No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 13 Houston will open the 2016 season on Sept. 3 in the Advocare Texas Kickoff at NRG Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
Houston coach Tom Herman knows what a big opportunity this is should the Cougars upset Oklahoma. Houston was 13-1 last season, including a Peach Bowl game win over Florida State.
“As soon as we got back from Christmas break, that team celebrated the Peach Bowl for a good two weeks,” Herman said in August. “It was rightfully so. They worked harder than any team in the country to achieve that. When we started winter conditioning, everyone was in gray shorts with no logo and a white shirt with a giant question mark to symbolize the fact that everyone is a question mark and no one is established, and we have not done anything yet. In fact, it was to the point where we referred to last years’ team as that team or that championship team.
“We have not done anything yet, we as the 2016 team. What happened last year, can we learn from the examples of some the great individual sacrifices, hard work and dedication? Absolutely.
“And we will call on those examples, but other than learning from those examples, that season is not going to help us do anything this year. All of it is just a reminder that this team has to be developed now and can’t rely on anything then.
“We will not talk about Oklahoma, and we haven’t. Pat Hill or Paul Johnson, one of them told me they had a huge game against a bigtime underdog against a nationally ranked program for the first game. Ever since the January winter conditioning they would do one extra jumping Jack, one extra rep on the bench press, and even break down on beat them on three. They played hard and well, but they lost. Coach told me that he didn’t get his team back for a good four or five weeks. That’s not going to happen to us.
“If we happen to beat Oklahoma great, but the last time I checked our conference commissioner isn’t going to walk down on the field and hand us the American Conference trophy. Ten days from then, we have to go on the road, on a short week, on a Thursday night blackout national TV, ESPN game and play an American Conference game.
“So training camp will be as it always is. How will that first game set the tone? The exact same way the Tennessee Tech game set the tone last year. It’s the first game. We will spend the first two and half weeks of training camp preparing ourselves and our team. The last 10 to 14 days of camp we will spend game planning for our first opponent, as we always do.”
The Cougars will then make a return trip to Norman to play at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31, 2019.
The Cougars won the American Athletic Conference championship and their only loss was to Connecticut, 17-20. That was also their lowest point total of the season. They scored at least 24 points in every other game.
Houston was eighth nationally in rushing defense last year, allowing only 108 yards per game. The Cougars were No. 13 in rushing offense, averaging 235 yards per contest. Houston was 10th in scoring at 40.4 points per game and 20th in scoring defense, allowing an average of 20.7 points.
Houston quarterback Greg Ward, Jr., is a returning semifinalist for the Maxwell Award. Ward and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson were the only two quarterbacks in the nation last year to rush for at least 1,000 yards and pass for at least 2,000 yards.
The Sooners were originally scheduled to begin the 2016 season at home against Louisiana-Monroe but that game was moved to Sept. 10.
This will be Oklahoma’s second visit to NRG Stadium. The Sooners beat Colorado, 29-7, in the 2002 Big 12 Championship Game to earn OU’s first-ever berth in the Rose Bowl. Running back Quentin Griffin had 29 rushes for 188 yards with two touchdowns. Oklahoma’s defense allowed 193 total net yards in the win.
The Sooners are 2-0 in two previous meetings against the Cougars. In the only game between the two schools during the tenure of coach Bob Stoops, Oklahoma had a 63-13 win at home on September 11, 2004. The first game in the series history was the 1981 Sun Bowl as former coach Barry Switzer guided the Sooners to a 40-14 victory in El Paso, Texas.
The list of All-America OU players from the Houston area includes Joe Washington (Port Arthur), Greg Pruitt (Houston), Darrell Reed (Cypress), Cedric Jones (Houston) and Quintin Griffin (Humble).
Houston offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, who played at Texas, said his team has concentrated on basics and not on trick plays for the OU game.
University of Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops announced Friday afternoon that redshirt freshman running back Rodney Anderson will miss the 2016 season due to a neck injury he sustained in Thursday’s intrasquad scrimmage.
“I hate it for Rodney,” said Stoops. “It didn’t appear to be much of an injury at the time and there’s no paralysis or anything like that. But we found out this afternoon that he will be out for the year. Rodney is a strong guy and will rebound from this just like he came back after missing most of last season. He was practicing exceptionally well and had positioned himself to have a role in this year’s offense.” Anderson, from Katy, Texas, sustained a season-ending leg injury at Tennessee in last year’s second game. He rushed one time on the season, picking up five yards in the opener against Akron.