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Volume 68, Issue 1, Thursday, August 29, 2002

Sports
 

Senior running back Joffrey Reynolds

Cougars ready to pluck Owls
 

By Christian Schmidt
The Daily Cougar

The time has finally come to exorcise some demons. The Cougars will travel to Rice Stadium to take on the Owls at 7 p.m. Saturday with
redemption on their minds.

"I think more than anything we have a three-game set that's going to (set the tone for the season)," head coach Dana Dimel said. "If we win the
football game, obviously that really gives us a lot of momentum."

The success of the Houston squad will hinge on its ability to come together quickly and play as a cohesive unit. Those first three games could
be the difference between a season to forget and a season to build on.

The Cougars may possess talent, but they may need the veteran presence seniors like safety Hanik Milligan and running back Joffrey Reynolds
bring. Above all, Dimel said he wants his team to relax and play their best.

"When you have a young football team, you have to be careful that you don't put too much emphasis on the first football game," Dimel said. "I
think the guys are really geared up. I think they're focused."

But the Cougars aren't the only ones with something to play for. The 2001 Rice Owls had their best season under head coach Ken Hatfield
(those eight wins are the most since the 1953 Owls went 9-2), but didn't go to a bowl.

"We're going to be prepared," Hatfield said. "Our new guys will have a chance to play. They've been practicing hard, but there's nothing like a
game. It's fun to get started."

Rice's situation is, strangely, not that different from the Cougars'. The Owls have a few veterans but are primarily a very young and inexperienced
team. The biggest difference is that Rice's players are used to winning.

"There's a lot of experience to replace, guys like (graduated linebackers) Dawson and Hebert, but we hope we have some young guys who have
been waiting to get on the field," Hatfield said. "We just want to play our best one game at a time, and not beat ourselves and enjoy playing."

The defense will have some extra work to do against the Rice offense. Before each play, the defense will prepare two defensive schemes, one
to counteract an option play and one to counteract the spread passing attack.

What Rice does will determine the Cougars' reaction. The diversity of Rice's attack may cause fits for the Cougars.

Above all else, both teams are just ready to get the season started, and Hatfield couldn't think of a better way to start than playing against its
cross-town rival.

"This is the only game in America that opens the season with two teams from the same city," Hatfield said. "It's good to start the season with a
game between two teams from the same town. It's not your usual non-conference game."

Hatfield's right. This isn't your usual game. And the Cougars are excited. It's their chance at redemption.

 Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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