Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Houston 27, TCU 34

The Coogs lose again, this time to TCU in Fort Worth, in a game that apparently wasn’t even as close as the score indicated. I didn’t get to see the game because I was in Las Vegas over the weekend, but according to reports from people who were there the Coogs played uninspired football until the fourth quarter, and by then it was too late.

This loss, the sixth of the season, cements a losing record for the Coogs. They’ll return to Robertson Stadium to play Tulane this weekend, a game which won’t be easy. Considering how poorly the Cougars are playing right now, even the following week’s game against woeful East Carolina is going to be tough. A 1-10 season looks like a real possibility at this point.

(Retroblogged on August 23, 2015.)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

It was fun while it lasted...

Even though they were only one game away from the World Series, the Astros just couldn’t pull it off and lost to the Cardinals in an exciting seven-game National League Championship Series. 
I was trying not to get my hopes up, even after Houston’s amazing victory in the fifth game of the series, because I knew that the Astros had been in this same situation once before but couldn’t pull it off – in 1980, against the Philles, the ‘Stros were one win away from the World Series with two games to play – and also because I knew that the Cardinals were the ultimate comeback kids – they have never lost a best-of-seven series after trailing three games to two. Nevertheless, I’d be lying if I said I’m not disappointed right now. Just once, in my lifetime, I’d like to see the Astros go to the World Series, and this season they were so close. But I guess the Astros just aren't meant to reach the World Series.

But I’m not really angry. If you had told me in mid-August, when the Astros were four games below .500, that the team would make an improbable late-season rally, get into the playoffs, beat the hated Atlanta Braves, win their first postseason series in franchise history, and take the team with the best record in baseball to a full seven games in the NLCS, I would have called you a liar. Instead of underachieving, as Houston sports franchises are wont to do, this season’s Astros overachieved. Like I said after they beat the Braves: they could have been swept by the Cardinals and I’d still have considered this postseason a success.

So now the Cardinals go on to face the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. The Red Sox, who made baseball history by being the first time to rally from a three-game deficit to win a playoff series, are hoping that this is the year that the “Curse” comes to an end. It won’t be easy to do against the Cardinals’ amazing batting order, but it will be fun to watch. And even if Boston doesn’t win, I still enjoyed watching them beat the Yankees. I like it anytime anybody beats the Yankees.

I don’t necessarily hate the Yankees themselves, although their fan base certainly makes it easy to do so. I simply dislike what the Yankees represent. To me, they are the epitome of everything that is wrong in baseball. George Steinbrenner can pull out his checkbook and buy himself a World Series appearance virtually every year; only a handful of franchises can compete with the Yankees’ financial resources and many of the “small-market” teams have no hope of being in the World Series chase before the season even begins. The disparity between the rich franchises and the poor franchises makes Major League Baseball a rather uncompetitive sport (much like, say, Division I-A football), and it’s really a shame.

(Retroblogged on August 23, 2015. I'd have to wait one more year to see the Astros finally make it to the World Series.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Cursed no more!

I really didn’t expect the Houston Astros to be able to beat the Braves, in Atlanta, with Roy Oswalt pitching on only three days’ rest. After all, the Astros had never won a postseason series in seven previous tries, and three of those frustrating playoff losses had come against the Braves. When the Astros blew a three-run lead and lost to the Braves in Houston the day before, I thought for sure that history would repeat itself.

So you can imagine how elatedly surprised I was last night, when the Astros won their first postseason series in the 43-year history of the franchise by pounding Atlanta, 12-3, in game five of the National League Divisional Series. The curse was lifted, the jinx was broken, the demons were cast aside with an exclamation point, as the Astros scored five runs in the seventh inning and three runs in the eighth to turn what had been a close contest into a blowout. Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, oft-criticized for their poor offensive production during previous postseason appearances, finally broke out and combined for four hits and three RBIs, which was especially remarkable considering that they were playing with the news that their friend and former teammate, Ken Caminiti, had died of a heart attack the previous day. Carlos Beltran, who dominated during this series, added two home runs.

