For better or worse, UH set to finally see return of college football to campus
By the time UH kicks off against the UNT Mean Green on Saturday evening, it will have been 301 days since the Cougars played an official game inside TDECU Stadium.
In between that time, class semesters have come and gone, the XFL’s Roughnecks went 3-0 at TDECU Stadium before having their season abruptly pulled, and the coronavirus pandemic changed life as we knew it for the foreseeable future.
During that same period, and most recently, the UH football team has also had four different potential season openers get postponed or canceled, which has made them have to wait nearly an extra month to play a game.
‘It’s 2020. We’re used to this’
The season was supposed to start with the Bayou Bucket in a contest against Rice, which was postponed after the Owls delayed their start of the season by multiple weeks in August.
Houston’s second game of the season against Washington State was canceled in July after the Pac-12 decided not to play football at all in the fall.
Then Houston was scheduled to kick off the season against Memphis when that game had to be postponed on Sept. 12 due to a coronavirus outbreak in the Tigers’ roster, which led to the quick scheduling of the contest against Baylor.
Then on Sept. 18, the Bears announced it had to postpone and essentially cancel the game against the Cougars because of their own COVID-19 troubles, which has left UH frustrated but still trudging along hoping to start its season soon.
“It’s 2020. We’re used to this,” said Houston head coach Dana Holgorsen on Monday morning during a Zoom meeting with reporters.
But despite all the obstacles, Holgorsen has tried to navigate his team through all the uncertainty and keep them prepared physically, mentally and health-wise.
“We’re not a whole lot different than about 50 percent of college football right now when it comes to (not having) played a game yet,” Holgorsen said, “and we’ve got 10 games on the schedule.”
The Cougars will try again on Saturday evening against North Texas.
If Houston is finally able to kick off its season, it will certainly have a little extra emotion behind it from the growing wait that players have had to endure to start a new season.
The UH football team has also had to be disciplined off the field as well. Through all the postponements the last few weeks, not one has been due to slacking on the Cougars’ part, which shows their commitment but also becomes harder to maintain the longer no games are played.
“It’s OK to be disappointed,” Holgorsen said on Monday. “It’s OK to be upset, but you can’t hang on to it like that,”
The Cougars have been able to stay clear of any coronavirus-related issues since the team began training for the 2020 season the head coach said.
“We got to keep doing it that way,” Holgorsen said. “We can’t let our guard down. We can’t relax.”
What to expect from fans
While TDECU Stadium will be at only 25 percent capacity for Saturday’s game, a couple of people that are planning to attend cannot wait to pass through the gates and be heard after everything that’s happened since the pandemic started.
“This season, more than ever, we can’t wait to get out of the house, get in the stands and cheer on the Coogs,” said 1985 education graduate and season ticket holder Dave Turnquist on Twitter. “I know the players are chomping at the bit to play and we are so excited to be there with them.”
And while that number attending is significantly lower than usual, a couple of the people who plan on attending do not think that it will be too much of a problem to make their presence felt.
“Those who want to attend the limited capacity games this year will really want to be there,” a Coogs of CV3 spokesperson wrote via Twitter, “That die-hard fun atmosphere can still apply although on a smaller scale.”
The organization plans on at least 10 members attending the game and are looking forward to it, not just because it’s football, but because it serves another meaning as well.
“(We want) the trash-talk atmosphere towards the other team and the refs, but mostly getting back to normal and seeing the 2020 Cougar football team,” the Coogs of CV3 spokesperson said.
For the Cougars, they hope that the Mean Green are the lucky pick after four unsuccessful attempts, not just because it will at last open the season, but because it will signify that all their hard work, the grind of training camp and discipline to stay healthy, will have finally paid off.
“We’re prepared. We’re eager. We’re motivated,” Holgorsen said. “I’m looking forward to playing this Saturday.”