John Royal Welcome to Lake BBVA Compass Stadium.
Players slipped and slid. The Cincinnati kicker fell to the ground while missing on a field goal attempt as his plant foot slid out from under him. The UH quarterback nearly fell to the ground trying to pass on the team's last attempted drive, his plant foot giving way as he put his weight on it. Players couldn't cut, couldn't go full-speed, had to tiptoe.
It was a complete and utter disgrace. Funny to those watching from the warm confines of their home, but probably not all that humorous to the players, coaches and fans of the team. (The stadium was over half-empty, so most fans were undoubtedly watching from home.) The field was awful before the game, a swamp by the end. They might have tried to play football on it, but the result ended up being something that would have been cut from even the worst Adam Sandler movie.
The Cougars (7-4, 4-3 in conference) didn't lose the game because of the field conditions. Head coach Tony Levine stated, after all, that the Cougars played on the same field as Cincinnati (9-2, 6-1 in conference), and the Bearcats seemed to fare much better than the Cougars, piling up 573 total yards of offense compared to Houston's 278 yards. And Houston's problems in this game seemed to be much the same as their problems in their other two losses that preceded this one: The offense absolutely could not get into any kind of rhythm, and starting quarterback John O'Korn was replaced by Greg Ward early in the third quarter in an attempt to spark some life in the Cougars -- this proved kind of troublesome later in the game as recently UH has been working Ward more and more at wide receiver than at quarterback.
UH lost one scoring attempt in the first quarter when a handoff went bad and Cincinnati recovered. Another scoring attempt went awry in the second quarter when UH elected to go for it on fourth down and 17 from the Cincinnati 27 instead of attempting a field goal because the middle of the field was nothing but mud with no place for UH's kicker to plant -- UH didn't get the first down. And the Bearcats were given another great scoring chance, which they capitalized on, when O'Korn fumbled at his own 13-yard line. Then came the ultimate mistake, O'Korn scrambling for yards despite UH having no timeouts and the clock ticking to zero. (UH switched from the somewhat effective Ward to the ineffective O'Korn for that last, failed drive because of Ward's lack of QB practice over the past several weeks.)
"We've got to clean up the mistakes," Levine said. "When we watch this video -- again, everybody in the locker room was unhappy certainly after the game -- when we watch this video, we're going to see mistakes that we made, whether coaches, student-athletes, that we've got to get corrected to be successful."
But while Levine said the field conditions didn't affect the team any more than they did Cincinnati, free safety Trevon Stewart admitted the team just couldn't do what it wanted or needed to do on the field.
"It affected us a lot," Stewart said. "We're a speed team. Defense. Offense. Special teams. We just couldn't make the cuts like we wanted to, couldn't go full speed, couldn't take proper angles like we wanted to. It just slowed us down."
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And while Levine admitted to passing up on a field goal attempt because of field conditions, Cincinnati's kicker, Tony Millano, fell while following through on a kick when his plant foot slipped, and he missed another when he appeared to alter his kick follow-through in order not to fall to the ground.
But it wasn't the field that doomed the team. It was the mistakes. The turnovers. The mental mistakes.
"You don't give yourself as much of an opportunity, as much of a chance, to be successful," Levine said. "That starts with me; I made mistakes. Our coaches made mistakes. Our trainers, managers, everybody made mistakes today. Our student-athletes did as well."
The field wasn't at fault for the loss. But that's in no way an excuse for the sorry conditions of the green mud the two teams had to play on. So maybe the good folks who run BBVA Compass Stadium can do everybody a favor and invest in a tarp.