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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Football

UH football credits upperclassmen leadership in navigating string of game delays to start 2020


The UH football team enters Thursday night's game against Tulane having five games canceled or postponed to start 2020. | Courtesy of UH athletics

The UH football team enters Thursday night’s game against Tulane having five games canceled or postponed to start 2020. | Courtesy of UH athletics

The UH football team has faced cancellations and postponements left and right to start the 2020 season. Some have been like blindsided tackles and others have come with plenty of advanced notice, but the sting of both is the same.

While the Cougars hope that the contest against Tulane finally kicks off the year, the players themselves say that they navigated the early adversity and didn’t let it ruin the work they put in since returning to campus in the middle of the summer.

“It wasn’t difficult because we know the situation of 2020,” said senior cornerback Damarion Williams on Monday when speaking to reporters through a Zoom call. “We just stayed ready. We ready.”

Despite the plethora of postponements, the Cougars stayed level headed. After the cancellation of the game against North Texas, which was the fifth game axed from UH’s schedule, the team took a break from coronavirus testing for the remainder of the week as the team had reached its bye week without playing a single snap.

Once the Cougars resumed testing ahead of the game against Tulane, they picked off right where they had left off with zero issues, head coach Dana Holgorsen said.

On top of staying clear health-wise, the UH student-athletes have also continued to put in the work on and off the football field.

“I commend our guys for hanging in there and practicing at the level they’ve been practicing at,” Holgorsen said. “It’s been challenging, but we have really good leadership with those eight captains that we have.”

After the team received the news that the Baylor game had been canceled, which occurred less than 24 hours ahead of the scheduled kickoff time, a group of 40 players on the team went to the weight room to work out, senior offensive lineman Braylon Jones said.

“(The cancellations) were a buzzkill, but I think we have a mature team, and we have a lot of leaders on this team,” said senior defensive lineman Payton Turner. “It happens really easily for the leaders to lead. With that maturity comes steadiness throughout the locker room.”

Instead of letting the frustration from the cancellations overtake their emotions, the Cougars have been able to grow into a tighter unit from it and have learned to control what they can control, Holgorsen said.

“The one thing I’ve been proud of is that I think we’re probably closer as a football team than we’ve been (because of the setbacks),” the head coach said.

With all the upperclassmen on the roster, the Cougars hope that their ability to navigate the string of cancellations will also prove to be fruitful on the field.

“Those weeks of practice that we had weren’t a waste of time,” senior linebacker Grant Stuard said. “We were still getting better. We will be a much more improved and consistent team playing now than if we would have played week one.”

After having its spring practices ended early, optional summer workouts delayed after COVID-19 issues and then the roller coaster of emotion the first month of the season having played zero games, it looks like Houston has reached the starting line.

“It’s finally here,” Jones said. “There’s a lot of excitement.”

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