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Houston football concludes first spring season under Willie Fritz with Red and White Game

Sophomore running back Parker Jenkins leads the way for the White Team in Saturday’s Spring Game. | Anh Le/The Cougar

Saturday morning, Houston football took the field at its Spring Game giving fans a look at the Cougars with head coach Willie Fritz in the driver’s seat.  The scrimmage capped off a spring schedule consisting of 15 practices over 34 days and was played at Carl Lewis International Complex, the game site amid renovations in TDECU Stadium.

“We won, no question,” said Fritz, who addressed the 2,027 Cougar fans in attendance expressing gratitude for their support. “(This spring) we installed how we do things here with the Houston Cougars.”

Returning players such as sophomore running back Parker Jenkins and sophomore defensive lineman Anthony Holmes Jr. welcomed the changes their new leader brought to the program. 

“Fritz is the type of coach you really want to play for,” Holmes said.  “He is so energized and all into it. He brings you back to that love (for the game).”

With a new coaching staff, the players didn’t just learn a new playbook. They established what it means to be a part of a team.

“Everyone’s coming together, and offense and defense are getting along better,” Jenkins said. “The camaraderie is greater, you can tell through the vibes everyone has.”

The spring contest started with punts and kickoffs before four seven-and-a-half-minute quarters of play between the defense dressed in red and the offense in white.

Junior defensive back Jalen Emery picked off sophomore quarterback Ui Ale in the endzone for the first interception of the day. Later, junior defensive back A.J. Haulcy hauled in a ball thrown by sophomore quarterback Zeon Chriss. On the next play, Jenkins reached the endzone on a 60-yard run, providing some ignition for the offense.

“We are a bit ahead defensively,” said Fritz, who worked with three of his defensive coaches at Tulane. “We are playing a bit of catch-up on offense.”

The first and second team units started the game with two consecutive three-and-outs on six passes. Redshirt freshman quarterback Caleb McMickle led the Cougars down the field, allowing redshirt freshman running back Sergio Snider to cross the goal line.

The Cougars’ other two scores came in the second half when Chriss and Ale found senior wide receiver Joshua Cobbs and redshirt freshman tight end Jett Runion in the endzone.

Notably, senior quarterback Donovan Smith was absent from the spring game due to his recovery from shoulder surgery at the end of his 2023 campaign. Still, Smith was present throughout spring practice.

“I feel like he still got a lot done,” Fritz said. “He did a good job of paying attention, asking questions and coaching guys.”

As the Cougars close the chapter on spring ball, they anticipate their second Big 12 season with preseason camp set to begin in early August. 

“We have to continue to move forward and focus on the things we need to get better at for this fall,” Jenkins said. “It’s always a process.”

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