HUNTINGTON - It's not just a long shadow that Houston quarterback David Piland is trying to escape. It's the longest.
The Cougars are one season removed from former signal-caller Case Keenum setting Football Bowl Subdivision career records for completions, yards and touchdown passes. And now Piland, a redshirt sophomore, is leading the charge for this Houston offense to carve its own identity.
"I feel like we've done a pretty good job of starting to make our own name and definitely get that offense rolling," Piland said.
Piland will try to keep that unit going this weekend when the Cougars (4-6, 3-3 Conference USA) visit Marshall (4-6, 3-3 Conference USA) at noon Saturday (CSS telecast).
While it's not the juggernaut it was in 2011 when Keenum led the Cougars to an FBS-best 599.07 total yards and 49.29 points per game, the Piland-led offense generally has performed well. Houston is second in C-USA to the Thundering Herd in total yards per game (473.4 to Marshall's 511.3) and passing yards per game (324.6 to Marshall's 358.5).
Piland is second in C-USA to Marshall's Rakeem Cato in passing yards per game (292.7 to Cato's 350.6). He's completed 255 of 447 passes this year for 2,927 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. But where the 2012 Houston offense hasn't matched the 2011 offense is in point production.
This year's Cougars are averaging 30.8 points per game. It's a healthy number, but nearly three touchdowns fewer than what Houston averaged last season.
Last Saturday against Tulsa, the Cougars could muster just one touchdown in a 41-7 loss, and that came in fourth-quarter garbage time on a Crawford Jones pass to Ryan Jackson. Piland threw for just 148 yards and two interceptions on 15-of-32 passing.
With Marshall's point-happy offense on the horizon, Piland said it's imperative that Houston returns to its high-scoring ways.
That means focusing on little things.