Dana Holgorsen's UH rebuild is only in year two. (Courtesy UH Athletics)
SMU quarterback Shane Buechele could be one of the top quarterbacks sought in the NFL Draft. He is projected to be one of the Top 10 QBs selected by many scouts. (Photo by SMU Athletics)
Clayton Tune is running Dana Holgorsen's UH offense. (Courtesy UH).
Sonny & Kate Dykes (Photo by WJN Photo)
Marquez Stevenson gives the University of Houston a touchdown-making, big play threat.
Dana Holgorsen's mission at the University of Houston is hardly an easy one.
Renu Khator, Houston Rocket PJ Tucker, Tilman Fertitta, Houston Rocket Gary Clark, University of Houston football coach Dana Holgorsen, Rockets CEO Tad Brown at the San Luis Salute in Galveston (Shelby Hodge Photo)
Only in 2020 could a college football team rally from down 21 points in the fourth quarter to tie the game, heartbreakingly lose on the game’s final play to drop a game below .500 and then accept a bowl invitation less than 24 hours later. That is the exact scenario for the University of Houston — and make no mistake, Dana Holgorsen’s team definitely deserves this New Mexico Bowl bid.
No team in college football may have experienced more coronavirus scheduling nightmares than UH. Eight of its scheduled games were impacted by COVID issues (only two of those came from coronavirus cases within the Cougars’ own program). Houston had its entire September schedule canceled, not opening the season until October 8. Then, it went 28 days without playing between a November 14 win over South Florida and Saturday’s 30-27 loss to Memphis.
It is difficult to say what this University of Houston team has gotten football wise out of this season of starts, stops, restarts and dashed hopes. But it is clear Holgorsen’s squad has developed the personality of fighters, something that was too often lacking in Major Applewhite’s brief tenure (see Army 70-14 and the 0-3 record in bowl games, which are frequently decided by which team is more motivated).
If Holgorsen can win his first bowl game at UH, even in this strange COVID season, it would be a promising sign.
Nothing about this UH football season has been pretty. But Holgorsen’s Coogs will battle you.
That makes this New Mexico Bowl berth a just reward — Houston’s 3-4 season record regardless. Few teams in college football deserve the extra time and dash of national exposure (this bowl will be shown on regular ESPN at 2:30 pm on Christmas Eve day) that a bowl game provides than UH.
Of course, this being 2020, this year’s New Mexico will be played in Texas due to the state of New Mexico’s COVID-19 restrictions. Another added bonus for UH fans is that tickets will be sold and spectators allowed at Frisco’s Toyota Stadium, the regular home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas franchise, for the game.
Houston will face a 4-4 Hawaii team that ran all over UNLV in its regular season finale.
And the Cougars will not be the only Lone Star State program playing its bowl game in Frisco. SMU will take its 7-3 record against the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) in the Frisco Bowl this Saturday, December 19 at 3:30 pm.
SMU coach Sonny Dykes, whose team spent time in the Top 25 this season, is trying to guide the Mustangs to the program’s first bowl win since 2012. The Frisco Bowl will be broadcast on ESPN2. SMU quarterback Shane Buechele will be looking to put on a show in possibly his last game at the Dallas school.
Buechele is ranked among the Top 8 quarterback prospects eligible for the NFL Draft by scouts — and is expected to go in one of the early rounds. He still does have the option of staying in school and playing another season for Dykes, but that seems unlikely for a player who will turn 23 on January 8.
For now, it’s all about Frisco for both SMU and UH. Not many people dream of a trip to this ever-growing, suburban North Texas center, but there are advantages to staying in Texas in this erratic and often perplexing 2020 college football season.
Heck, Holgorsen can tell you — there are advantages to just being able to play period.