So I spend eight months waiting for football season to arrive, and it turns out to be a huge letdown when it finally gets here.
I knew it was going to be a long afternoon when the Cougars fumbled the opening kickoff. Special teams miscues were just one of the many weak spots exhibited by the Cougars during this game. The biggest weak spot was the offensive line. I'm not sure I can recall ever seeing a Houston O-line get dominated by a D-line as thoroughly and as badly as they did Sunday afternoon. I knew the O-line was an area of concern after losing three starters from last year, but I never thought it would be this bad. Kevin Kolb was sacked six times and the Coogs netted exactly eight (8) rushing yards in the entire game. It took a touchdown with nine seconds left to keep the game from being a shutout. If the offensive line doesn't improve quickly, the Coogs will be lucky to go 3-8 this season. That's not hyperbole.
On the bright side, the Cougar defense looks a lot better. Marquay Love, Joe Clay and Lance Everson looked really good, and the defense did a great job in spite of the fact that they got no support from special teams (oftentimes Rice would begin their drives on the Houston side of the field) or the offense. They held Rice's potent triple option attack to a single touchdown. When you hold your opponent to ten points, you should usually be able to win the game.
Props to Rice. They were the better team this afternoon. Ken Hatfield and his staff did their homework and they had the Owls ready to play. The Cougars, on the other hand, really looked unprepared.
Rice has now won five out of the last nine meetings between the two schools.
The Reliant Stadium experience was underwhelming. The crowd of 28,726 – unsurprisingly small, since there seemed to be almost no marketing of this game to the casual sports fan – looked lost in the cavernous environs of the 69,500-seat pro stadium. In fact, with the roof closed and the crowd scattered among the vastness of empty seats, the stadium’s atmosphere was just as sterile and uninviting as the Astrodome. The grass was in poor condition. The acoustics were horrible. The concession stands were understaffed and some weren’t even open at all. I received my tickets ahead of time and I took the train to the game, so I didn’t have the same bad experiences as some other fans with regards to parking and ticket-buying. But, in general, I can’t say I was too impressed with Reliant as a college venue.
I’m trying to stay optimistic about the season – it is only one game, after all – but this loss does not bode well for the Cougars. Houston has never had a winning year after beginning the season with a loss to Rice. Given the murderous nature of the 2004 schedule, this was a game the Coogs could ill-afford to lose.
(Retroblogged on August 23, 2015.)