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Culture / Sporting Life

Ed Oliver Goes Full Beast Mode, Proves UH is His Team Now in Arizona Throttling

Who Needs a Rock Star Coach?

BY // 09.10.17

The Rock Star Coach is long gone, lording over a college football money making empire in Austin, one of the sport’s original versions of the Death Star. In his place,  the University of Houston has a true rock star player. The rare defensive player who commands headlines.

It’s quite a change — and if Houston’s delayed season opener is any indication, it could be one that works out just fine. Ed Oliver went full beast mode in the Tucson desert, almost willing UH to a 19-16 throttling of an Arizona team that scored 62 points just the week before.

Oliver destroyed the gameplan of another Power 5 conference team, leaving Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez cursing at his quarterbacks well into the Tucson night. Oliver treated Arizona’s offensive line with all the care that Cookie Monster shows towards his favorite treat.

No. 10’s final line? Try 11 tackles, one and a half tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He also blocked a field goal for good measure — in a game decided by three points.

Yes, this 19-year-old is a nightmare maker for coaches like Rodriguez. On a night when new Houston coach Major Applewhite’s offense struggled throughout, the defensive tackle still made everything all right. Who needs a quarterback when you have Ed Oliver? (OK, Texas A&M transfer Kyle Allen would still be wise to get things together before Texas Tech’s Sept. 23 date in Houston.)

This Houston season opener was light years away from last season’s uber-hyped showdown with the University of Oklahoma. But in some ways, it’s almost just as impressive a win. Going on the road and beating a Pac-12 team after a hurricane devastated your city and threw your usual routine into a chaos is no small feat.

There will be many more to come, but Applewhite clearly passed the first test of his nascent coaching career.

“I’m really, really proud of our players. They’ve been through a lot,” Applewhite says in his postgame media session. “Fortunately, not many were (directly) affected by the flood, but just the circumstances of being 19, 20, 21, 22 years old, just all the stuff they’ve been dealing with.”

The 6-foot-3, 290-pound, deceivingly quick Oliver is something most college football teams are unprepared to deal with, whether they play in the Power 5 or on Mars. He was all over the place against Arizona, creating as much havoc as John Belushi ever did on a Saturday night.

If Major Applewhite keeps the attention on Houston’s players, he’ll be a very different coach.

Oliver and new defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio’s unit could have to carry Houston in this transition season. You cannot rely on a game-shifting 81-yard kickoff return from out-of-nowhere senior John Leday every game. But Oliver is a given — and more and more of a star.

Applewhite certainly isn’t going to steal headlines from his players the way Herman did, for better or for worse. The new coach doesn’t seem to care much about being in the spotlight. Applewhite lived enough of that life when he played quarterback for Texas. He wants his guys to have it.

A transcendent player like Ed Oliver is going to command the stage more and more. This is his team now, in some ways his program to shepherd. Houston’s certainly in strong hands.

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