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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Football

Cougars steel themselves for high-profile Thursday game


Wide receiver Chance Allen is poised to have a break out year and will be a favorite target in the receiving corp. | Reagan Earnst/The Cougar

Senior wide receiver Chance Allen said that the game against Louisville will be like the “Super Bowl” for the team. | Reagan Earnst/The Cougar

Just days away from arguably the most anticipated game of the season, the Cougars are in the middle of a fast-and-furious shortened week to prepare for the University of Louisville Cardinals.

The game will be played Thursday inside TDECU Stadium. It also gives Cougar football the distinction of being the only team in the nation to play two non-conference games against top five opponents.

“There is extra anticipation and extra excitement knowing who’s coming into town, there’s no hiding from that,” Head coach Tom Herman said. “The way we prepare is not going to change. The way we go about our business minute-to-minute and day-by-day, from a preparation standpoint, is business as usual. I think our guys are excited to go against a top five team, such as Louisville.”

Herman jokingly thanked former UH Athletic Director Mack Rhoades for arranging the team with, debatably, the toughest nonconference schedule in the nation before he departed from the University.

Since Herman has been head coach, the team has consistently risen to the occasion in big games.

The Cougars are 5-0 against opponents ranked in the AP Top 25 since the beginning of last season, a trend they aim to continue when they take the field Thursday.

“We are going to have our hands full, but our guys like this kind of stage,” Herman said. “They like the game. It’s senior night. We’ve got a bunch of proud seniors that are going to go out and give our home fans everything that they’ve got.”

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is as electrifying of a player as they come in college football and a nightmare for opposing defenses. Jackson is almost always the fastest player on the field on any given play and leads the nation in both rushing touchdowns with 19 and total touchdowns with 46.

Fans aren’t the only ones excited about the matchup between two of the most exciting players in college football, Greg Ward Jr. and Lamar Jackson.

“I always tell Greg that he should be the one up there holding the Heisman Trophy ever since I got here,” Senior wide receiver Chance Allen said. “I think it’s going to be nice to see him and Lamar (Jackson) face off. It’s a battle. It will be nice to see.”

A win against Jackson and the Cardinals would be the second time in as many years the Cougars have achieved the feat.

Football made a statement early last season when they traveled to Louisville, Kentucky and defeated the Cardinals 34-31, to the dismay of many.

Herman and his players recognize that this is not the same Jackson or team that they met last September.

“He is night-and-day a different player,” Herman said. “Last year, we caught him week two in his second start. He had some ‘deer in the headlights’ maybe a little bit, turned the ball over and got benched towards the end of the game.”

Herman said that, since he recruited Jackson in high school, he is well aware of what the quarterback can bring to the table.

When Thursday’s game kicks off, the University of Louisville will be the highest-ranked opponent to travel to UH since the No. 2 University of Texas in 1983.

Allen and his teammates hope that the wait will be worth it.

“It would mean a lot to this program,” Allen said. “It’s going to be a great game. Coach (Herman) said we are playing a one-season game. This is our Super Bowl.”

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