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Volume 68, Issue 19, Friday, September 20, 2002


Cougars find the beef

By Geronimo Rodriguez
The Daily Cougar

Beginning on Saturday against No. 3-ranked Texas, the Cougar football team hopes to improve its offensive numbers on the road, relying on this season's more experienced offensive line.

Although the Cougars' (2-1, 0-1 in conference) practice Thursday was hampered by the afternoon showers, Cougar head coach Dana Dimel said the team was able get in most of its practice.

"The thing it affects the most is the special teams, but we got about 60 percent of our special teams work done before the rain hit," Dimel said. "Today's workout was just short, sweet and crisp."

The play of junior offensive lineman Al James and the rest of the offensive line has been the main reason UH's running game has seen marked improvements this year.

Walter Coreas/The Daily Cougar

One of the reasons redshirt freshman Barrick Nealy has averaged 62.3 yards on the ground and senior running back Joffrey Reynolds, who is averaging 137.3 yards a game, has the seventh most rushing yards in the nation is this season's offensive line.

Seniors Chris Redding, Chris Wheeler and Rufus Williams and juniors Rex Hadnot and Al James gelled during this past off-season, making up one of the team's most improved areas.

The Cougars have averaged 411.3 total yards a game, with the offensive line giving up five sacks.

Williams is the only offensive lineman who did not play on the line last season. He made the transition from defense to offense this spring. In their last "real" away game, the Cougars were defeated, 35-7, by the then-No. 16-ranked Georgia. 

The Bulldogs held the Cougars to 46 yards on the ground, holding the entire offense to 237 yards.

Last season when playing away from home, the Cougars averaged 335.3 total offensive yards a game. The running game suffered most, averaging 111.3 yards.

But in this season's first "away" game, the Cougars ran over the Rice defensive line, rushing for 305 yards. The team finished with 502 all-purpose yards.

Junior left tackle Phil Hawkins may replace Redding, who was injured in Saturday's game against Louisiana-Lafayette.

"(Redding is) doubtful, but he could be ready to play. But he won't start the game if he doesn't practice," Dimel said.

Coach Dimel said the coming game against Texas (2-0) is a pivotal game for a team, which went 0-11 a season ago, still trying to establish itself.

"Even though Rice was in Houston, it's still going to be a different environment. I hope our team will play focused on the road," Dimel said. "It's a sign of a team making strides toward improvement. It's important that we play well on the road and eliminate unforced errors."

Last season on the road, the Cougars lost five of 11 fumbles and were intercepted six times, turning the ball over 11 times.

As for the confidence the team will carry on its first "real" road game, Coach Dimel said, "There is no self-doubt on our case as to what kind of football team we have. The only doubt is how we prepare for Texas." 

Kick-off is at 7 p.m. Saturday. 

The game can be seen on pay-per-view or heard on the radio at KPRC 950-AM.

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