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

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Fireworks, lights, UH defense dominate latest Bayou Bucket

By Josh Gajewski
Daily Cougar Staff 

Not even a power outage was going to spoil the Cougars' party Saturday night. It was actually the defense that played lights out in UH's 28-3 season opening route of Rice at the newly renovated John O'Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium.

It was a night of celebration for many reasons. An enthusiastic crowd of over 31,000 packed itself into the "new" stadium, the Bayou Bucket remained in the hands of the Cougars, and the defensive unit was absolutely dominating.


UH's Mike Green's escape Rice's Dan Dawson in an incredible run that led to one of UH's touchdowns.

Barry Watson/The Daily Cougar

Even John O'Quinn, the generous alum who donated the money for the renovations, celebrated his birthday in fine fashion during halftime festivities. But best of all, the Cougars are now 1-0 for the first time since 1996, the same year they went to the Liberty Bowl.

"Our defense dominated the game and put us in a position to win the game," said UH head coach Kim Helton. "(A record of) 1-0 is a very precious thing. When you go through preseason workouts and two-a-days, it's very rewarding for the kids to start off with a win."

The new 4-2-5 scheme implemented by new defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas passed its first test with flying colors. Rice's only score came on a 52 yard field goal attempt in its opening drive. After that, it was all Houston. The defense forced an incredible eight fumbles on the night, recovering five.

Cornerback William Fields started things off in the first quarter, forcing a Rice fumble that set up the Cougars' first scoring drive. Then in the second quarter, Owls quarterback Jeremy Bates attempted a pitch that was batted away by safety Mike James, who recovered the ball in the end zone for his first career touchdown. The second turnover of the day created a 14-3 Houston lead at the half.

"The defense showed up big time," said senior running back Ketric Sanford. "Without them, I don't think we would have come close to winning this game. They did a lot of big things."

With 7:59 to play in the fourth quarter and the Cougars on top 21-3, the Owls faced a big fourth-down-and-one play. After taking a time-out to discuss the play, Rice fumbled the ball once again -- this time into the hands of 240-pound defensive end Ahmad Charles, who rumbled 66 yards the other way for UH's final score.

"I was trying to catch up with him so I could take it away and get the TD myself," said senior Adriano Belli.

Junior transfer William Pettis capped the game with a late interception for Rice's sixth turnover. This was Pettis' first game in Division I-A football after transferring from Middle Georgia Junior College last year.

On the other side of the ball, wide receiver Orlando Iglesias was the shining star in what was a rather quiet night for the offense. Taking over the main catching duties after the loss of Jerrian James in the preseason, Iglesias cradled just about anything that went up for grabs, including the first four pass attempts of the game. He totaled seven catches for 82 yards on the night including a touchdown catch.

"We have some confidence now," said Iglesias. "It was a great win and a great stepping stone for the team. Now that the jitters are out, we can go to Alabama with some confidence and make some things happen."

The only flaw of the night happened off the field when a power failure caused a 20-minute delay before the second half could get underway. But nothing was going to derail the festive mood on this particular evening. The outage only delayed the inevitable -- an absolutely perfect evening for anyone wearing the red and white.
 

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