Thursday, August 30, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 1


The feathers fly when the Owls run

By Tom Carpenter
Daily Cougar Staff

The moment of truth rapidly approaches. The Cougar faithful will finally get the opportunity to witness the arrival of Dana Dimel
football at UH when the Cougars take on crosstown rival Rice Saturday in the season opener for both squads. 

The Cougars lead the Rice series 20-7, but there's more at stake for the Cougars than simply bragging rights to the city of Houston
and the Bayou Bucket.

The Owls play a cream puff schedule. Only Nebraska and Fresno State rank as tough games. In fact, many coaches pick Hatfield's
Owls to capture the Western Athletic Conference this year.

"I think we have more depth now to help in some areas where we got people hurt last year and had a hard time replacing," Hatfield
said. "I feel good about our general approach to football and the way our team drew together in the off-season."

The Cougars, on the other hand, desperately need this game to have any shot at a winning season.

A quick replay of last season shows a team in transition and turmoil. As a result, Dimel accomplished something he'd never done
before and would rather not do again -- a 3-8 record and a losing season.

The Rice Owls contributed to that dismal record by taking the opening game 30-27 in overtime. Dimel achieved another milestone in
that game. It marked the first time he ever lost to a Ken Hatfield-coached team.

The Cougars have their work cut out for them against Rice, make no mistake about it. The return of 50 lettermen from last year's 3-8
squad guarantees the Owls will be ready and bringing plenty of experience into the game.

"I feel good about our team," Hatfield said. "I'm anxious that our 25 seniors will provide the kind of leadership I know they will in their
last year of football. It's going to be a fun season for us."

It should be a fun game for the stalwart warriors who man the Cougar defense. The Owls bring their patented option ground attack to
Robertson Stadium. The faces and names change, but the offense stays the same.

Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar

Running back Joffery Reynolds bulldozes through the line for a big gain against Rice last year. The Cougars will need a big effort from Reynolds to beat Rice in the Bayou Bucket game Saturday at Robertson Stadium.

When the Owl starting quarterback went down with an injury and was lost for the season, the Rice offense didn't miss a beat.

"We've gone all the way through spring and two-a-days with Kyle (Herm). We weren't going to change anything when Jeremy (Hurd)
went down anyway," Hatfield said. "It just gave us longer to work with Kyle on the first team, and longer to work with Greg Henderson
and Joe Moore backing him up."

The Owl offense boasts nine returning starters while the defense has eight starters back.

The starting backfield stayed intact. Barring last-second injuries, junior Vincent Hawkins and senior Leroy Bradley will start at the
two halfback slots and senior Jamie Tyler returns at the fullback position.

The Owls only return two starters from their offensive line, senior center Brandon Wallace and junior offensive guard Keith Meyer.

The Owl defense features senior outside linebacker Dan Dawson. Dawson led the WAC with seven interceptions and 88 tackles.
He's the heart and soul of the Owl defense and the Cougars will have to challenge Dawson to protect Cougar quarterback Kelly

The leader of the Cougars said he's champing at the bit to get on the playing field against the Owls.

"I'm just excited to get out to play football for the first time in four or five years," Robertson said. "I'm tired of being out there
scrimmaging and practicing. I'm just ready to get out there and see what I can do against somebody else."

Dimel is ready for the season to begin too.

"Our football team has focused on this game for a long period of time," Dimel said. "Just knowing what kind of momentum it can bring
us. Eliminating mistakes will be the biggest asset. The biggest thing of any first game is eliminating mistakes. The biggest risk is

The biggest risk for the Cougars is starting the season with a loss. A victory will give UH a shot at a winning campaign. A loss merely
delays the Cougar football renaissance. A minor, but irritating, possibility.

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