Texas Bowl Preview
Houston will play in its fourth bowl game in five seasons Dec. 28, but its first without the man responsible for making that run possible.
The Cougars will face a TCU team that needed to win its final two games to extend its impressive run of postseason appearances when the schools meet in the Texas Bowl.
The former conference rivals won't have far to travel to Houston's Reliant Stadium when they meet for the first time in three seasons. The schools face each other for the 25th time, but first since TCU (7-5) left Conference USA to join the Mountain West prior to the 2005 season. Both were also members of the Southwest Conference from 1976-1995.
Though Houston (8-4) leads the series 13-11, it will try to avoid an eighth straight loss to the Horned Frogs, which won 34-27 on Oct. 23, 2004 at Fort Worth in the most recent meeting.
The Cougars - 7-9-1 in bowls - look to end that losing streak and avoid dropping their eighth consecutive bowl game since beating Navy 35-0 in the Garden State Bowl on Dec. 22, 1980. They'll do so without coach Art Briles, who resigned late last month to become coach at Baylor.
In five seasons at Houston, Briles was 34-28 and guided the school to four bowls after it had just two winning seasons in the previous 12 years before he arrived. Houston lost 44-36 to South Carolina in the Liberty Bowl last season.
Assistant coach Chris Thurmond will serve as interim coach for the Cougars, who are playing their first bowl game in Houston since tying South Carolina 31-31 in the 1974 Bluebonnet Bowl.
Thurmond will guide the team in its first game since Briles' resignation.
"The whole season is a tribute to Coach Briles and the staff," said the 54-year-old Thurmond, who had been in charge of cornerbacks. "Nothing ever happens by any one individual or any one group. It was a team effort throughout the year, and it will continue to be a team effort. That's all we can do."
Though Briles is gone, running back Anthony Alridge and redshirt freshman quarterback Case Keenum will be on the field for the Cougars, who posted consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1989-90.
Aldridge rushed for 1,568 yards and 14 touchdowns. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound senior, who's averaging 140.6 yards in his last seven contests, needs 190 to break the school's single-season rushing record set by Robert Newhouse in 1977.
"I'm not really too big on the records," said Aldridge, who paces a rushing attack that ranks 10th in nation at 239.9 yards per game. "If it happens, it happens. We still have a game though. We're going to give it all we've got because we have to get that win in a bowl game."
Keenum was named Conference USA freshman of the year after completing 69.8 percent of his passes for 1,924 yards with 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
He's thrown three TDs in his last two games - both wins - for a Houston offense that ranks fourth nationally, averaging 513.2 yards and scoring 36.3 points per game.
Despite allowing 29.9 points a contest, the Cougars finished 6-2 and second to Tulsa in the league's West Division thanks to their high-powered offense. That unit will be in for a test against TCU, which allows 320.0 yards per game, 16th fewest in the country.
Though it is playing in a third straight bowl and ninth in 10 seasons, TCU had higher expectations for 2007 after finishing 11-2 in 2006 and starting this season ranked 22nd.
TCU climbed as high as No. 19 before dropping out of the Top 25 after consecutive September losses at Texas and Air Force. The Horned Frogs beat UNLV and San Diego State in their final two games to earn a bowl bid.
"Bowl games are a reward for our players and the entire TCU community," coach Gary Patterson said. "It's also exciting to be headed back to Houston for the Texas Bowl and to face an old Southwest Conference rival in the University of Houston."
While its defense - led by three-time All-MWC first-team end Chase Ortiz (eight sacks, 15 1/2 tackles for loss) - has played well most of the season, TCU's offense also improved in the final month of the season. The Horned Frogs averaged 32.6 points while going 4-2 after scoring 20.5 per contest during their 3-3 start.
"One thing I can say about this group is that they have never quit," Patterson said. "They have fought through a lot of stuff and showed a lot of character. They have never folded their tent and know what we have to get accomplished."
TCU also has a talented young quarterback in redshirt freshman Andy Dalton, whose thrown for 2,210 yards with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Dalton, though, has failed to throw a TD in his last two games.
That proved not to be a problem as the Horned Frogs rushed for 627 yards in their last two contests - including a season-high 376 in a 45-33 win over San Diego State.
Sophomore Joseph Turner ran for a career-high 226 yards and four touchdowns in that game. Turner leads the team with 587 yards and six touchdowns.
TCU, 9-12-1 in bowl games, seeks its third straight postseason win after beating Northern Illinois 37-7 in the Poinsettia Bowl last season. The Horned Frogs are also making their second appearance in a bowl at Reliant Stadium after beating Iowa State 27-24 in the 2005 Houston Bowl.
by: Staff Writers - Email Us
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