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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Football

Herman: Cougars ‘have chip on shoulder’ entering 2016


 

Defensive end Cameron Malveaux is expected to be a leader on the Cougar defense in 2016. | Reagan Earnst/The Cougar

Senior defensive end Cameron Malveaux is ready for the biggest game of his career on Saturday | Reagan Earnst/The Cougar

With fall camp concluding, the football team can focus on one thing: beating the University of Oklahoma.

In front a media-packed auditorium in the Athletics/Alumni Center on Monday, head coach Tom Herman addressed questions regarding his team’s matchup with one of the NCAA’s top teams.

“They’re the third-ranked team in the country for a reason,” Herman said. “Much like playing Florida State, they’re going to be better from an athletic standpoint top to bottom than we are. It’s going to take our A-game and then some, with some purpose-driven players to be able to compete.”

Herman’s team will enter NRG Stadium on Saturday as the No. 15 team in the country. Despite this being the best preseason positioning the Cougars have had in decades, they will begin the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff as more than a 10-point underdog to the University of Oklahoma Sooners.

Although a Heisman-hopeful quarterback, Greg Ward Jr., and a top-50 recruiting class last season are on the team, the Cougars are still not regarded as a college football power. Herman has stated that the rankings don’t mean anything to him, and he believes that the 2016 team must solidify their own legacy.

“We’re the same disrespected, little American Conference team with a giant chip on our shoulder,” Herman said. “The media and everyone else might have put us in the top 25, (and) that’s based off of what last year’s team did. We haven’t done anything.”

Since the end of last season, fans and media have circled the matchup against the Sooners because of the game’s implications. The victor on the day will become the central subject in College Football Playoff conversations for months to come.

Herman does not let this noise affect his team’s mindset.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that we knew was coming in January and we have prepared our team for this,” Herman said. “If we beat Oklahoma, our conference commissioner is not going to jog out to the 50-yard line and hand us the American Conference trophy. Win, lose or draw — this game has no bearing on our goal which is to win the American Conference.”

Having talked to the conference’s decision makers, Herman made it clear that this game will not be a deciding factor for the committee in charge of expanding the Big 12. For the seniors on the football team, the OU game holds a deep meaning.

Four years ago, the Cougars were a mediocre team with little fan support and no home field as TDECU Stadium was under construction. Bouncing back-and-forth between BBVA Compass Stadium and then-named Reliant Stadium, football lacked identity on all fronts.

Just four years later, the seniors will run out on the field of now-named NRG Stadium as a top-20 team in front of more than 70,000 people. The progression has not gone unnoticed by the players.

“It’s always been a dream of mine and I’m sure a lot of my teammates,” said senior defensive end Cameron Malveaux. “We’ve got a great season ahead of us and it’s a really exciting time of the year.”

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