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Monday, October 25, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 45

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Cougar's collapse in Louisville 39-33

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Recent loss rests on the shoulders of the Cougar coaches, not the players

By Tom Carpenter
Cougar Football

As time ran out at Papa John's Stadium Saturday, quarterback Chris Redman, the Heisman Trophy candidate who leads the Louisville Cardinals, could have looked across the football field at the UH football team he methodically dissected and said, "Apres moi, le deluge."

Redman not only filleted the Cougar defense and exposed its innards for leisure inspection with his incredible passing attack, but Louisville's comeback put the Cougar philosophy under the microscope.

It's a bit disconcerting to watch a team leading 24-13 at halftime plunge into the vortex of oblivion within a 15-minute period.

That's all the time it took for the explosive Cardinal offense to fling 31 points on the board and effectively bury the Cougars in a game dripping with drama.

Quite frankly, the Cougars should have won this game, just as they should have won the Alabama-Birmingham game.

That hair ball of a game (UAB) still sticks in the throat, but thanks to Redman and his corps of receivers, it no longer exemplifies the stigma that plagues this Houston team.

The Cougars are the most penalized team in Conference USA. An analytical examination finds three avenues leading away from this fact.

1.) The Cougars don't have the talent to compete within the legal parameters of the game, so they try to cut corners to detract from their second-tier status.

I reject that. This is a Division I school with a rich football history. Ketric Sanford, William Pettis and their first string teammates are as talented as any other player in the land.

The team is not as deep as Alabama or Texas, but its first teams can compete with anyone.

2.) The Cougars are a poorly-trained team that exhibits weakness on the playing field with their untimely penalties.

I reject this, too. This is an experienced team, with plenty of games and practices under its belt.

Infractions that kill Cougar drives and breathe new life into its opponents' marches to the end zone have plagued the Cougars all season, with or without the improvement practice brings as the season progresses.

3.) The Cougars' propensity for penalties is a reflection of their coach's philosophy.

I don't believe the coaches encourage senseless penalties, but I do believe that the penalties are not seriously addressed by the coaches.

Late hits and personal fouls are deliberate choices, not concepts learned in practice. These are the disciplines -- or lack of -- that are killing the Cougars.

This, more than any other conjecture, seems to explain the Cougar meltdown at critical moments in the game.

Just as the Cougars' perplexing play call as the first half wound down opened the flood gates for Redman and his receivers, untimely penalties slammed the door on the Cougars.

Frustration manifested itself on the Cougar sidelines and naturally oozed onto the playing field.

Senseless infractions at critical junctures resuscitated Cardinal drives and handed Louisville the Cougars' heads on a platter.

When the coaching staff makes commendable efforts that lead its team to victory, those decisions have been lauded in The Daily Cougar.

This season held such high hopes and tantalizing promise a mere week ago. A winning campaign is now in jeopardy.

Close-up television shots of the Cougar coaches on the sideline as Louisville rained touchdowns on the Cougar secondary took the joy out of watching the Scarlet and White, regardless of the outcome of the game.

The pressure is squarely on head coach Kim Helton to produce a second winning season in his seven years at the Cougar helm. For some, it's not enough that Helton has brought in players with character.

When a major college football coach doesn't win, especially at a school that has had such great success on the gridiron, the jackals gather to feast on the corpse -- I mean coach.

Maybe the pressure is becoming intolerable.

Seeing coach Helton's grim visage on the sideline watching his team self-destruct forced me to consider the implications of the win-loss column. It made me realize that lives and careers are at risk in this high-pressure forum.

The season isn't lost by any means, but it now becomes a campaign of desperation.

The players didn't lose this game. Loss of control cost the Cougars this game, and that rests squarely on the coaches.
 

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