UH football enters 2022 season with a championship or bust mentality
If you asked UH football’s returners from last season what stands out to them the most from the Cougars’ 2021 campaign, the answer might surprise you.
It’s not the 11-game win streak. It’s not going undefeated in conference play in the regular season. It’s not beating Auburn in the Birmingham Bowl to secure the program’s third-ever 12-win season.
Rather, it’s walking off the turf at Nippert Stadium while watching Cincinnati celebrate its second-straight American Athletic Conference title.
“Me and a couple of other guys, after that game, we just stayed there just to watch (Cincinnati celebrate) and see how it felt to see a team win a championship,” said junior safety Hasaan Hypolite. “We watched the confetti fall on another team.”
Eight months later, the Cougars still feel the sting of defeat from that December night.
“Playing in that (AAC championship) game and coming up short, that hurts,” said UH sophomore defensive lineman Nelson Ceaser.
Those within the UH locker room can pinpoint about 12 plays from the 2021 season, whether it be a missed tackle, a turnover, miscommunication or anything in between, that ended up being the difference between the Cougars going 14-0 instead of the 12-2 record they actually finished with.
While the Cougars can’t go back and time and right their wrongs from a year ago, they can make sure they don’t make those same mistakes this time around.
As a result, the Cougars’ attention to detail is at an all-time high heading into their 2022 campaign.
“This is the most focused, calculated and precise that we’ve been in our attack to go get what we’re trying to go get,” said senior linebacker and captain Donavan Mutin. “Everybody understands what the mission is. So when you out to practice you can see that with how people interact with each other, how people are grinding and working, how we’re speaking to each other in the offseason, how there are more people than ever than ever that are on their own getting extra work and the more time meeting and (receiving) treatments.”
Flipping the script and being the ones that the confetti falls on is the only thing on the Cougars’ minds. It drives them to perfect their craft each and every practice.
“Going into this season, I feel like we have a lot more guys who are actually hungry for a (conference) championship,” Caesar said.
Every little thing matters and the UH veterans are enforcing this daily, ensuring that the Cougars cross all their t’s and dot all their i’s so that the same mistakes from a season ago don’t happen again.
“Any little thing, we’re on it,” said senior defensive lineman D’Anthony Jones. “From running off the field, playing your gap, if you mess up in a walkthrough run it back again.”
Coming up short is not an option for UH in 2022.
The Cougars refuse to have another conference title snatched from right beneath them. There is only one way that UH pictures the season ending — capping off the program’s final season in the AAC with a thunderous bang in the form of a championship trophy.
“We are driven more by losing in the (AAC) championship game,” said junior receiver Nathaniel Dell. “People want to win championship games. Nobody wants to lose championship games.”