Cougars Defeat Temple, But Does It Count if No One's There to See It?

The Houston Cougars (4-3) defeated the Temple Owls (4-2) 31-10 on Friday night. The game wasn't as close as the final score indicates, since the Cougar defense kept Temple bottled up for most of the night. The game was a bit of a yawner as the Cougars no longer offer up the high-flying Air Raid offense, instead relying on the running game, short passes, improvisations of new QB Greg Ward Jr. and a stifling defense that forces turnovers at ease.

The game was also a yawner because the alleged "crowd" was pretty quiet. "Alleged" because the announced attendance was 21,471 for a stadium that holds 40,000. And looking out over TDECU Stadium Friday night, it appeared that 21,471 number was a bit inflated; there's just no way the stadium was half-full.

"I want to recognize our fans and our students," head coach Tony Levine said after the game. "I thought it was a terrific turnout tonight; the students have really made a difference, especially on that side of the field. It was loud there tonight and I really appreciate, eight o'clock kickoff, the game isn't going to end till eleven-thirty, twelve o'clock at night on a Friday evening. Our alumni, our fan base, our students, getting off work and coming out and supporting us, I thought it was tremendous."

Levine may think the crowd was tremendous, but in reality it wasn't. Frankly, it's what you'd expect from a UH fan base that likes to talk about how great it is yet in reality can't be bothered to do much but complain about the media coverage it gets while offering up excuse after excuse for a continued failure to attend games season after season -- except for those rare occasions when the team's competing for a spot in a BCS bowl.

The list of excuses is long and varied: The Astrodome was a boring, sterile environment; Robertson Stadium was a dump; fans didn't like attending games at night because of perceived crime problems; the team was losing games; the schedule sucks; the conference affiliation was a joke; the game was played too late; parking is awful; tailgating wasn't allowed at NRG Stadium; fans were boycotting the coaching staff; high school football; and so on and so on.

The games are now back on a campus in a brand-new stadium with great sight lines offering up a college atmosphere. The Cougars are playing games in prime time before a national audience, and the American Athletic Conference, while weak, is still a step up from Conference USA. The team has a winning record, and because of the remaining games on the conference schedule, the team should easily qualify for a bowl game. Friday's game was played at 8:00, not 6:00. It wasn't in the middle of rush hour in early September with 90 percent humidity.   Kim Helton and Dana Dimel and the awfulness of those UH teams are long gone. Sure, Tony Levine's team isn't sexy like the teams of Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin -- the offense is downright boring and often pedestrian -- but what's more important: that the team win or that it score 50-plus points a game? If a high-scoring offense is more important, then why wasn't the stadium packed every game when Briles and Sumlin were the coaches and Kevin Kolb and Case Keenum were putting up huge numbers every week? (For what it's worth, if points were all-important, then why is it that the only time the Dome was packed for the Jack Pardee/John Jenkins-era Cougars was when UT and the Aggies came to town and their fans bought up all of the tickets?)

So-called Cougars fans believe UH belongs in a power conference and often talk of a conference like the Big 12 offering the Cougars a spot. It ain't happening, folks. Not when you fail to pack a brand-new stadium on a glorious Friday night. Here's the deal: If Cougars fans don't want to attend the games, then why should a power conference have any interest in UH?

The Cougars have two home games left this season, November 8 against Tulane and November 22 against Tulsa. The odds are that the stadium will be half-empty on the days of those games, with excuses ranging from uninteresting opponents or game time to weather or some other type of whiny bull that UH fans so effortlessly spit out. Maybe some year the (alleged) Cougar fan base will shut up and put its money where its mouth is. But it's definitely not happening this season.


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