Tuesday, October 10, 2006


That's all I can say about the Cougars' 31-28 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette last Saturday.

But, honestly, I'm not surprised. Angry? Certainly. Disappointed. Of course. But surprised, as in shocked, as in I never in my wildest dreams thought the Coogs could ever lose to ULL? Nope.

To tell the truth, I was worried about this game from the start of the season. I knew that Rickey Bustle was beginning to turn things around over there in Acadiana and that the Cajuns were no longer the bottomfeeders they've been in the past. I knew that Jerry Babb was a pretty competent quarterback and the Cajuns had a pretty solid running game. I understood that ULL had marked a circle around this game at the beginning of the season because they (correctly, as it turns out) thought that this was a winnable game against an opponent from an conference that's a bit higher up the ladder than the Sun Belt. And I realized that this game had "trap" written all over it for the Coogs, given its location between Miami and Southern Miss. And, while I honestly wasn't expecting a loss, I did feel that this game was very "loseable." So, when I woke up Sunday morning and saw the score, I moaned with disgust but then nodded my head and said "yep, not surprising."

I (obviously) didn't get to see the game, in fact I only followed the first quarter before I had to get at least a few hours of sleep; so I'm really not prepared to analyze this game. I don't know how the Coogs blew a three-touchdown lead. I don't know why the Coogs only ran the ball for 38 yards. I don't know why the defense couldn't stop ULL's ground attack. I don't know how focused or unfocused this team actually was. What I do know is that the Coogs manage to blow a game to an inferior opponent (see SMU last year) at least once a year. And this happened to be it.

I don't want to take away anything from Louisiana - Lafayette. They wanted the game more than the Coogs did and they deserved to win. I think they are the best team in the Sun Belt right now and I think they will likely end up the conference champion and go to the New Orleans Bowl. Congratulations are in order for the players as well as Rickey Bustle and his coaching staff.

But you're just not going to convince me that ULL has better athletic talent than UH.

I'm also a bit disappointed about the attendance, but not surprised by any means. It just says something we already know about the reaction of the UH fan base (what there is of it) to a loss the previous week as well as a "non-marquee" opponent. I thought we'd get somewhere close to 20,000; we got 17,543, which is still better than any crowd we had at Robertson last year and, unfortunately, is probably going to be larger than any crowd we'll see for the remainder of this season unless UTEP travels a lot of fans. But the small crowd can't be used as an excuse as to why the Coogs lost this game.

Is this the worst loss in the history of UH football, as some extremely angry fans on certain UH message boards have declared? Probably not. Upsets happen. It's part of the game; just ask Auburn (whose #2 ranking and championship aspirations evaporated after their 27-10 lost to Arkansas last Saturday). On any given Saturday, anything can happen and that's one of the things that makes college football the exciting sport that it is.

I've come to accept that this is but one instance in a long line of the Cougars blowing it to an inferior opponent. It's happened too many times before, and it will happen many times again. This loss does, however, say that the Coogs just aren't as good as a lot of the UH faithful would like to believe. Even in 2006, the season that was supposed to be "the year" for Art Briles and his experienced team, the Cougars are still a medicore, inconsistent program that has yet to "turn the corner." They still have not cultivated a killer instinct.

So what's going to happen next week? Who knows? I actually think that the Coogs will get up for the upcoming game against Southern Miss in Hattiesburg (where they've never won) and put up a fight against the Golden Eagles. Hey, they might even win. But rest assured that more losses are waiting on the horizon, and the Cougars are probably good for one more letdown game this season, perhaps against UCF or Memphis. The Coogs will probably end the regular season with 7 or 8 wins and get trounced in another second-tier bowl game.

Would you be surprised? I wouldn't.

The University of North Texas, meanwhile, notched their second win of the season with a 25-22 victory over Florida International. It took a record-tying seven overtimes to resolve the game; both teams missed four field goals a piece in the extra frames. But it goes in the win column, and right now the Mean Green will take any victories they can get.

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