In 2011, Houston led the nation in both total and scoring offense, averaging 49 points on just shy of 600 yards per game. The result: An undefeated regular season, a school record for wins and a top-20 landing in the final polls. At no point were the Cougars held below 28 points in any game, and against a steady diet of the most generous defenses in the nation, they frequently doubled that.
In its first game of 2012, taking the field under new head coach Tony Levine and an overhauled staff, Houston managed just 326 yards and a single touchdown in a stunning, 30-13 loss at the hands of Texas State , a 34-point underdog making its debut as a full-fledged FBS program. The result: Offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt has just been handed his walking papersafter a single game on the job.
From the Houston Chronicle:
University of Houston offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt has resigned and assistant coach Travis Bush will take over play-calling duties, coach Tony Levine announced Monday.
"We wish Mike the best in his future endeavors and thank him for his contributions to the Houston program," said Levine. "We are confident in Travis and his play-calling ability moving forward."
I think it's safe in this context to read "resigned" in quotation marks: Nesbitt was fired. His successor, Bush, is in his first season at Houston after one year as offensive coordinator at UT-San Antonio, where he landed after three years as co-coordinator at… yep, Texas State. If you can't beat 'em, hire 'em.
In fairness to Nesbitt, no one expected the 2012 offense to match the heights of 2011: Besides head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, Houston also lost the most prolific passer in college football history, Case Keenum, and six of his top seven receivers, virtually guaranteeing some regression to the mean. But 13 points on 326 yards against an outfit widely projected to finish in the WAC cellaris well below the mean: In four years under Sumlin, Houston exceeded both numbers in 52 consecutive games. On paper, it was the Cougars' worst offensive performance since they were held to 324 yards in a 56-7 loss at Tulsa in November 2007. Given the competition on Saturday, obviously there is no patience for a learning curve.
Then again, who knows? Maybe Texas State is an improbable defensive juggernaut in waiting, and Houston was only the first of many unwitting victims this season. Unfortunately for Mike Nesbitt, he's not going to be around to get the benefit of the doubt.