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Volume 68, Issue 1, Monday, August 26, 2002

Sports

Dubious season silences Cougar roar

By Christian Schmidt
The Daily Cougar

He doesn't want to talk about it. Neither does Joffrey Reynolds. Or Nick Eddy, or Hanik Milligan. Or any of the coaches.
 


Kevin Harwerth/The Daily Cougar


Senior running back Joffrey Reynolds had the best year of his UH career in 2001, gaining 818 yards. The
Cougars will look for a similar performance coming back from an 0-11 year.

They don't want to talk about it. They are uniformly polite, gently steering the conversation towards a
different topic or calmly explaining that what happened is in the past, that it doesn't matter anymore. They
say it's in the past, that they've moved on and that the coming season is all that matters now. 

They say it, but when you look in their eyes, you see the pain, the humiliation and the regret. These men have
suffered, and all they want is to forget.

Sadly, the season that wouldn't end still lives in the hearts and minds of those close to Cougar football, a
season in which the team lost all 11 games it played, setting a new standard for futility at the University.

Head coach Dana Dimel describes it as "a bad dream," the kind you keep hoping you will wake up from and won't
be true.

Dimel is building for the long term, redshirting nearly all players from the strong recruiting classes of the past
two years. But sometimes when you are looking for success in the long term, the short term will jump up and
bite you.

An 0-11 season can make alarm bells go off, even if the program seems to be making progress.

If Dimel has winning seasons the next few years, fans will forgive his winless effort. But they won't ever
forget.

Lies, damn lies and statistics

Sometimes, statistics don't lie. The offense was ranked 111th in the nation in rushing offense. The team was 86th in total offense and 110th in
scoring offense. The defense was just as bad, ranking 95th in total defense and 112th in scoring defense.

What happens when you give up an average of 39.3 points a game to your opponent and you score just 17.7 points a game, your special teams
rank near the bottom of the nation in nearly every category and you are one of the worst teams in turnover margin? 

You lose 11 games.

Having said that, it wasn't a lack of effort that was to blame. The team played its hardest, even in blowouts. This team wanted to win; they just
couldn't. 

Looking back

"We're not going to talk a whole lot about last season," Dimel said. "Last season, to me, seemed like a bad dream. We're not really going to try
to grab much from it."

The year began in simple enough fashion the Cougars hosted Rice and lost.

By midseason, UH fans had given up hope. Fans, students and probably even coaches and players were looking for just one win, hoping the
team wouldn't lose every game, wouldn't actually be the worst team in the nation.

Three teams finished last season without a win: Houston, Duke, and Navy. Who's the worst? It's hard to say, but it's a not a contest you want to
win. 

As is often the case in such seasons, injuries hit hard. Most notably, starting quarterback Kelly Robertson missed part or all of five games. 

In all, 21 Cougars missed 85 games because of illness and injury, ranging from shoulder surgery to sprained necks to broken wrists and
Achilles tendonitis. Three of the top tight ends missed time due to injury.

It all started innocently enough. An opening game against Rice was a tough loss, as a veteran Owl team beat the Cougars by a touchdown.
Houston even had a chance to tie the game as time expired. Sadly, only one more game would be decided by one possession. The average
loss was by 21.4 points.

Surprisingly, one of the best games the team played was against its toughest opponent, in-state rival Texas. In the second quarter, UH took a
14-10 lead with just 1:19 remaining. The Cougar defense couldn't stop Texas quarterback Chris Simms from completing a 17-yard touchdown
pass to Tony Jeffery, giving the Longhorns a 17-10 lead, which they never relinquished en route to a 53-26 victory.

"I thought in last year's game against the University of Texas, our football team played for whatever minutes it was of that ballgame all throughout
the first half and some of the second half like I expected our team to play all year," said Dimel.

The most heartbreaking game was a 29-28 loss to Cincinnati. 

The Cougars had a chance to win the game as time wound down, but a poor call by an official and two subsequent penalties on Dimel ended
any chance the Cougars had.

Looking forward

Athletics Director Dave Maggard and Dimel say the same thing: the team must believe they can win every time they step on the field.

The 2001 Cougars didn't. Instead, they tried not to lose, tried merely to delay the inevitable defeat. 

That attitude doesn't win games, as evidenced by 11 losses last season and 15 consecutive losses dating back to the 2000 season.

"One of the things we understand is that we have to have great leadership," said Dimel.

Does that mean that last year's team didn't have leadership? Well, Dimel wouldn't say that. 

He said last year's team lacked cohesion, that the team never came together in the way it needed to. 

Dimel hopes his team has woken from its "bad dream." It's time to move forward, to put the past in the past and work on establishing a winning
tradition.

The Cougars will suit up for the first time this year when they face Rice on Saturday. 

The Cougars have a chance to erase bad memories and start a new winning tradition.

 Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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