Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Houston 31, #16 SMU 34

I will say this about the Cougars: while it's been a rough year for therm, they've generally been competitive in every game they've played so far. Such was the case against the SMU Mustangs last Thursday, as the Cougars pulled within 3 late in the fourth quarter and even had a chance to win in the waning minutes. Alas.

The Good: Marquez Stevenson scored on a 75-yard catch-and-run from Clayton Tune in the third quarter, and Marquez Stevenson did the same from 96 yards in the fourth quarter. The Coogs actually outgained the Ponies in total yards, 510 to 385.

The Bad: The Cougars turned the ball over three times, and the Mustangs turned two of those turnovers into touchdowns. Clayton Tune was also sacked a disheartening seven times. The UH defense surrendered a 62-yard touchdown run to SMU running back Xavier Jones.

The Ugly: The cougars have generally played clean football this season, but during this game they got flagged eleven times for 129 penalty yards.

What It Means: Not much. It's another loss in a season that has basically become a lost cause.

The Cougars now travel to Orlando to face Central Florida.

New Orleans's new airport terminal will be a flying foodie's paradise

New Orleans's Louis Armstrong International Airport is about to open a new passenger terminal to replace its dingy and decrepit existing one, and it only makes sense that the new facility will feature some of the Crescent City's best culinary offerings for hungry travelers.
The $1 billion terminal was designed by the late Argentine architect César Pelli and will replace the original terminal, which was constructed in 1959.  
The 972,000-square-foot structure features a long list of upgrades, including free high-speed internet; chargers at half of the seats in the gate areas; water bottle refilling stations; parents’ rooms; and music venues both pre- and post-security. 
But the upgrade we’re most excited about is the food. There will be 40 retail stores throughout the terminal, including some standout dining venues. Sure, the standard airport fare like Auntie Anne’s, Chili’s, and Panda Express are in the mix, but there are some notable culinary highlights that will likely have us heading to the airport a little early the next time we’re flying out of New Orleans.
One of the centerpiece venues will be Leah’s Kitchen, an homage to the late, self-taught Creole chef Leah Chase, who died earlier this year at age 96. The New York Times reported that Chase’s grandson, Edgar Chase IV, will operate the restaurant, which will serve classic Creole cuisine. 
Chase’s storied restaurant Dooky Chase’s, located in the city’s Tremé neighborhood, has an outpost in the airport’s old terminal, but that will shut down when the old terminal does on November 6. At Leah’s Kitchen, diners will be able to indulge in Leah’s famed fried chicken and gumbo to the backdrop of a large mural depicting her image.
Another star player will be Folse Market from Louisiana native chef John Folse, who has become a global ambassador for Cajun cuisine. Together with New York chef Rick Tromato, Folse is at the helm of the upscale Restaurant R’evolution in New Orleans’s French Quarter. The forthcoming Folse Market at the new terminal will serve seafood, po’boys, charcuterie, coffee and wine; it will also sell merchandise.
Showy chef Emeril Lagasse will have a presence at the new terminal, as will Carrollton landmark Ye Olde College InnCafé du Monde will have an airport outpost to cater to your beignet needs, and Angelo Brocato will be serving its famous Italian gelatos and desserts. Locally-based chains such as PJ's Coffee and Smoothie King will naturally be represented as well.

Mixed in with familiar New Orleans establishments will be some newer offerings:
One of the newcomers we’re most excited about is the highly acclaimed New Orleans venue MoPho from chef Michael Gulotta, which marries southern favorites like shrimp and grits with Vietnamese standards, including, of course, pho soup. MoPho’s interpretation of Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches offers fillings such as “Nola hot sausage,” fried shrimp, and fried oyster with more traditional banh mi fixings.
But what if you just want a drink while you're waiting for your flight? The new MSY has you covered there, as well:
And of course, no trip to or from New Orleans would be complete without a proper cocktail. Bar Sazerac will be serving them up in a sophisticated, speakeasy-style setting. And for one last hit of live music as only New Orleans can deliver, at Heritage School of Music you can get a drink while musicians play on stage.
The new 35-gate airport terminal is the largest infrastructure project that the City of New Orleans has undertaken since building the Superdome. It was originally scheduled to open last May, but due to construction delays will now open November 6th. It is located on the north side of the airport property (the old terminal is located on the south side); more information about the facility, including how to access it, can be found here.

I was looking forward to checking it out in an upcoming trip to because it was designed by one of my favorite architects. Now I'm looking forward to grabbing a bite to eat there, as well!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Houston 24, Connecticut 17

The Cougars traveled to East Hartford, Connecticut and eked out a seven-point victory against a really bad UConn program. It's still a better outcome than the last time the Coogs
played there.

The Good: Cougar safety Grant Stuard made his presence known, accounting for 15 tackles, including six solo tackles and two tackles for loss. RBs Kyle Porter an Bryson Smith combined for 91 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Punter Dane Roy continues to have one of the best legs in the nation, averaging 47.5 yards on his six punts.

