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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Fans to play pivotal role for football team

The Cougars hope to see more fans wearing red in the stands at Robertson Stadium this season. | Daily Cougar File Photo

Thousands of students flocking back to campus for the start of the fall semester signal that football season is fast approaching.

Though last season’s team won 10 games and made a bowl game, the year ended on a sour note with back-to-back crushing losses. In the Conference USA Championship game against East Carolina the Cougars fell short by six points, and in the Armed Forces Bowl, Air Force stomped on the Cougars 47-20.

This year the coaches, players and fans alike are hoping the Cougars become a dominant force on the national level.

Head coach Kevin Sumlin said that support from Cougar nation could play a significant factor in the 2010 campaign.

“It’s very important for us just because we are in the growth stages of our program,” Sumlin said.

“Our fans, as I said last year, I think people take for granted the effect that our fans have on our team. The more people we have here, the louder this place is, and our fans can make it even more difficult.”

Last season, the Cougars defeated the then-No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys and followed it the next week with a thrilling victory against Texas Tech. Robertson Stadium was sold out for the Texas Tech game, and it was the largest audience in the history of the venue with 32,114 people.

Supporters did not show up in full force for the games that did not have as much excitement surrounding them, such as the homecoming game against SMU when 26,889 showed up. The game against Southern Miss ended up being a nail-biter when the Cougars scraped by 50-43. Only 20,125 spectators attended.

Sumlin said he feels this team can create more fanfare with solid play.

“Our players and our coaches, we are all really appreciative of the people that show up regularly and hopefully we are generating some new fans,” Sumlin said.

The football program gave back to the fans this summer, hosting a fan appreciation day Aug. 14. Fans were treated to a scrimmage, and afterward coaches and players signed autographs and took pictures with fans. Despite the blistering heat, fans showed up to get a glimpse of the team.

Quarterback Case Keenum said the fans showing up in masses gives the Cougars an upper hand.

“It’s awesome to see the fans out here like they are, battling the heat,” Keenum said. “We appreciate them coming out anytime they come out. It’s huge for us. We love playing here at the Rob. It’s definitely a home-field advantage for us.”

UH alumnus and season-ticket holder Ignacio Salazar said he is looking forward to what he hopes will be one of the most successful seasons in decades.

“This year is going to be a very exciting season. Probably one you haven’t seen since 1989, and I think you are going to see a lot more fans out than in the past with our offense being No. 1,” Salazar said.

“This year is going to be a real special year.”

Other fans are pumped for the national recognition UH received during the summer.

Keenum appeared on multiple ESPN programs to rally for support.

“Case’s Heisman candidacy is through the roof. He’s been on ESPN and other interviews as well. He’s got a heck of a shot this year,” alumnus Anthony Bovi said.

Last year when the Cougars were ranked 12th after a 3-0 start, some pundits said that UH could play spoiler and reach a coveted BCS game.

This season, the Cougars have a legitimate chance to win every game on their schedule, which should lead to UH being discussed in the national picture.

“They can do it; the defense just has to improve,” Bovi said.

Some of the Cougars’ away games include a stop at Gerald J. Ford Stadium to play SMU in Dallas, not too far of a trip for the Cougar faithful. Even closer is the Cougars’ Oct. 16 rivalry game against Rice.

The Cougars hope to get off to a quick start, with four of their first five games played at home. The season kicks off Sept. 4 against Texas State, and less than a week later, the Cougars host UTEP on Sept. 10.

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