The Cougars have lost two close games in the last couple weeks, but they plan to break that pattern when Houston takes on crosstown rival Rice on Saturday at Robertson Stadium in the annual Battle of the Bayou Bucket.
The game against Rice will be the third conference game for the Cougars, and head coach Art Briles sees it a chance for Houston to get back on a winning track for the rest of the season.
"It’s a big week, a huge week for us. We’ve got to be good every week," Briles said. "We’re fighting and believing, and anytime you do that you’ve got a chance to win."
Sophomore quarterback Blake Joseph took a hard hit in last week’s 30-24 loss to Alabama that forced him out of the game, but both he and redshirt freshman Case Keenum are slated to play this week.
"Blake is fine. He had a little concussion the other day and Case is healthy also," Briles said. "Both of them are fine. I anticipate both of them playing this weekend."
Although the difficult losses are still fresh on the Cougars’ minds, the players are ready to put those in the past and move on and compete against conference opponents.
The next six games the Cougars play will be against C-USA teams.
"We’ve lost a couple tough games, but we’re looking forward to Rice and the upcoming conference schedule," junior defensive tackle Billy Harford said. "We’re just going to get on a winning streak right now and not worry about what happened in the past, just worry about the upcoming games, that’s all we can do."
Sophomore offensive lineman Carl Barnett said that the Cougars are competing against Rice for hometown pride.
"It’s hard to lose those kinds of games because we’re capable. We were so close to getting that game (against Alabama), but we’ve got to move on now. It’s a new week," he said. "Rice is a hometown rival. Both of us are in Houston, and we’ve got to be the team in Houston."
The Cougars will now use their two tough back-to-back losses as extra motivation to beat Rice on Saturday.
"It’s just like when we played Oregon and lost that game, Tulane had to feel our wrath," Barnett said. "Now it’s the same thing: losing to Alabama, and we should’ve won that game too. Rice is going to feel our wrath."
Besides looking to notch another win against a C-USA rival, the Cougars are also excited to play for the fans who will be there to show their support.
"Everybody’s rooting for you, not rooting against you," Barnet said. "Those last couple games we could’ve won. Now, being at home, we’ve got to get on the winning side of things so we can get to the conference championship again."
Briles continues to show confidence in his team’s strengths and abilities to help them obtain another win.
"What we are doing best is we are fighting our tail off. We have a bunch of guys that are fighting and believing," he said. "Anytime that you have that, you have the opportunity to win."