The Bad: The fact that Roy had to punt six times tells you what you need to know about the offense. With QB Clayton Tune still nursing a hamstring injury, it was up to the head coach's son, Logan Holgerson, to run the offense. He completed only 7 of 15 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown, and the Coogs converted only 3 of 11 third down attempts. The UH defense continued to be woeful, as the Huskies outgained the Cougars, 438 yards to 284.

The Ugly: Pretty much the entire game. The Huskies are one of the worst programs in all of FBS, and the Cougars played down to their level of competition. The result was a boring slog of a game.

What it means: The Cougars now have their third win and first conference victory of the season. Looking at the upcoming schedule, however, this could very well be their last win of 2019.

This may also be the last time the Cougars play the Huskies for a while, if ever. Connecticut is leaving the ACC in 2020 to return its basketball program to the Big East; this move may sound the death knell for its struggling football program.

Next up is a Thursday night game at TDECU against an SMU Mustang program that is ranked for the first time since the Death Penalty.

I'll never get tired of this

It's always good when the Astros clinch a trip to the World Series (this is their third appearance). It's even better when it's against the New York Yankees and their arrogant, classless fanbase. But to accomplish these feats via an amazing walk-off two-run homer against one of the best closers in baseball? Absolutely insane.

Given what it meant, Altuve's blast instantly became one of the all-time great moments in Houston sports history. Housto Sportsmap's Fred Faour, in fact, puts this at #3 on his list of the top five most memorable moments in Houston sports history, just behind Alex Bregman's walk-off single in the wild Game 5 of the 2017 World Series and the Rockets' winning their first NBA title (over another New York team!) in 1994. (I generally agree with his picks and rankings, although it is incomplete without Mario Elie's Kiss of Death in the 1995 NBA Playoffs; for that matter, Faour could have expanded his list to include Chris Burke's 18th-inning walk-off in the 2005 NLDS or the "Game of the Century" between Houston and UCLA in 1968.) 

The bottom line is that Jose Altuve gave Houston sports fans one of the most amazing and unforgettable moments they've ever witnessed, as evidenced by some of the fan reactions being put on YouTube (the radio call is a classic, too).

I am completely amazed by how the Astros have absolutely owned the Yankees in the postseason since they've switched leagues: the play-in game in 2015, the 2017 ALCS, and now this. I'd love to see this trend continue, because the New York Yankees are evil and their fanbase sucks.

As meaningful as Altuve's heroics are, however, his home run will become even more legendary if the Astros actually complete their quest and win a second World Series. Alas, things didn't go well for them in Game 1 tonight against the red-hot Washington Nationals, as pitcher Garrit Cole had his worst game since May and the Astros left 11 runners stranded on base. I'm hoping for better things tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Houston 23, #25 Cincinnati 38

This was another competitive effort by the Cougars - they found themselves trailing by only five points midway through the fourth quarter - but a interception returned by Cincinnati for touchdown late in the game sealed the Coogs' fourth loss of the season.

The Good: The weather. The first true cold front of the fall rolled in the day before, providing a mild, sunny day for the game.

On a day that featured multiple quarterbacks for UH, wide receiver Bryson Smith got behind center and threw one pass - a beautiful 50-yard touchdown strike to Jeremy Singleton. UH special teams blocked a Cincinnati field goal, while Dane Roy averaged 54 yards on his four punts.

The Bad: Houston turned the ball over five times, allowing the Bearcats to score 21 points off turnovers. When the Cougars weren't turning the ball lover, their receivers were dropping passes, including some that should have been easy completions. Houston's defense didn't have a good answer for Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder, who ended the day 14 of 24 for 263 yards and three TD passes.

The Ugly: Houston's clock management at the end of the first half. They had two time outs remaining, and could have used them to at least get into field goal range. Instead, they just let the clock tick away. I expected better from an experienced coach like Dana Holgorsen.

Also, the officiating. What should have been a clear targeting penalty against Cincinnati in the first half was overturned, and a ticky-tack hit out of bounds call against Houston turned what should have been a fourth down into a first down and eventual Bearcat touchdown. Shortly thereafter there was a blatant hold by a Cinci lineman that everybody in the stadium except the refs saw. I'm not going to claim that any of these calls changed the outcome of the game, but these referees (and the league as a whole) should be ashamed of themselves for their incompetence.

What It Means: The Cougars are now 0-2 in conference and staring a losing season the face. They now travel to New England to face Connecticut.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Houston 46, North Texas 25

New quarterback? No problem! The Cougars got back to their winning ways by upsetting North Texas (yes, the Mean Green were favored) in Denton, notching their first win against an FBS opponent for the season and emphatically answering questions as to the team's "will to fight" after starting quarterback D'Eriq King opted to redshirt for the rest of the 2019 season.

The Good: With King no longer behind center, it was up to second-string quarterback Clayton Tune to show that he could direct the offense. He performed well, completing 16 of 20 pass attempts for 124 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 100 yards. Patrick Carr ran for another 139 yards and three scores. The UH defense, meanwhile, held UNT's rushing attack to less than 100 yards on the evening.

