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
Owls to capture the Western Athletic Conference
"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,"
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
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
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
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
He's the heart and soul of the Owl defense
and the Cougars will have to challenge Dawson to protect Cougar quarterback
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
"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.