'Big O' helps clinch big 'W'

cougar FOOTBALL

By Mark Mayorga

Daily Cougar Staff

For a player to only have played two years of organized football and make an impact in a Division I program, he must have a tremendous amount of athletic ability and great character as well.

For Orlando Iglesias, making that impact and removing all doubters has been par for the course. He has constantly shown he is Division I talent. However, he doesn't take all of the credit for his success.

"God puts obstacles up along the way for a reason, and helps you guide you through it."

Iglesias came to the Cougars after playing high school football in Florida for Coral Park, where he caught four touchdowns in the school's first ever playoff game.

After shattering Dade County's record for touchdown receptions in a season with 17, Iglesias was heavily recruited by Ohio State, Florida, Iowa State, and Houston.

Fortunately for the Cougars, recruiting him paid off in his first season, as he was chosen as a member of the Freshman All-American Second Team by the Sporting News. He was also part of the Conference USA All-Freshman team.

In his first year at UH, Iglesias was able to compile 33 receptions for 529 yards and two touchdowns.

In the game against Pittsburgh a year ago, Iglesias showed signs of his athletic leaping ability as he jumped over two defenders to catch his first collegiate touchdown.

A week later, his ability for making the big play and slipping tackles enabled him to amass eight receptions for 171 yards in the Cougars' 45-43 win over Minnesota.

It marked the highest receiving yards for a freshman and the highest yardage total for a Cougar player in 53 games.

With a number of accolades in 1997, Iglesias entered this season as a key figure in the Cougars' offensive attack.

It didn't take him long to find out that he wanted to make a difference this season, as he made his presence known with a touchdown reception in the Cougars' opener in Berkeley.

It turned into a classic Iglesias catch, as he battled with a smaller cornerback and had his quarterback throw the ball up to out jump the defense.

While playing among the nation's best teams, Orlando believes it is only a plus for the Cougars' and himself as well.

"We can play against anybody. UCLA was No. 4 and Tennessee was No. 4, and we moved the ball on both of them."

With their backs against the wall entering into conference action, Iglesias stepped up and delivered his best game of the season, as he had nine receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown.

"Ever since high school, I've started off slow, and it just seemed to follow me here. But I came out and had a good game today (Saturday)."

During the Cougars' second drive of the night against Memphis on Saturday, quarterback Jason McKinley found Iglesias over the middle for 6 yards, in which he broke two tackles and nearly took it all the way.

"I caught it and broke through the middle, and looked up and saw nothing but grass. I thought I had it, but I ran out of gas.

"They recruited me to catch the ball, not to run fast," Iglesias said.

As the second quarter started, the Cougars trailed 14-7. McKinley then marched the offense 39 yards and found Iglesias in the corner of the north end zone for the tying touchdown as he fought off two defenders.

"Orlando was phenomenal. He made a great play, as he has all season long," McKinley said.

Helton, while happy with Iglesias' performance on Saturday, has not been as positive about Orlando's overall season.

"I've kind of been a little disappointed in the number of balls he has caught this season," head coach Kim Helton said. "Orlando doesn't like it when he doesn't catch a lot of balls and Orlando's coach doesn't like it when he doesn't catch a lot of balls."

But it seems from here on out, Iglesias may be one of McKinley's favorite targets, as he once again proved he can make big plays to help win games.

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