“Drama” is the word senior quarterback Clayton Tune used to describe UH football in its first four games of the 2022 season following a less-than-comfortable win against Rice on Saturday night.
Injuries, penalty woes and self-inflicted mistakes, the latter of which coach Dana Holgorsen has repeatedly deemed “stupid stuff” and “stupid crap,” have brought turmoil and frustration for a team that entered the season picked to win the American Athletic Conference title.
The frustrations of a fourth straight game with double-digit penalties shone through the words of Holgorsen, Tune and more key faces of the UH football program even after picking up the win against Rice to return the Cougars to .500 at 2-2.
“The message this entire week was ‘just do your job,’” Tune said. “And just trying to not hurt the team. Do your job and be disciplined in doing that.”
“Do your job” is a fitting mantra for a team that can’t seem to catch a break from the injury bug, needing all the bodies it can get if it wants to pull out a win each week.
Senior defensive lineman Derek Parish is out for the season after tearing his bicep in the second quarter against Rice. Junior receiver Nathaniel Dell has been dealing with a lingering injury, which he chose not to specify. Parish and Dell headline a long list of injuries on both sides of the football for the Cougars.
Dell admitted that the team’s injury woes have made it difficult to practice and prepare for game day.
“Everybody is a little banged up right now, so we’re trying to make people available for Saturday games and now Friday night games,” Dell said.
Despite the frustrations, the Cougars have kept their hopes up, believing that they have the depth to plug all the holes that injuries have created.
“You know the game of football is next man up,” said sophomore defensive lineman Nelson Ceaser.
As the team has felt every week so far this season, UH continues to perform well below the bar it set entering the season.
Despite much to improve before AAC play begins next week, the team hopes that the Bayou Bucket win can finally give the Cougars some momentum moving forward.
In 2021, UH’s win against Rice kicked off an 11-game win streak, rebounding the Cougars from their disappointing Week 1 loss to Texas Tech. The Cougars will hope that this year’s Bayou Bucket victory can provide a similar turnaround moment for a tumultuous season in advance of their head-to-head with a 3-1 Tulane at TDECU Stadium on Friday.
Whether or not UH will make another run for the AAC title remains to be seen, but Dell remains confident in the Cougars’ chances this season.
Asked if he believes this team is still capable of making such a run, Dell said confidently “yes.”
That is, as long as UH executes to the level it believes it is capable of executing at.
“It’s like we do all day at practice,” Dell said. “Just run our plays and not worry about doing extra stuff. Just do your job.”