2012 season-opening loss motivates Cougars

The Cougars finished 5-7 last season. Kayla Stewart/ The Daily Cougar

The Cougars finished 5-7 and missed a bowl last season.
Kayla Stewart/ The Daily Cougar

Of the more than 32,000 people who attended UH’s 2012 season opener, only the players and coaches from Texas State envisioned what would happen next on the football field.

Las Vegas sports books labeled the Cougars as a 37-point favorite, but the Bobcats proved that games are won during the previous week’s preparation. Texas State took a happy bus ride back to San Marcos after stunning UH with a 30-13 win in Robertson Stadium’s last home opener.

The loss was a wake-up call, said junior offensive lineman Bryce Redman.

“There’s a lot more leadership, and I also feel there’s another hunger. I think after that 13-1 season… a lot of people felt like we were going to come out there and (wins) were going to happen,” Redman said. “We’re going to have to really grind this out to get where we need to be.”

The 17-point loss arguably set the tone for a 5-7 season, in which the Cougars missed a bowl game. Then-offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt resigned the following day.

But this season, after several internal changes, the Cougars expect a different outcome, said head coach Tony Levine.

After gaining two new coordinators, joining a stronger conference and changing their look with new helmets and jerseys, the Cougars are in a similar position with this Friday’s contest against Southern. UH is favored by 40 points, according to Bovada, but the team has a different mindset.

“We’ve made some changes to practice and we have a new offensive and defensive coordinator. We’ve done some things in terms of modifying how we practice,” Levine said. “To help our defense, we’ve changed some things within our August schedule to help our guys stay fresh and more injury-free.”

Defensive coordinator David Gibbs will play multiple defensive formations after last season’s experiment with the 4-3 defense yielded negative results.

The Cougars return only four starters from last season’s team, but that could be a positive. Last season, the Cougars were ranked No. 115 out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools in total defense after allowing 483 yards per game. The secondary surrendered more than 290 yards per game.

“(Gibbs is) very confident and he’s very positive. We’ve seen a change in our demeanor on defense from our student athletes, and I think we’re going to see that starting Friday night,” Levine said. “We’re going to be aggressive, but we’ve simplified our package and allow them to play fast.”

On offense, the transition is not as steep. The starting quarterback is still redshirt junior David Piland, but Levine said freshman John O’Korn will also see action. Offensive coordinator Doug Meacham has experience in a fast-paced offense similar to the Air Raid that the Cougars run. Outside of junior running back Charles Sims, the team returns all of its skill position players.

With so much suspense surrounding the Cougars’ new season, the team is ready to hit, block or tackle opposing players. Last season’s loss to Texas State proved games are not won on paper, so UH is not taking its opener lightly.

“We know it’s a new team with new dreams. We want to go out and win games,” said senior safety Zachary McMillian.

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