Cougars look to defeat Jaguars
On Saturday, Kevin Sumlin will run onto John O’Quinn Field at Robertson Stadium for the first time as UH head coach, and he couldn’t be happier to begin his career at the University against the Southern Jaguars.
"(It’s) a great opportunity… to start the season against Southern. We are looking forward to… Saturday because it is going to be a festive event," Sumlin said. "There is going to be a lot of people there, and we are looking forward to a sold-out stadium."
Although it will be the first time UH plays Southern, which is part of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Sumlin said he is not underestimating the Division II team, which finished 8-3 in 2007 and is looking to prove it can compete with Division 1 teams.
"We are going to get their best shot. We are going to have to be prepared, play hard and execute," he said. "They are a good team. They are going to have good athletes and be well coached. I have always had a lot of respect for (Southern head coach) Pete Richardson. He has won a lot of games. His teams are always well prepared and play well."
Sumlin announced last week that sophomore quarterback Case Keenum would lead the UH offense on the field against Richardson’s Jaguars. Sumlin said that the decision came down to "consistency," and having two quarterbacks competing for the same job raised the level of competition on the team.
"It was a difficult decision. Both (Keenum and junior Blake Joseph) are good enough to win and win championships with. It just gets down to one guy doing something a little bit better than the other one, and that doesn’t take away from either of them. Both of them are capable, and it’s a good position for us to be in as a team," he said.
Although the position for starting quarterback has been filled, the season’s go-to receivers are not yet set in stone. With versatile players such as senior tight end Mark Hafner, Sumlin said he would use the game as an opportunity to determine which positions the players will take during the season.
"We would like to have about eight guys who could go for the first game and just see how that does. Mark (Hafner) is pretty interchangeable at tight end and wide receiver."
Although Southern is also looking to start its season with a win, Sumlin is confident his team has what to takes to beat the Jaguars.
"Those guys are going to come in here playing a Division 1 opponent. It’s a big game. They have a lot to play for," Sumlin said. "If we have a solid eight guys, two deep with four counting the tight ends, I would feel pretty good going into the game."