I guess Astros owner Drayton McLane took my advice and hired that exorcist.

Now, the Astros face the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, with the winner advancing to the World Series. St. Louis, with the best record and the best line-up in the majors, is going to be a tough test. But even if the Astros don’t get past the Cardinals, this season will still be a success. Their late-season really from four games below .500 to earn a trip to the playoffs was quite remarkable, and the fact that they’ve gotten the can’t-win-in-the-playoffs monkey off their backs is even better. The Astros, for once, are exceeding expectations, instead of falling short.

It’s a good thing I don’t bet on sports. I would be dirt poor right now, otherwise…

(Retroblogged August 23, 2015. I'm only slightly less pessimistic about Houston sports today than I was a decade ago...)

Coogs fall to Southern Miss in overtime

Last Thursday evening a national TV audience watched Southern Mississippi rally from an 8-point deficit late in the fourth quarter to overcome a spirited University of Houston squad and win in overtime, 29-35. The Cougars, playing on a short week of rest and decimated by injuries, played with just enough heart to win but made just enough mistakes to lose. While their better-than-expected performance gave the dwindling cadre of Cougar faithful hope, especially coming on the heels of a disappointing 41-14 loss to Memphis a few days before, the end result was Houston’s fifth loss of the season and their seventh loss in ten games. The Coogs’ undermined their bid to upset the Golden Eagles in Hattiesburg by committing numerous penalties and playing horribly on special teams.

This would have been a huge win for the tortured UH program, if they could have pulled it off. It’s hard for teams to bounce back from games like last Thursday’s, where the underdog gets oh-so-close but can’t find away to put it away. I’ve seen it happen to the Coogs before, where they play beyond their abilities, come up short, and are unable to recover from the hard-fought loss.

In late October of 2000, for example, when 14th-ranked Southern Mississippi came to town, the Cougars were struggling with a 3-4 record (with all three UH victories by a combined six points). The Coogs put everything they had into an attempted upset of the Golden Eagles, but came up short in a heart-breaking 3-6 loss. Houston never bounced back from the anguish and lost their final three games by a combined score of 56-135 on their way to a 3-8 season. The following year, the winless Cougars made a bid to defeat a decent Cincinnati squad, and even held a 28-17 lead over the Bearcats into the fourth quarter. However, Cincinnati rallied to win, 29-28. The Cougars could not put the sting of the close loss behind them and were uncompetitive for the remainder of the season, which was the first winless season in UH football history.

Will this time be different? Will the Coogs be able to bounce back from this loss and remain competitive for the remainder of this difficult season? Or will this loss demoralize them to the point that they pack it in? The only way to find out is to see how they fare against TCU in Fort Worth two Saturdays from now. One thing that does work in the Coogs’ favor is that this is a bye week, meaning that they have an extra week for the sting of Southern Miss game to fade. The injury-plagued team also gets an extra week to heal…

(Retroblogged on August 23, 2015.)

Sunday, October 03, 2004

They both suck.

Watching last Thursday night’s debate between George W. Bush and John Kerry made me want to wretch. The United States is the world's only superpower and is supposedly the world's greatest democracy, yet these two clowns are the best guys we can come up with to lead this nation? This "debate" was essentially little more than 90 minutes of both of these morons endlessly repeating their list of talking points: Bush's invasion of Iraq was a mistake, Kerry is a flip-flopper, etc. Neither candidate said anything new or insightful.

And what was the deal with CNN's pre-debate program? It looked like ESPN College Gameday, with all the college kids in the background shouting and holding signs. I was almost expecting Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit to show up on the set next to Wolf Blitzer.

(Retroblogged on August 23, 2015.)

