Welcome to the Charles Sims Show
Houston Cougar running back Charles Sims is probably one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. He's quiet, and getting more than a sentence or two from him in a media setting just isn't going to happen. In fact, when dealing with the press, Sims looks as if he'd rather face an entire opposing defense while his offensive line sits out the play on the sidelines.
USA Today Charles Sims breaks off a run during a game last season.
The bad news for the junior running back is that he's an awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping wonder at running back. And if he keeps putting up the kind of night he had on Saturday against North Texas in Houston's 44-21 win (to go 2-3 on the season), then he's going to have to face the media many, many, many times.
Sims touched the ball 26 times on Saturday night -- 21 rushes and five receptions. He scored two touchdowns and rushed for 210 yards with 55 receiving yards. He netted 104 rushing yards in the third quarter alone, and he barely touched the ball in the fourth quarter.
Most of the city couldn't see the game since it was aired on Comcast SportsNet Houston, which still isn't carried on U-Verse, Time-Warner Cable, Direct TV or the Dish Network. Robertson Stadium was nowhere near capacity. And that's a real shame because on a couple of his long runs, Sims made some moves on the turf that can only be replicated when playing Madden 2013.
Watching Sims, it all looks so easy. Head coach Tony Levine said he tends to take what Sims can do for granted. And quarterback David Piland figures the team would be fine if they just gave the ball to Sims on every play.
"At halftime we will be in there talking about all of these certain situations and someone chimes in, 'Yeah, or we can just run the ball,' and we'll say, 'That sounds good, let's just hand the ball off to Charles," Piland said after Saturday's win. "He's a great player in space. It's really hard to tackle him....He's one of those guys who you just have to give him the ball, and we do a great job of doing that."
Sims has rushed for 368 yards in his past two games. He's put together back-to-back 100-yard rushing games for the first time in his career. He has six rushing touchdowns on the season. And he's netted 510 rushing yards for the season, which isn't really too bad when you consider that he missed the UCLA because of injury and that the team's offensive coordinator, Mike Nesbitt, "resigned" after not getting the ball in Sims's hands enough in the season-opening loss to Texas State.
"Charles is a dynamic player and leader on and off the field for our team," Levine said. "What he is doing is no surprise to me. We have to get him the football. We look to get him the ball at least 25 times, and we did that tonight."
Getting Sims the ball does more than just generate highlights and rack up yardage for Sims. Giving the ball to Sims and letting him run the ball opens up the rest of the offense, giving Piland more time in the pocket to find his receivers, and it creates space on the field for the receivers to run once they've caught the ball.
"Charles doing his job opens up the passing game," Piland said. And seeing as how Piland threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns while completing 31 of 41 passes, the plan to open the field sure seemed to work.
Sure, the Cougars were playing North Texas (2-4) of the Sunbelt Conference. But flash back to the opening game, where the Cougars were embarrassed by Texas State, playing its first ever game at the FBS level, and the improvement is obvious. And while the team's not passing the ball like it did during the Case Keenum era, the team is running its offense with a quick tempo and confidence harkening back to last season.
As for Sims, all that he asks is that they just give him the football.
"The more touches the better," he said. "It's fine with me, I don't mind."
And Tony Levine, David Piland and the rest of the Houston Cougars don't seem to mind either. Not as long as the team wins, and not as long as he breaks off of few more of jaw-dropping plays in each game.
The Cougars host UAB at 11 a.m. next Saturday morning, and the team should easily be able to even up its record to 3-3 on the season. And while the Cougars won't return to the heights they did last season, there's still a chance that the season, which once seemed to be verging on disaster, can still end in a bowl appearance.