Four years ago, Houston won 13 games and the Peach Bowl. The Cougars finished eight wins better than Texas and five better than Texas A&M. With the newly minted College Football Playoff favoring Power Five conference teams, Houston — yes, this Houston — was the Group of Six team hungry for something more in the postseason.
That helped attract recruiting and transfer classes that included Justin Murphy, an offensive guard who played at Texas Tech and UCLA.
“It was really a no-nonsense decision,” Murphy told KRIV Sports, the Houston Fox affiliate, when he announced the move. “The things that I’ve seen of Coach Holgorsen at West Virginia led me to believe he’s going to pick up right where he left off out there, and that’s a winning team that’s gonna compete for a championship including this year, which is all I have left.”
But with the sad start to Houston’s season, Murphy accused Holgorsen of effectively abandoning the 2019 campaign to start building up the 2020 squad in a Thursday night Twitter thread.
Murphy claimed Holgorsen asked several players to redshirt their senior season then rejoin the Cougars in 2020. His tweets came not long after quarterback D’Eriq King and wide receiver Keith Corbin opted to redshirt.
“I came here to play football for the University of Houston and that’s not changing,” King said in a statement posted to the team’s Twitter account at the time. “After carefully thinking through this process with my family and Coach Holgorsen, I have decided the opportunity to redshirt this season gives me the best chance to develop as a player, earn my degree and set me up for the best success in the future. I’m looking forward to being a part of the success of this program going forward.”
Earlier this week, Murphy said Holgorsen told him not to travel with the team to North Texas for Houston’s fifth game of the season to “heal up mentally and physically,” a decision Murphy considered a suspension.
“Coach left practice that day stating, ‘If you’re not 100% committed to the team then don’t get on the bus,’” Murphy tweeted. “Ironic in light of recent events.”
With every departure, Houston gets further away from that 13-win 2015-16 team. The Cougars have gone through two head coaches since then. Tom Herman left for Texas, and Houston fired Major Applewhite after two seasons.
The Cougars don’t look much like a 2019 bowl team six weeks into the year and without the building blocks Holgorsen plans to build around in 2020. They’ll need four wins in their last six games to qualify. Winning is another proposition entirely.