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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Football

Home opener to be ‘pretty big’ for Cougars


The Cougars are going into their game versus the Panthers after a 49-31 loss to Oklahoma. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The Cougars are going into their game versus the Panthers after a 49-31 loss to Oklahoma. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Houston, coming off a 49-31 loss against Oklahoma last Sunday that saw the Cougars compete in front of a sold out away crowd of more than 85,000, will take on Prairie View A&M for the first time in the two programs’ history in Saturday night’s home opener.

While PVAMU went 5-6 in 2018 and is an almost polar opposite to UH’s Week 1 opponent when it comes to magnitude, head coach Dana Holgorsen stance on the importance of the game remained clear.

“(Oklahoma’s) big, but the next one is big too,” Holgorsen said on Aug. 26 of the matchup versus the Panthers.

Holgorsen, who ten years ago was the Cougars’ offensive coordinator under then-head coach Kevin Sumlin, has not played a home game with Houston since 2009, when an aging Robertson Stadium still sat on the grounds where TDECU Stadium now stands.

Home sweet home

Home field advantage has become an important factor for Houston in recent years, and excluding 2014’s loss against UTSA in TDECU Stadium’s debut, the Cougars have found relative success in home openers since 2012.

Given PVAMU’s 2-4 away record and UH’s 5-1 slate at home in 2018, the odds are in the Cougars’ favor when it comes to the first-time matchup.

But Houston should enjoy its time at home; it will be the only game it plays there until Oct. 12’s game versus Cincinnati.

Rough stretch

The biggest threat for the Cougars heading into their game against the Panthers is scheduling.

Although Houston is well equipped to take on Prairie View, UH will be just six days removed from traveling to its biggest game of the year in Norman, Oklahoma.

The game is also in the middle of brutal portion at the beginning of UH’s schedule that has Houston playing four games, including three away or at a neutral site, in an 18-day period.

Luckily for the Cougars, the Panthers will have to travel to Houston for the second consecutive week after playing Texas Southern Aug. 31 at BBVA Stadium, a Labor Day weekend classic that saw Prairie View earn a 44-23 win.

Offensive-minded coaches

Much like Holgorsen, Prairie View head coach Eric Dooley’s brain is wired for the offensive side of the ball.

In 2018, Dooley’s first year as head coach of the Panthers, PVAMU set a program record by scoring at least 60 points in three of its games. Its highest scoring effort was a 66-13 win versus Alabama State in which Prairie View put up 673 yards of total offense.

Up Dooley’s sleeve is senior quarterback Jalen Morton, who in a historic 62-13 win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff rushed for a single-game school record 255 yards. The mechanical engineering major’s ground game helped the Panthers reach 815 total yards in the game, also a single-game program record.

The Cougars can find comfort in the fact that they have a quarterback who in 2018 set an American Athletic Conference record in touchdowns responsible for with 50 and lead the national average in points responsible for per game with 27.5.

Much like last Sunday’s quarterback duel between senior D’Eriq King and Oklahoma senior quarterback Jalen Hurts, in which King threw two touchdowns, Saturday’s matchup can get interesting for the Cougars and the Panthers.

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