FOOTBALL: UH looking to ignore hype
The scenario the Cougars have waited nearly 20 years for has arrived.
A sold-out Robertson Stadium. National audience. Another shot at the Big 12 Conference.
And, for the first time since 1991, a top-25 ranking for the home team.
UH vs. Texas Tech.
Although this means a great deal to the University, head coach Kevin Sumlin does not believe this excitement will affect how the Associated Press No. 17 Cougars (2-0) plan for Saturday’s 8:21 p.m. kickoff.
‘We knew the game was going to be on the schedule three months ago,’ Sumlin said. ‘We’re going to prepare the same way we did the first week.’
Saturday’s theme is Red Rage, and fans are asked to drape themselves accordingly. The theme on the field, however, may be speed.’
Both teams sport excellent athletes on both sides of the ball, and Sumlin said the speed of Tech’s defense could present problems.
‘ ‘Defensively is where a lot of people aren’t talking about them,’ Sumlin said. ‘They’re playing hard and being extremely physical.’
The Red Raiders (2-1) allowed only 340 total yards in last weekend’s 34-24 loss to No. 2 Texas, proving they can go on the road and contain a talented offense. One of the keys will be how the Cougars handle Tech’s aggressive style, which could slow UH’s offense.
‘Their defense is really strong,’ wide receiver Tyron Carrier said. ‘They don’t sit back and let stuff happen. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.’
Center Carl Barnett knows UH must match the Red Raiders’ intensity and physicality.
‘Up front, we have to be more aggressive and give (quarterback) Case (Keenum) enough time to orchestrate the offense,’ Barnett said. ‘If we hold them out and don’t let (Keenum) get sacked, the sky’s the limit for us on offense.’
As a senior, Barnett must do more than block his man. He is expected to lead the offensive line, which includes convincing them that the hype surrounding Saturday’s contest means nothing.
‘I have to keep them grounded; keep them humble,’ Barnett said. ‘We have to come out and match the intensity of Tech’s defensive line. We have to stay focused on the goals that we have.’
UH’s defense will also have its hands full Saturday. The Red Raiders are averaging 39 points and 473 yards per contest, but only 28.7 rushing yards per game.
This season, the Cougars have allowed 351 total rushing yards, but only 346 passing yards. This could bode well for UH, as Tech has more than three times as many passing attempts as rushes (173-51).
‘This is a big, big offensive team,’ Sumlin said. ‘We have our work cut out for us defensively, just with how they do things with the number of people they spread the ball around to.’
Familiarity is another theme of Saturday’s game, as UH offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen held the same position at Tech for three seasons. This could give the Red Raiders a slight advantage, but Sumlin does not believe the teams know each other as well as some analysts believe.
‘Some people think that (we mirror each other),’ Sumlin said. ‘There are a lot of plays that are called the same but aren’t run the same way.’
Although the Cougars want to block out the magnitude of this contest, they still want fans to be excited. Most of the players have expressed the importance of a rowdy, sold-out crowd, which is expected to be the largest in Robertson Stadium’s history.
‘Be loud,’ Barnett said. ‘Cheer as loud as (you) want to. We’re going to feed off that energy. If they do that for us, the Cougars are going to give them a show they really want.’