The Houston Cougars came out and dominated the Northwestern State Demons last Saturday, scoring on their first five possessions on the way to a 55-7 win. But this week's contest is going to be a bit tougher as the Cougars are traveling to Stillwater to take on the fifth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys.
This will be the Cougars first game against an opponent ranked in the Top 10 since a loss to number-eight Louisville in the 2004 season finale.
"They're a really good football team," Cougars coach Kevin Sumlin said yesterday. "They're one of the top four or five teams...in the country, which is about right."
The Cowboys are a really good, highly-ranked football team that held the Georgia Bulldogs offense to a total of 257 yards, only 90 of which came by way of the running game. And the Cowboys offense contains three dynamic offensive weapons (receiver Dez Bryant, running back Kendall Hunter, and QB Zac Robinson) as well as one of the nation's truly outstanding offensive linemen in Russell Okung.
The Cougars and Cowboys faced off last season, with the Cougars taking the 16-14 halftime lead only to surrender 28 third-quarter points on the way to a 56-37 loss.
"Everybody wants to talk about last year and three years ago (a 34-25 Houston win), Sumlin said. "That has no bearing....we're a lot different team right now, and so are they. We're better, but they're better."
And Sumlin takes the blame for the way the team played in the third quarter in last season's game. "I think how I handled things at halftime last year, that was more my fault than anything else in that game," he said. "We didn't answer Oklahoma State's intensity level in the second half last year. How I handled halftime, that was my fault."
But Sumlin seemed to be oozing an air of confidence when talking about the upcoming game, saying "if we play as good as good as we can play, I think everybody will be happy."
Center Carl Barnett agrees with his coach. "We feel that we can compete with this team," he said yesterday. "Our opportunities that we have against them are real high, and we should be able to execute to our plays, and we should do real well against them."
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He noted that the Cougars stuck with the Cowboys for most of the game, and that gives him confidence for this game. But the key, to him, will be in handling Oklahoma State's defense. He noted that Georgia was a running team that played into the strength of Oklahoma State's defense.
"Their defense is more of a run-stop defense, so, I mean Georgia really played into their system," Barnett said. "We spread it out on them, open up the field, let [QB Case Keenum] run down the field and dump it off, then our running game will open up. It's going to be real crucial [to give Keenum time]. If we give him those few seconds he'll be able to pick them apart. You saw what he did against them last year, so this year we'll be much more explosive....so those extra seconds will be great to be able to pick them apart."
The game is set to kickoff at roughly 2:40 Saturday afternoon on Fox Sports Houston and 790 KBME. And then we'll get to see if Sumlin and Barnett's optimism regarding the game's outcome is justified.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS COUGAR NOTES: In the Big 12 Coaches's teleconference on Monday afternoon, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was very complimentary of the Cougars. "This will be a good football game, and Houston's a very good team," he said. When asked if he was worried about his team letting down for this game, he responded that that shouldn't be a problem "because of the success [the Cougars] had last year, and as well as they played in the first game, our players should be able to stay focused."...Kevin Sumlin's coach's show will air tonight at 7:00 p.m. on 790 and will take place at Bubba's Sports Grill....The players of the week for the Cougars were running back Charles Sims, defensive end Tyrell Graham, and punter Chase Turner....For those of you awaiting basketball season, the Coogs released their 2009-2010 schedule yesterday. Games of note include Oklahoma on November 26, Mississippi State on December 19, Tulsa on January 9 and Memphis on January 23 and February 24.