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Volume 70, Issue 47, Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Sports

Season's pain may offer UH a lesson

Pigskin Primer

Sam Khan Jr.

This one hurt. Bad.

After having a couple of weeks to heal their bumps and bruises and get refreshed before they took on Texas Christian -- the team they went toe-to-toe with last season -- and with faint hopes of a bowl game still in the distance, Houston's loss to the Horned Frogs stings.

"It hurts because we lost one of our best players (junior receiver Kendal Briles)," quarterback Kevin Kolb said. "It hurts because we played with a lot of heart and emotion, and it was a big game for us. And even though we didn't execute like it, our heart is still out there. Regardless of how we execute, it's still going to hurt just as bad."

Players, coaches and fans alike can't believe it. After 2003's turnaround season and a trip to the Hawaii Bowl, everyone was ready for this team to take the next step, but the harsh reality is that they're 1-6. No matter how good they've played in each of those games, they're out of the bowl picture.

"Never in my life would I have believed it," Kolb said. "Everybody's saying it, we're saying it, we're better than our record shows. We can't catch a break for our lives. It's one of those seasons. Last year we caught the breaks and won the close games, this year we're not."

It's fair to say that it's harder to catch breaks when you're playing tougher teams. Nobody is going to make excuses or throw a pity party for the Cougars, but the reality is they've taken out the Louisiana-Lafayettes and Mississippi States out of the schedule and replaced them this year with the Oklahomas and Miamis of the world.

The combined record of the seven opponents they've played is 32-13. That can be tough for any school, much less one that is trying to rebuild itself and earn respect. But there are lessons to be learned from this season. Although the hopes and dreams of the season may be lost, there is still reason to go out and play ball. UH head coach Art Briles is trying to instill that mindset in his players every day.

"Going to a bowl game is not going to be a reality," Briles said. "So now we play for pride, for self-esteem, for professional and personal growth, and we rely on the things that make you a person: character, loyalty, trust, effort, attitude, perseverance. What (the players) have to learn is that life doesn't always turn out the way you want it to. How you handle adversity determines what type of person you are."

Now the Cougars will settle for playing spoiler to top Conference USA foes like Associated Press No. 14 Louisville, while trying to set a tone for next season by finishing strong.

"We've got four games left; what can we do in those four games?" sophomore linebacker Wade Koehl said. "As far as I'm concerned, we're going to come out balling."

Despite all the frustration that has set in, Briles has done his best to stay positive and keep the team looking forward, so much so that his quarterback had a message to deliver after Saturday's loss.

"We're going to be back," Kolb said. "We'll be back in a bowl run next year, finish this year off strong, earn our respect, and go in next year with the same fire and tenacity."
 

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