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Thursday, November 11, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 58

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UH at LSU: a real cat fight

Coogs, Tigers compare paw sizes at Tiger Stadium Saturday

By Tom Carpenter
Daily Cougar Staff 

The Cougar gridiron warriors travel to Baton Rouge, La., this Saturday to take on the 2-7 Louisiana State University Tigers.

The game begins at 7 p.m. in one of the most raucous stadiums in the land.


UH head football coach Kim Helton (middle) and the Houston Cougars will take on the LSU Tigers at 7 p.m. Saturday in Baton Rouge.

Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar

Tiger Stadium is infamous for its avid fans and their ability to shake the composure of visiting teams.

"It's a very, very tough place to play," UH head football coach Kim Helton said. "It's a favorable stadium to their home team."

Nicknamed "Death Valley," a recent poll of Division I-A coaches rated Tiger Stadium as the most feared road-playing site in America.

"It's a difficult chore for our kids to go there and come out with a victory," Helton said.

The Cougars have a lot riding on this game. A victory assures them of their first winning season since the 1996 team won the Conference USA championship and went to the Liberty Bowl.

LSU's two wins came against Division I "powers" San Jose State and North Texas.

The Tigers have suffered through a tough year, which bodes well for the Cougars in their bid to solidify a winning season.

"They are a tremendous run-stop team," Helton said, alluding to the Tiger defense that held Alabama's Heisman candidate Shaun Alexander to 18 yards on just 14 carries last week.

"(In the) last three games, they've probably played better defense than they have the rest of the season," Helton said.

The Tiger defense features five sophomores and two true freshmen, along with two seniors and two juniors.

The LSU defenders intercepted three Alabama passes in the Tigers' upset bid of the Crimson Tide, a game LSU lost 23-17.

Senior defensive tackle Johnny Miller returned one of the interceptions 66 yards for a touchdown.

The LSU defense has scored in three of the last four games and five games total this season.

The Tigers lost two defensive starters because they broke NCAA rules by signing agreements with agents.

That's a break for the Cougars.

"LSU probably has as much talent as anyone in the country," Helton said. "Somehow, they've been unlucky at the plays at the end of the game."

The Tigers lost to both Georgia and Mississippi State by a single point, coming up short on drives as time ran out.

"They've played everybody tough -- Georgia, Florida, Ole Miss," Helton said. "They've lost games to some pretty good football teams."

The Cougars finish their season with two road games, traveling to LSU and ending the season at West Point against Army.

A win against LSU keeps the Cougars in the running for a sweep of the last three games, a possible 7-4 finish and a fading hope for a bowl bid.

"Our main concern is to become bowl eligible," Helton said. "That's the next step for us -- not to consider what bowls are available."

This is only the second meeting between the Tigers and Cougars. In 1996, LSU beat Houston 36-35 on a 36-yard touchdown run by Fondell Mealey with only 3:22 left on the clock.

This game promises to be a real cat fight: Two teams fighting for respect in front of 80,000 rabid fans.

The Tigers are playing for pride in front of their home crowd. You can't discount the magic of playing in front of a packed house in your backyard.

The Cougars are trying to ensure a winning season and a possible bid to a bowl game.

This game is no "gimme" for the Cougars. The Tigers are a better team than their record indicates.

This game promises to be as exciting and surprising as the entire season has been for this team.

"The season is still a contest right now," Helton said. "We don't know what's going to happen. Our bowl game (right now) is (at) LSU."
 

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