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Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Cougars face do-or-die situation against SMU

After an unexpected loss to Rice, the Cougars (3-3, 2-1 Conference USA) will make their way to Dallas to play SMU.

Linebackers Phillip Steward (42) and Sammy Brown (8) and lineman David Hunter (95) hope to give the SMU offense more resistance than they did against Rice. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

The Mustangs (4-3) are in first place above UH in the west division of C-USA with a 3-0 record. With a win, the Cougars will reclaim first place in the division, and a loss will make it tough for the team to qualify for the prized C-USA Championship game.

“This has to be the game that we have to come out ready to go,” running back Bryce Beall said. “If we can’t do that, we don’t need to show up. I believe that everyone in the locker room believes that we still have a chance and we really believe that we can still pull this one out.

“We look ahead knowing that we still have a chance to go out there and get a win. We are in control of our own destiny and the only person that can take that away from us is ourselves.”

Last weekend’s result left the Cougars with a bad taste in their mouth. The team hopes to avoid dwelling on the loss.

“It’s time to move on to SMU,” head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Nobody feels good about this last weekend and nobody is happy about it, but we can’t wait around and wallow.”

True freshman David Piland will make his third straight start as quarterback. Growing pains aside, head coach Kevin Sumlin said he is pleased with Piland’s progress.

“I don’t know if you can develop a guy in two weeks,” Sumlin said. “I think he is getting better, just over the course of the last couple of weeks. I see certain situations arise and how he handles them — not only mechanically — but the pace of the play and being able to communicate during the game as to what is going on. He continues to improve.”

Beall has been one of the more outspoken Cougars through the team’s two losses. Sumlin said players on both sides of the ball need to join him as a leader among their teammates.

“He can’t do it by himself,” Sumlin said. “When you come into a season and have leaders, there’s a pecking order of how things go in any organization. It takes some time for a guy to step outside of his comfort zone and say ‘you know what, I’ll lead now.’ That seems like an easy thing to do, but personality-wise and player-wise, sometimes that just doesn’t happen overnight.

“As coaches, we have to assume that role until we can find someone or a number of guys that say ‘I’ll lead from here on out.’ It’s a whole lot easier to do in off-season than it is while you’re preparing for a game.”

SMU will be just as hungry as the Cougars after losing 21-28 to Navy last weekend.

In last year’s contest at Robertson Stadium, the Cougars beat SMU 38-15. In 2008, UH won 44-38. The Cougars are 7-3 on SMU’s home turf, and 14-9-1 overall against the Mustangs.

The head coach of the Mustangs is June Jones, who is known for running a passer-friendly offense. His last coaching job was at Hawaii from 1999-2007. While at Hawaii, he helped Timmy Chang establish himself as the most productive quarterback in NCAA history with 17,072 career passing yards.

SMU’s quarterback Kyle Padron is on a roll and has compiled over 1,000 passing yards in the last three games.

Their running back Zach Line leads C-USA with 635 rushing yards. Linebacker Ja’Gared Davis leads the nation in tackles for a loss.

Saturday’s game will be played at Gerald J. Ford Stadium at 2:30 p.m. It will be televised on CBS College Sports and can be heard on 790 AM. Next weekend, the team will head to Tennessee to play Memphis.

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