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Houston’s wild weekend that put it on path to Waco

Running back Kyle Porter gets the hand-off from quarterback Clayton Tune against Cincinnati in 2019. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Running back Kyle Porter gets the hand-off from quarterback Clayton Tune against Cincinnati in 2019. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

The UH football team has been on an unexpected roller coaster since Friday.

The day began with the team focusing on Memphis. The Cougars and Tigers were set to play against each other on Sept. 18. Houston went through a mock game on Friday, which focused on the logistical side of the games.

The Cougars went through their warmup routine, sideline organization and their group substitutions.

While all this was going on, rumors were swirling around that Memphis was dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak after its first game against Arkansas State, and there was a serious question whether Houston would have to wait another week to kick off the 2020 season.

“(There was) a lot of uncertainty,” said head coach Dana Holgorsen on Monday morning to the media.

With all the reports coming out of Memphis, the second-year UH head coach’s focus was to get the team to just work on itself and ignore the outside noise. While the status of Houston’s first game of 2020 was up in the air, Holgorsen’s challenge was to keep his team engaged and not get frustrated if the game was eventually moved.

“We just have to stay ready,” Holgorsen told his team. “We have to worry about us, no matter what happens. All that (practice) is going to be good for us.”

Towards the end of Friday, Holgorsen called athletic director Chris Pezman to see what the situation with Memphis was, and the possibility to play Baylor became a viable option.

“We had conversations. I believed I called Chris Pezman Friday night,” Holgorsen said. “I knew Baylor wanted a game (to fill its schedule)… and then Pezman took it from there and made it happen.”

While the players were given Saturday off, the AAC announced that UH’s game against Memphis had been postponed, and then the announcement that UH and Baylor were going to play for the first time since 1995 was officially made moments later on that same afternoon.

The shift for the UH football team quickly changed.

While the Cougars’ quick turnaround to the Bears is out of the norm for most college teams, Holgorsen and his staff are excited to have a guaranteed game for Saturday, and they like where the team is at.

“I feel like we’re ahead on a normal game week,” Holgorsen said.

Although the team is excited to have the start line of a new season in sight, some obstacles remain. Houston will have a tough task to prepare for a Baylor team on short notice that went 11-3 a season ago and is also entering 2020 with a new head coach after Matt Rhule’s departure for the NFL.

While much of Bears’ play-style will be unknown under head coach Dave Aranda, not everything about the first-year Baylor coach is a mystery to Holgorsen. The two coaches were together on the coaching staff of Texas Tech in the early 2000s, and Houston’s coach has a lot of respect for Aranda.

“He’s one of the smartest head coaches I’ve ever met,” Holgorsen said of Aranda.

While to road to get here was long and had many twists and turns for Houston, the wild journey to get to a new season is almost over.

There is still a lot of unknown and mystery on how it will go, but for now, it does not matter. It’s game week Houston. Football Saturday is just a few days away.

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