Oregon and Tulane were good experiences for the Cougars, but Houston will be happy to finally have their 2007 season home opener against Colorado State University at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Robertson Stadium.
Last season the Cougars only had to wait one week to open at home, and they didn’t even have to leave Houston to open their 2006 season – they went to Rice to snatch a 31-30 victory.
However, this season the Cougars (1-1) have waited three weeks into September to open at home, and the anticipation for seniors like running back Anthony Alridge has been building up.
"I can’t wait to be in front of our crowd. It’s going to be electric and I’m going to try and give them a show. We’re going to try and give them a show – it’s going to be a great atmosphere," Alridge said.
Houston owns the series lead 2-0, but the Cougars have not faced the Rams since 1973. The last time Colorado State (0-2) came to Houston was in 1972 when the two teams met at the Astrodome. The Cougars took both games by the scores 28-20 and 48-13, respectively.
"(CSU is a) well coached, well disciplined, solid program. The players play hard," head coach Art Briles said. "(They) have had two tough opponents to open the season… they have a lot of guys that can make plays.
"What we have to do is try to be consistent and as disciplined as we can be on the defensive side of the ball, and when we get the ball on offense we have to do something with it."
One of the glaring holes for Colorado State is their run defense. The Rams have allowed 6.3 yards-per-carry to opposing running backs and have given up 374 yards in two games.
"We’re going to play our game, and it’s all about what Houston does and not what Colorado State does – just about the University of Houston," Alridge said.
The Rams have fought hard in their first two games of the season and shouldn’t be looked at as a bad team – losing both games by less than a touchdown to University of Colorado and UC Berkley, ranked number 6 by the Associated Press.
CSU likes to run the ball, and it was very evident with 98 of the 155 plays committed to running the ball through the first two games.
"Big game for us – home opener. From what I’ve seen so far they’re big, strong and they play real hard… we’re going to play a lot more run-oriented plays, load the box up a little bit and basically play run first because they predominately run the ball," junior cornerback Kenneth Fontenette said.
The Rams have used running back Kyle Bell consistently through the first two games. Bell has carried the ball 66 times for the Rams and has only averaged 3.6 yards-per-carry, but Briles said he’s a workhorse.
"We just have to get on (Bell) and gang-tackle him. He’s a big, strong running back, so we have to play good gang tackling, aggressive defense, but our guys move around so I have a lot of confidence in a lot of our players," Briles said.
Clock control will be another issue against Colorado State. The Rams have averaged 34:51 in time of possession and they have run 35 more plays than their opponents.
"When we’re on defense, we have to have good first downs against their offense. We have to get them into long yardage situations," Briles said.
Rams quarterback Caleb Hanie has played well, throwing for 530 yards and four touchdowns. But if the Cougars can put a little pressure on Hanie, then they may have success against the Rams.
Hanie has thrown three interceptions on the season, two against Cal while under a lot of pressure from Cal’s defense, and one crucial interception in overtime that set up the game ending field goal against Colorado.
"(Hanie) has a good arm… He tries to get into tight spaces, so he has confidence in his arm," Fontenette said.
Fontenette also said that his only concern is what the Cougars do, and he is confident in their ability as a team.
"We (can) compete with anybody. The loss (against Oregon) seemed like more than it was in the first game, but we were in the whole game, so it really doesn’t matter who we play."
Alridge said his ankle, which was injured against Oregon, has healed, but it is still being taped in practice.
"(My leg’s) fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s 100 percent," Alridge said. "I expect to come out and play hard. I give it all I got – 100 percent – every time I get on the field. I won’t give (anything) less."