It was a great night for UH special teams, as they scored touchdowns on a kick return (Marquez Stevenson, 82 yards) and a punt return (Bryson Smith, 60 yards) - the first time since October 1973 that the Coogs had two such returns for touchdowns in the same game.

The Bad: The Cougars’ pass defense continued to struggle, as UNT quarterback Mason Fine lit them up for 353 yards and two touchdowns. UNT actually outgained the Coogs in this game, 456 yards to 359 (however, these totals do not include kick return yards).

When the UH secondary wasn't covering poorly, they were tackling poorly. UNT’s final touchdown occurred because Cougar safety Deontay Anderson hit UNT wide receiver Jason Pirtle but failed to wrap him up, allowing Pirtle to bounce off of him and walk into the endzone.

The Cougar defense’s 21-game streak of recording at least one turnover also came to an end, as neither team turned the ball over in this game.

The Beautiful: the Green Brigade and the Spirit of Houston joined together at halftime for this wonderful rendition of America the Beautiful:

The announced attendance of 30,123 was an Apogee Stadium record.

What It Means: This was a much-needed win for the Cougars, and Clayton Tune showed that he is capable of running Dana Holgorsen's offense for the remainder of the season. UH now gets a much-needed week off before hosting Cincinnati on October 12.

The all-time series between Houston and North Texas is now tied at seven games apiece. The next edition of the Mean Green Cougar Red Bowl will occur at TDECU Stadium next year.

Puerto Vallarta video

I put together a short (under six minute) video of last summer's trip to Puerto Vallarta, featuring the beach view from our timeshare, a Pacific sunset, dive-bombing pelicans, a trip to Las Caletas, and a view of the city from a party boat. Enjoy!

I'm also working on a video for the 2018 Eurotrip and will hopefully have that up soon.

I was that idiot

You know the people who try to drive during extreme weather events and then get stuck in their cars due to rising floodwaters? The people we laugh at when we see them on the news? "Why did that idiot try to drive in this rainstorm? Doesn't he know that this city's roads flood during heavy rains!?"

Well, a couple of Thursdays ago, during the deluge caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda, I was that idiot.

That morning I went to TxDOT's district headquarters for a meeting. I wasn't particularly concerned about the weather at that point - the deluge forecast for the previous day had never materialized, and it was not raining at all during my trip to the meeting. I noticed on the radar that there was a rain band sagging southward through the city but I didn't think too much of it at the time. My hope was that it would pass through fairly quickly while I was at the meeting and clear out before I made my way back to the office. I wanted to get back there and wrap up a few things as quickly as I could, because Corinne and I were scheduled to fly to New Orleans that afternoon.

It wasn't too long before the storms arrived. The lights in the meeting room flickered with every lighting strike, and the windows rattled with the thunder. The guy from METRO sitting next to me received an alert on his phone that his agency had just suspended all bus and rail service. I received a text from Southwest Airlines informing me that my flight had been delayed one hour. The radar app on my phone showed ominous hues of orange and red. Things weren't looking good.

By the time the meeting had ended, the city was facing a serious flooding situation. However, my desire to get back to my office and try to make my flight overrode what should have been common sense. The radar indicated that things might be about to clear up; if I stay off the below-grade freeways and keep to major surface streets, I reasoned to myself, I should be able to make to back to the office.

So I (stupidly) headed down Washington Avenue towards Shepherd, and then made my way onto Kirby. Water was high in places, and the downpour was torrential, but people were slowly making their way through. It wasn't until I turned off of Kirby onto West Alabama that I began to get concerned: the water had gotten so high that only the very middle of the street was passable, and the rainfall was so heavy I could hardly see in front of me (the clearing that I thought I saw on my phone's radar app had, needless to say, never materialized). The further I drove, the deeper into the water I found myself. The water got to be so high that it was reaching the belts on my car's engine, causing them to squeal. It was only a matter of time before the water would cause my engine to stall out completely; it was at that point, coincidentally, that Southwest sent me a text informing me that my flight had been canceled altogether.

I was only a few blocks away from my office, but it was obvious I wasn't going to make it; I needed to find a place to stop and hopefully wait out the deluge. So I turned off of West Alabama and on to Buffalo Speedway, found a median opening at the street's highest point, parked and waited. I also took a couple of pictures:

The rain continued to come down, and the water continued to rise. I watched the curb of the median opening slowly disappear beneath the floodwater. Every time a truck or other large vehicle with enough clearance to navigate the floodwaters would drive by, it would send a wave of water crashing into my car, causing it to feel like it was about to float away. I continued to nervously watch my phone's radar app, and actually began to give thought to abandoning the car and sloshing my way in the rain and floodwater towards higher ground, such as a nearby building or parking garage.

Why didn't I just stay at TxDOT's office? I would have been high and dry there. Like I said, I was that idiot.

Thankfully, the rain began to let up, and I took a short video documenting my stupidity:

Buffalo Speedway drained relatively quickly once the rain stopped; before too long I was able to continue on to my office with no problem whatsoever. But still: I never should have put myself in that position to begin with. It just wasn't worth it.

Of course, as I mentioned in my previous post, our trip to New Orleans never happened. Southwest let us reschedule for later this month.