If Ed Oliver has played his last game at Houston, the curtain on his All-American career certainly closed with an off-field bang.
Oliver, who had missed the previous three games because of a knee injury, was sidelined for a fourth Thursday night as Houston squared off with Tulane in a key AAC West matchup. Shortly before the half, Oliver, who was on the sidelines of the game, was approached by head Major Applewhite about what was later learned to be the lineman’s choice of jacket, which according to the head coach is reserved for players who are active in the game.
Oliver took exception to Applewhite’s directive — and the fact that the coach put his hands on his jacket — leading to a heated confrontation heading into the halftime locker room in which the star defensive tackle had to be physically restrained from going after Applewhite by a UH football staffer.
Oliver did not return to the sidelines for the second half and, after the game, Applewhite addressed the incident as well as Oliver’s future with the program.
“There’s a rule for our team,” Applewhite said. “Everybody follows the rule. I asked him to follow the rule. He was upset about it, and I get it. We deal with these types of situations all the time. This is something we’re going to learn from and grow from. …
“I want him back. I want him to be a part of our football team. If he wants to play, I want him to play.”
Oliver, a junior who is expected to be one of the first five picks in the 2019 NFL draft, has not yet commented on the incident or his playing status with the Cougars moving forward.
Despite the very public blowup — and an injury to star quarterback D’Eriq King that’s potentially very serious — the Cougars came away from Thursday night with a 48-17 win that kept them in the thick of the divisional race.
Coming into Week 12, Houston was tied with Tulane and SMU, which beat both the Cougars and Green Wave earlier this year, at 4-2 in the West, one game ahead of 3-3 Memphis. Heading into tonight’s Memphis-SMU game, below are the scenarios for clinching the West division.