For the UH football program, Saturday’s game against cross-town rival Rice University provides a multitude of opportunities. In addition to seeking the first win of the season, head coach Tony Levine recognizes the history of the rivalry.
“It’s definitely not just another game,” Levine said. “It’s unique that we’re right across town. It’s something that the team that comes out on top has that edge about them for the next 12 months.”
The Cougars and Owls have met 39 times since 1971, with UH holding a 27-11 all-time advantage. However, since 2008, the Bayou Bucket Classic has made a handful of trips across the city with the home team winning the last four.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback David Piland will be facing the Owls for the second time. In his first matchup, Piland threw for three touchdowns, but the game is ultimately remembered for a fumble under center that may have cost the Cougars in the 34-31 loss.
“It’s always a thought in the back of your head,” Piland said. “It definitely stays with you, but it puts that much more on the excitement of this game and preparing for it.”
Last season, the Cougars got their redemption in the form of 656 total offensive yards and a 73-34 rout, although Levine suggests that past results in this matchup mean nothing now.
“It’s a completely new season, it’s a completely new team and coaching staff on our end,” Levine said. “What happened last year has no effect. The four seasons I’ve been here, they’ve won two and we’ve won two and what happened the year before made no difference the following season.”
This year, the Bayou Bucket will be played at Reliant Stadium for only the second time — the first came in 2004 when the Owls edged out the Cougars 10-7. For Levine and his coaching staff, the major stage draws ample anticipation.
“It’s always nice playing in a big stadium,” said senior linebacker Phillip Steward. “The pros play there so you feel like you’re a pro when you’re out there.”