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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Football

Cougars’ confidence tested against Rice


The Cougars and Owls have split the last four matchups with the home team, winning each time. Redshirt junior running back Charles Sims will be competing in the rivalry for his third time. Last season, Sims combined for 123 total yards and two touchdown receptions in the 73-34 UH victory at Robertson Stadium.     |  File photo/The Daily Cougar

The Cougars and Owls have split the last four matchups with the home team, winning each time. Redshirt junior running back Charles Sims will be competing in the rivalry for his third time. Last season, Sims combined for 123 total yards and two touchdown receptions in the 73-34 UH victory at Robertson Stadium. | File photo/The Daily Cougar

Whether the Cougars want to admit it or not — which they will not — this is a make-or-break week for the football program in terms of confidence surrounding the program. A loss against the rival Rice Owls on center stage at Reliant Stadium would put UH at 0-4 since its winless 2001 season.

“We’re looking at it right now as if it’s a nine game season,” said head coach Tony Levine.

“It’s our first conference game so our goals in terms of within Conference USA are all out there in front of us.”

For a student body accustomed to winning — especially within the city limits — a third loss in six years to the Owls would prompt mayhem (see: Allstate commercials) on Cullen Boulevard.

On the brighter side of things, UH’s first three opponents are a combined 8-2, although Rice will be the first opponent the Cougars have faced with a losing record — something the Cougars do not seem to care much about.

“It doesn’t matter what each opponents record is because everybody’s going to play hard for the Bucket,” said senior linebacker Phillip Steward.

“Since it’s my last time playing against them, I’m trying to go out each game with a bang.”

The rivalry itself provides an interesting platform in what has been an uncharacteristic season for the Cougars.

Although the game itself is the second all-time between the two at Reliant Stadium, it will be the first matchup considered to be at a neutral location.

“It’s one of the nicest stadiums in the NFL,” Levine said. “I think everyone in our program is excited to go there this Saturday and to not only play at Reliant but against our rival.”

“I think it combines to add up to an exciting afternoon.”

A win over Rice would provide a level of enthusiasm and hope not seen since prior to the 30-13 opening season loss to Texas State.

However, if the Cougars lose, this could be the longest 11-game stretch since 2001.

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