HOUSTON — The leader of the #HTownTakeover’s offense the past two years, Major Applewhite has been named the 14th head coach of the University of Houston Football program Houston Vice President for Athletics Hunter Yurachek announced Friday.
Applewhite’s appointment is effective immediately and he will serve as Houston’s head coach for the Dec. 17 Las Vegas Bowl with Todd Orlando serving as defensive coordinator.
“When we set out on our search for the new leader of our football program, we wanted a coach with great integrity who believed in our mission and truly believed in our student-athlete experience,” Yurachek said. “We had our sights set on a focused competitor who has demonstrated success and possesses a deep connection to college and high school football in the great state of Texas. As this process was completed, it was clearly evident the only individual to offer our position to was Major Applewhite and he was indeed the right man to lead our program.”
“My family and I are excited and honored to have the opportunity to lead such a tradition rich program and continue our lives in one of the greatest cities is the nation, a city we love,” Applewhite said. “The student-athletes truly are the backbone of every great program and as they’ve demonstrated over the past few years, we have an exceptional group of young men in our program, and we’ll continue to add men with great character and a competitive drive in our recruiting. Living in the best state for high school football is a true blessing and advantage for our program and I cannot be more thankful for the support of our outstanding high school coaches from throughout the state.”
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Over the last two seasons, Applewhite’s explosive offenses have helped the Houston program to the best two-year win total in program history with the 22 wins over 2015-16 ranking fourth nationally behind only Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. Houston started out 5-0 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history with Applewhite’s offense averaging 45.3 points per game in those 10 games.
His offense eclipsed the 500-yard mark in 11 games and the 600-yard mark in four games over the past two years. Scoring wise, Applewhite’s offense has eclipsed the 40-point mark 12 times and the 50-point mark on five occasions.
Applewhite led a 2016 Houston offense that was among the nation's best, ranking 15th in passing offense (301.9 yards per game) and 21st in scoring offense (38.0 points per game) as Houston scored over 30 points in 11 of 12 games.
Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. was the only player nationally to average over 300 yards passing per game and over 45 yards rushing per game en route to earning second team honors from The American. Under Applewhite’s leadership, Ward finished the regular season fourth nationally in total offense per game with an average of 349.6 yard per game while ranking eighth in completion percentage, 67.6 percent, and 11th in passing average with 302.5 yards per game.
Showing its balance, the Houston offense was one of only eight nationally to average over 300 yards passing per game and over 157 yards rushing per game in 2016. The versatility of the offense was evident with seven different players recording rushing touchdowns and eighth players pulling in receiving touchdowns.
Houston was one of only six programs nationally with three players pulling in at least 650 receiving yards led by Linell Bonner who became Houston’s 19th 1,000-yard receiver with 93 receptions for 1,076 yards, ranking fourth nationally with an average of 8.5 receptions per game.
In his first season at Houston, Applewhite led an offense that was one of only three nationally to average over 235 yards per game in both rushing (235.8 yards per game) and passing (248.4 yards per game) as the Houston offense ranked 20th nationally in total offense with an average of 484.1 yards per game.
The explosive Cougar attack ranked 10th nationally in scoring offense with an average of 40.4 points per game, an improvement of 47 spots from 2014 when it finished the year 57th nationally with an average of 29.8 points per game. Houston scored over 30 points in 12 games, over 40 points in six games and over 50 points in four games.
Houston was led by the Earl Campbell Award winner — Ward, who was one of only two players nationally to rush for over 1,000 yards and throw for over 1,400 yards, finishing the regular season with 1,108 rushing yards and 2,828 passing yards. The junior broke 14 Houston or The American records in 2015 while tying three others.
Applewhite arrived in Houston after seven years at Texas, his final four years as co-offensive coordinator after serving as assistant head coach his first three seasons. Position wise, Applewhite oversaw the program's running backs his first five seasons and the quarterbacks his final year.
A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Applewhite threw for 50 touchdowns and ran for eight more in two years as a starter at Catholic High School. He was tabbed an Honorable Mention prep All-America by USA Today after leading Catholic High to a 13-1 record and No. 10 national ranking as a senior. He was 25-2 as a starter.
Applewhite and his wife Julie have two children, daughter Lila and son Nash.
Houston is slated to take on San Diego State in the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl presented by GEICO on Saturday, Dec. 17, at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. In one of the more anticipated bowl games, Houston’s No. 3 rushing defense will face the Aztecs and running back Donnel Pumphrey, the No. 2 rusher in the nation this season.