Cougars are now locked and loaded

After four weeks of nothing but practice, football head coach Art Briles and the Cougars are ready to rip open their game plan and their opponents this Saturday in Oregon.

These guys are ready to play.

"We’re very excited about the season. We’re ready to get it going," Briles said. "We’re trying to get the mental preparation where it needs to be and getting ready to get on the bird and head up there."

The Cougars are ready to build on the success they had last year when the team won the Conference USA championship and played in the Liberty Bowl.

"We have a more realistic confidence. It’s easier to operate on reality than it is hope. Now, that doesn’t mean things are going to work out all the time, so you’ve got to strive and improve and build on whatever you got going on," Briles said. "That’s our goal this year. We’re going to be twice as good, twice as tough, twice as convincing."

Although he has not yet selected a quarterback, Briles is not worried about the situation.

"We’re just as concerned over who’s going to start at left guard, center, punter and all those things because those are equally important to a football team," Briles said. "We’ll get into the game Saturday and see what transpires. We don’t have any game experience to rely on in making the decision. There’s a possibility both guys will see action Saturday."

Despite Oregon’s prestigious history of winning football teams, Briles is approaching the matchup as just another game.

"They’re one of the winningest PAC-10 teams in the past decade. They’re a talented football team," Briles said. "They’re going to be a tough opponent, but our guys are mature enough to know we’ve got to be ready to play."

Defensive lineman Tate Stewart shares Briles’ confidence in the ability of the players on the Cougar football team.

"Oregon is a big offensive team and we’re smaller, but our whole thing is team speed this year," Stewart said. "We can run. There’s not a slow guy on the defense, so that’s what we plan on, just run hard."

Running back Anthony Alridge said that Briles is approaching the season opener as he would any other regular season game.

"Coach don’t change nothing for nobody. He’s all about the University of Houston," Alridge said. "It’s the same as if we were playing Rice, SMU. We’re going to practice with intensity. We’re going to practice smart and keep… healthy."

Stewart agrees that the Cougars are prepared for the game.

"It’s just business as usual. There’s tension in the air, but the main thing is just to suppress all that and be able to focus and go about our business," Stewart said. "You don’t know how much weariness there is in hitting, literally, the same guy day after day. It just gets old. We’re just ready to hit someone else."

Briles also said that the team has had a sufficient amount of practice and shares Stewart’s anticipation.

"We’ve been out there banging around for 30 days, and we’re ready to get out there and get after somebody else a bit," he said.

Senior Alridge is looking forward to Saturday’s game but still has some anxiety.

"I’m nervous a little bit just because it’s going to be the first game of my last season, senior year," he said. "I won’t be nervous once I get to the field, though."

For Briles, a critical part of the preparation is knowing that there are so many fans out there supporting the Cougars.

"It really warmed our hearts to see all those people come out and support us (at last Friday’s Fan Appreciation Night)," Briles said. "It was a great experience and we really appreciate it."

Although most fans probably are unable to make the pilgrimage to Eugene, Ore. to cheer on the Cougars, they are not far from Briles’ thoughts.

"We’re playing for more than just a single person," he said. "We’re playing for a lot of people and a lot of people’s pride, for the University and the city of Houston."

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