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Tuesday, September 7, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 11

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Coogs defeat Rice, retain Bayou Bucket

By Tom Carpenter
Daily Cougar Staff 

The Rice Owls came soaring into Robertson Stadium on Saturday expecting a football game. What they got was Apocalypse Now.

First, the relentless Cougar defense plucked the Owls bare, then the Cougar offense drop-kicked the flightless birds back into their nest across South Main as Houston won its first season opener in three years 28-3.


UH head football coach Kim Helton hoists the Bayou Bucket trophy for the second consecutive time.  Houston won the last Bayou Bucket game in 1995.

Max Lacoya/The Daily Cougar

On a beautiful night for football at the newly renovated Robertson Stadium, a full house watched as the Cougars flexed their muscles, giving the rest of Conference USA something to think about.

A grand total of 31,784 fans showed up to celebrate the return of the college football season. Only a small contingent from Rice went home unhappy.

The Cougars dominated on the scoreboard. Only an opening drive that ended with an amazing 52-yard field goal kept the Owls from being shut out.

New UH defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas was gracious in his remarks following his unit's annihilation of the Owl offense.

"Any time an option team goes into its first ball game, they're really not going to be greased up, and we've had lots of time to prepare for them," he said.

The Cougar defense swarmed and harassed the Owl runners and quarterbacks for the entire game.

Even with victory assured late in the fourth quarter, the defense continued the assault on Rice when strong safety William Pettis intercepted Rice quarterback Jeremy Bates as the clock wound down.

"You just want to make a point of letting the players know you want turnovers," said Bumpas, whose teams have ranked in the top 10 in the nation in defense two of the last three years. "You just want to make plays."

The Cougars led the turnover margin 6-0.

The defense came out with its ears pinned back, intent on making something happen, and it made big play after big play.

Houston forced eight fumbles, and Pettis' interception of a fourth-quarter pass finished the Owls. The defense recorded five sacks and knocked down two passes.

The Cougar offense didn't get untracked until the second quarter when tailback Mike Green burst up the middle for a 16-yard touchdown run.

The Cougar drive started with a fumble recovery by William Fields at the Houston 32-yard line.

The drive was kept alive with a timely 18-yard run by tailback Ketric Sanford and a 10-yard completion from quarterback Jason McKinley to tight end Scott Regimbald.

The ensuing kickoff was returned to the Owls' 15. Three plays later, safety Mike James forced a fumble and scored when he recovered the ball in the end zone. Quick as a blink, the Cougars led 14-3 at the half.

Then the lights went out -- figuratively for the Owls, and literally for everyone in the stands. A power failure caused a 20-minute delay at the beginning of the second half.

Rice began the second half with a 13-play drive that ended when left tackle Nikia Adderson forced a fumble that was recovered by middle linebacker Jeremy Maxon at the Houston 45-yard line.

Four plays and a punt gave the ball back to the Owls on their own 14.

Three plays later, strong safety Micah Malone forced a fumble that was recovered by the Cougar cornerback Wayne Rogers at the Rice eight-yard line.

On the next play, the Cougar air attack got its first score of the season when McKinley hooked up with split end Orlando Iglesias for an eight-yard touchdown toss that gave the Cougars a 21-3 lead.

McKinley was 10-of-13 in the air for 107 yards. Iglesias, who is being forced to step up to fill the void left by the loss of the injured Jerrian James, caught seven of those passes for 82 yards.

Offensive coordinator Les Koenning Jr. predicted someone would step up to make the big plays in James' place, and Iglesias has filled in admirably. Nevertheless, Iglesias gave all the credit to the defense.

"Defenses win championships, everyone knows that," he said. "Now we can go to Alabama with some confidence under our belts."

The Cougars closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter when defensive right end Ahmad Charles recovered yet another Rice fumble and scored on a 66-yard run.

The Owls had a slight advantage in yards amassed for the night and a whopping 11-minute edge in time of possession. But time after time, the Cougar defense rose to the occasion.

"They did a great job in scheming us," said Rice quarterback Chad Richardson. "We give their defensive coordinator and their players all the credit in the world."

Cougar head coach Kim Helton was pleased with his team's effort.

"I thought we dominated the game defensively and the kicking game was great," Helton said. "We played real well offensively. We didn't turn the ball over, and that's what we want to do against the wishbone. It was a good win, a very good win."
 

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