Houston Cougar football coach Kevin Sumlin has a little request for the sold-out Robertson Stadium crowd on Saturday night. He wants you to turn the volume up to 11.
"As a team, as a staff, as players we appreciate all the support," he said at yesterday's media luncheon. "We would like for everyone to be as loud as humanly possible Saturday night. If anybody watched the game in Austin last Saturday, I think [Texas Tech] had a little problem early in the game with false start penalties due to the crowd and being able to communicate on the road. And this is my public plea for a little help from our fans. Maybe we can create a little more noise. We would appreciate it."
The 17th-ranked Cougars attempt on Saturday night to continue their climb up the national rankings -- and the national sports consciousness -- when they take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders before a national audience on ESPN 2. And if, while watching the game, you should happen to think that both of these teams resemble each other when on offense, then don't worry, you're not alone.
Sumlin acknowledges that the two teams, both running the spread offense, might resemble each other, but "there is no one true spread offense," he says. And Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach said in Monday's Big 12 Teleconference that the Cougars are "very similar, and they do a lot of good things....[but] They're into motion more than we are."
The genesis of the offenses for both teams is the same as both Sumlin and Leach were offensive coordinators under Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops. And Sumlin's offensive coordinator is Dana Holgorsen, who was a co-offensive coordinator for Leach at Tech before joining Sumlin's staff. So the expectations are that this should be a high-scoring, pass-filled game. But Sumlin and the players are worried about the Red Raiders defense.
"We've got our work cut out for us defensively," Sumlin said. "Defensively, I think is one of the areas where people are not talking about them. They had eight tackles for loss against Texas. Texas did not score an offensive touchdown in the first half....that's pretty good defense."
"Their defense is really talented," quarterback Case Keenum said. "I think they have a plethora of talented players, and they play extremely hard. They're probably the best defense we've faced so far....They're very sound. They don't make many miscues."
But Sumlin doesn't plan on making any changes in the way the Cougars operate on offense. "We're not good enough to change things up week to week," he said. "We've got enough problems just trying to do what we do."
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That said, Sumlin and his players are confident that if they play their game, if they play the best they can play, then they can win. And if that should happen, then the players will get to experience more of what they experienced Monday morning, coming to the athletic facility to work out at six in the morning to be greeted by a huge line of their fellow students cheering them on as they stood in line for tickets to the game.
"I'm a senior, and I've been here four years, and I've never seen that," linebacker Matt Nicholson said. "It's great." And senior center Carl Barnett said "they were chanting and stuff and just doing what they do, and it made us real proud of ourselves, and made us want to work harder and do what we have to do."
SOME MISCELLANEOUS COUGAR NOTES:
Kickoff is currently set for 8:21 p.m. on Saturday, but ESPN has said that it may hold the kickoff until 8:26. This will be a decision that ESPN makes on Saturday night....Kevin Sumlin acknowledges how big this game is for the city, the students, and the alumni, but to him, this is still no more than one of the team's 12 games. "This is great. And we couldn't be more excited about it," he said. Sellout, the national recognition, everything that makes everybody proud. For us, we can't be that high. We can't be fans. We can't be jumping up and down and going nuts...we've got a whole long season to go."...The game will be handled by a Big 12 officiating crew....Want to know one of the best things about the team's success? According to center Carl Barnett it is the fact that the students on campus are actually wearing UH clothes instead of gear from Texas A&M and Texas Tech.