After Harvey scrapped opener, Houston to start at Arizona
Hurricane Harvey delayed the head coaching debut of Major Applewhite at the University of Houston.
Now, while the massive cleanup continues at home, the Cougars open their season Saturday night at Arizona.
The Cougars canceled their season opener at UTSA last weekend as the city of Houston and surrounding areas faced catastrophic flooding.
“I felt like if we’re going to play this game, we’re not doing what’s right,” Applewhite said at the time. “We tell these kids all the time that we’re a family. You don’t do what’s right and the kids say, ‘Coach, what about your family or my family?’”
This week, Applewhite quickly emphasized to his players, many of whom had to deal with damage to their families’ homes, that it was time to get back to football.
“You don’t move on, but you have to compartmentalize,” he said. “That’s one thing we kept talking about last week. We have to compartmentalize what is and what we have to do. That’s a great lesson for us to learn.”
As of Friday, Applewhite hadn’t announced whether Kyle Postma or Kyle Allen would start at quarterback. Postma was the backup to Greg Ward and played considerably in the Cougars’ past two successful seasons. Allen is a former Texas A&M starter and big-time high school recruit who sat out last season as a redshirt.
The coaching change at Houston made it difficult for the Wildcats to prepare for Saturday night’s game.
“We don’t know exactly what they’re going to do because it is their first game with a new staff,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot of unsure things in our minds about that.”
The Wildcats (1-0) opened their season last Saturday with a 62-24 rout of FCS school Northern Arizona.
Arizona rolled up 595 yards against the Lumberjacks, but this will be the first true test of Rodriguez’s young team.
Here are some things to consider when the Cougars face the Wildcats.
ALLEN’S CONNECTION: Allen has a strong Arizona connection. After a standout career at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, he was one of the most highly sought prep players in the country in 2013. He chose Texas A&M over a host of offers that included Alabama, Notre Dame and, yes, even Arizona.
He threw for 3,532 yards and 33 touchdowns with 14 interceptions in two seasons with the Aggies but announced in January 2016 that he would transfer to Houston.
AFFECTED COUGARS: Applewhite said there were 10 to 15 players who were directly affected by the damage inflicted by Harvey. But the overall impact hit the whole team.
“It’s affected all of them to some extent because of teammates, even ones that don’t live in Houston or have family in Houston,” Applewhite said, “They still are housing teammates who have lost apartments or homes.”
It was an abrupt test of Applewhite’s leadership, too.
“There are a lot of things that come up in a head coach’s career,” Rodriguez said. “It kind of came up early in Major’s head-coaching career. But it seems like they’ve done a great job of not only staying focused on what they need to do but also helping the community, which certainly needs it.”
RUNNING WILDCATS: Arizona rushed for 505 yards against Northern Arizona and spread the wealth around. No one topped 100 yards.
Quarterback Brandon Dawkins came closest with 92 yards in seven carries. Six players gained at least 50 yards apiece.
YOUNG ARIZONA: The Wildcats will send one of the youngest teams in a Power 5 conference into Saturday night’s game.
Forty-eight players on the Arizona roster are in their first or second year in the program.
The Wildcats played 23 freshmen against Northern Arizona, including 13 true freshmen. Three true freshmen started on defense.
HELPING OUT: The University of Arizona filled two equipment trucks with donated goods to help with relief in Houston.
The university said nearly 70,000 pounds of relief goods filled the two big trucks. The school said Friday that while it could not accept more donations, people were urged to contribute through the Red Cross.
The trucks are to depart after Saturday night’s game.