The Astros: credit where it's due

I really didn't think they could come back from their midseason slump to even compete for playoff contention, let alone clinch the NL wild card. At one point, the Astros were 4 games below .500 and appeared to be on their way to the NL Central cellar. However, since August 15th the Astros have clawed their way back with an amazing 36-10 record, and the payoff for them is a postseason berth (they got some help from the Chicago Cubs, of course, who took themselves out of playoff contention with an impressive late-season disappearing act).

Of course, now the 'Stros, who have never won a playoff series, get to face the evil Atlanta Braves, who OWN the Astros in the postseason. I can tell you right now how this is going to turn out. I'll be surprised, in fact, if the Braves don't sweep.

Even though the Astros will be knocked out in the first round of the playoffs like they always are, they nevertheless deserve credit for the way they bounced back from an abysmal June and July to make the postseason. It really was enjoyable to watch.

(Retroblogged on August 23, 2015. Of course, the Astros didn't get swept by the Braves. They actually beat them!)

Houston 14, Memphis 41

Well, so much for allowing the "better than expected" performance against Miami to get my hopes up. I should know better.

I remember how happy we generally were with the “better than expected” 42-24 loss to fifth-ranked UCLA at Robertson Stadium in 1998. The Cougars played the Bruins tough; they had more first downs, had more time of possession, piled up 173 rushing yards against the vaunted Bruin defense, sacked that whiny, overrated prick Cade McNown (where is he these days?) three times, and only trailed 21-14 at halftime.

Many people thought that game showed just how improved the Cougars had become after close losses to California and Minnesota, and that the game was a turning point.

Of course, it was not. The following weekend the Cougars went to Knoxville, got rolled by eventual national champion Tennessee 42-7, and ended the season with a 3-8 record. The Cougars even lost to a 2-9 Cincinnati team and a 3-8 Army squad.

The Miami game in many ways reminds me a lot of the UCLA game. The Coogs played a top-ranked opponent tough at home and many of us were happy because the Coogs showed signs of life as they covered the spread and in some statistical categories even beat the Hurricanes. Now they follow it up by traveling to the state of Tennessee and regressing horribly (even though Memphis is not going to be confused with the '98 Vols).

7 offensive points. Against the same Memphis defense that gave up 28 points to Arkansas freakin' State! Even Division I-AA Chattanooga scored 21 against these guys! I am I really supposed to believe that our offense is worse than either of those teams? Maybe so. As another fan recently pointed out to me, the Coogs' offensive point production has so far been nothing short of, well, offensive.

I also find it troubling that the defense only gave up 172 yards against Miami and sacked Brock Berlin 5 times, yet allowed 333 yards against Memphis (262 by DeAngelo Williams alone) and didn’t get to the Tigers' quarterback (Wimprine?) once.

All in all, a huge step backwards. I don't know if I was really expecting the Cougars to beat Memphis on the road, but I can honestly say I wasn't expecting the team to perform this badly.

Yes, Memphis had motivation to clobber us after losing to UAB the week before. But did the Cougars not have motivation of their own, after being embarrassed by the Tigers in their home stadium the year before? Did the Coogs come to play today, or not? I don't know because I wasn't there, but it certainly didn't sound like it.

Even though I knew it would be tough to do so with this schedule, I really was hoping for a 6-5 record this year because this program needs, more than anything else, to string together some consecutive winning seasons if it is going to make any progress. But now it looks like the Coogs will be lucky to end this season with a 3-8 record. TCU is certainly an underperformer this season, but I'm not sure the Coogs will be able to take advantage of it, and at this point you know Tulane and East Carolina are looking forward to their trips to Robertson.

The Coogs just lost too much from last year's team and are playing too difficult a schedule this year. Add in other areas of regression, such as special teams, mental mistakes (penalties, fumbles, dropped passes) and the like, and the result is that this season simply represents a big step back for the team and the program. Unless a miracle happens, the Coogs are looking at their 14th losing season in the last 20 years.

(Retroblogged on August 23, 2015.)