-plagued quarterback spot with run-first, dual-threat freshman Terrance Broadway, head coach Kevin Sumlin pulls a fast one.
Sumlin, who obviously likes his offense best when it's throwing it all around the yard, started another freshman quarterback, David Piland, in a 47-24 home loss to Mississippi State.
Piland stepped in and, while he's no Case Keenum, he sure looks like he'll get the same opportunities. Piland completed 30-of-57 passes for 301 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
"I was pleased with how he came out and played early," Sumlin said of his freshman seeing his first college playing time. "He continued to compete. We got behind and we put him in a situation where, because of the score, we probably had to throw a little bit more than we wanted to.
"With all that being said, he was extremely accurate for the better part of the game."
And when he wasn't hitting his receivers, Sumlin said that had far more to do with an offensive line that experienced several breakdowns than with the quarterback simply being off target.
"When he wasn't (accurate throwing the ball), there was a breakdown with pressure and it wasn't necessarily a blitz," Sumlin said. "We had a couple breakdowns in protection from our side and we also had some dropped balls at critical times.
"One guy is not going to fulfill Case's shoes, but collectively we have to play the best. That is the best thing to do."
Houston's season has gone from one full of hopes of running the table to one in which Sumlin hopes Piland can manage the offense well enough not to suffer a complete collapse and fall out of bowl eligibility.
--The Cougars offensive line and running game sure didn't do freshman QB David Piland any favors. The line had several breakdowns leading to pressure on Piland, even if he didn't get sacked.
The running game was non-existent, as freshman QB Terrance Broadway led the charge with 18 rushing yards on only two carries. Starting RB Bryce Beal, the team's leader in rushing this season, had 17 yards on eight carries.
--As bad as the Houston running game was, its rush defense was worse, allowing 409 yards on the ground to Mississippi State and losing the key cog in rush defense with a first-half leg injury to NT Matangi Tonga.
"It is a concern," coach Kevin Sumlin said. "It is a concern particularly against that scheme. I don't know how you can come out of the game and not be concerned. We lost Tonga in the first part of the game and everyone knows that is a critical part of what we are trying to do defensively."
--Houston's 18-game home winning streak at Robertson Stadium came to an end Saturday thanks to a 409-yard rushing performance by Mississippi State. The Bulldogs beat Houston, 47-24. It was the nation's fourth-longest home winning streak. The last time Houston lost at home was on Sept. 29, 2007, when East Carolina beat the Cougars, 37-35.
GAME BALL GOES TO: WR Tyron Carrier -- The flashy receiver had 10 receptions for 90 yards and had 233 all purpose yards thanks in large part to 143 kick return yards, including a 34-yard return.
KEEP AN EYE ON: QB David Piland -- The last time a freshman QB was thrown to the wolves and threw anything near 57 passes was when QB Case Keenum got the opportunity four years ago. He turned out OK and it's obvious Piland must have won the trust of coach Kevin Sumlin.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If we would've done a little more tackling, a couple of those points wouldn't haven't been on the board." -- Houston junior LB Marcus McGraw after Mississippi State put up 409 rushing yards and 47 points on the Cougars.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Houston's offense isn't showing any signs of backing off its pass-happy ways despite injuries to the top two quarterbacks. Freshman QB David Piland threw 57 passes for more than 300 yards in his first college game. Fellow freshman QB Terrance Broawdway, who started Sept. 25 against Tulane, also looked sharp in very limited action, completing both of his passes for 55 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown. Houston's special teams blocked two Mississippi State field goal attempts in the third quarter, the first of which led to a touchdown.
STILL NEEDS WORK: That Houston defense, the one that had been suggesting it was up to the task of stepping up in the injury-absence of star QB Case Keenum, sure didn't look the part Saturday. Mississippi State's running game embarrassed a Houston defense that has had plenty of teams rack up yards against it in recent years. Bulldogs RB Vic Ballard led the charge with 14 carries for 134 yards and three touchdowns. But it wasn't only him. Mississippi State had five players with 40 or more rushing yards and the Bulldogs totaled 409 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns.
--Freshman QB David Piland got the starting nod Saturday vs. Mississippi State despite most expecting fellow freshman QB Terrance Broadway to get the nod. Piland completed 30-of-57 passes for 301 yards, with two interceptions and two touchdowns.
--Freshman QB Terrance Broadway's brief action saw him complete both of his passes for 55 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown, to go along with two rushes for 18 yards.
--WR James Cleveland did not play against Mississippi State because of a one-game suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules.
--NT Matangi Tonga left the game in the first half and was on crutches on the sideline later in the game. His injury was not disclosed Saturday and will be evaluated during the week.