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Friday, December 6, 2019

Football

Houston football moving forward despite losing season


Following the end of the 2019 season, head coach Dana Holgorsen is looking to 2020 with optimism. Although they ended with a 4-8 overall record, the season proved to be an important one for growing young talent, like sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Following the end of the 2019 season, head coach Dana Holgorsen is looking to 2020 with optimism. Although the Cougars ended with a 4-8 overall record, the season proved to be an important one for growing young talent, like sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The Cougars ended the season in a shootout loss against No. 24 Navy on Saturday night.

Although Houston finished with its first losing record since 2012, all eyes are already set on the 2020 season, and there is a huge sense of optimism about the future.

“You have an amazing chance over the next year, just stick together, work hard,” said senior punter Dane Roy. “This program is going places, and I am very excited to see what the future holds for the University of Houston football program.”

In many ways, the game against the Midshipmen served as a microcosm of the Cougars’ season. Houston had enough talent to compete. The team never gave up, but it just did not have enough left in the tank to get over the hump at the end.

“We got to play our assignments better. The small details. That’s where we struggled a lot today,” said junior safety Grant Stuard.

Although the goal of the program is to compete in high-profile bowl games each year, and the team fell short of that this season, this campaign did allow for many players, who likely would not have played if not for the plethora of injuries and redshirts, to gain game-level experience.

“I feel like I grew a lot, you know, seeing the defense and just getting comfortable back there behind center,” said sophomore quarterback Clayton Tune. “You can get all the reps in practice, but it’s nothing like the in-game reps. I just feel like that was the biggest key for me, seeing live defenses and getting the timing of that game speed.”

While the future at the quarterback position for Houston is unclear, the 6-foot-3-inch sophomore is looking forward to taking what he learned from this season and building on it.

“I’m excited to see where we go,” Tune said. “I think that we can have a really good offseason, and a really good spring and work. That’s really all we can do is work and continue to get better.”

The excitement going forward within the program also extends to the defensive side of the ball.
Houston’s defense struggled to create havoc this season, finishing toward the bottom of the AAC in sacks with 21 and interceptions with eight.

“We are gonna have a lot of guys coming in next year, and we’ll be able to play a lot of different types of defense,” Stuard said. “We’ll be able to defend a lot of different types of plays with those guys we got coming in. Really athletic guys coming in.”

Despite all the hardships the Cougars faced throughout the year, they are prideful in the effort they displayed.

“Through each and every trial, through each and every adversity that we faced, we were able to come together and stay together as a brotherhood,” Stuard said. “I’ve been a part of a lot of teams and that’s been rare. I really love these guys. I definitely want to keep that attitude moving on my career.”

Houston has always identified with the underdog label, and that mentality has been a huge factor in the success of the program over the years.

The Cougars remain undeterred despite the lull in 2019 and do not expect it to affect them going forward.

The team has already turned the page. The Cougars are confident they will bounce back and this campaign was just an anomaly rather than the norm.

“It’s easy, come be a part of what we are building,” said head coach Dana Holgorsen on his pitch to players to join the program. “I don’t care about 4-8, nobody hates losing more than me. There’s a lot of 4-8 teams out there that are going to be damn good next year.”

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