Cougar Football Notes: Wed., Sept. 20

Though normally open, University of Houston Head Football Coach Dana Dimel again closed practice to fans and members of the media on Wednesday (Sept. 20) as he had done the day before. All team practices will be closed this week. The Cougars will play No. 15 ranked Texas on the road in Austin on Saturday (Sept. 23) at 6:00 p.m. The contest will be televised nationally on Fox Sports Net.

Dimel closed practice to better eliminate possible distractions during the daily workout. Dimel claimed his first win at the helm of the Cougar program last week, a 31-30 Conference USA victory at home over Army, but stressed the team could still be a lot sharper in its execution. The first-year Cougar head coach equates better preparation during the week with better play on Saturday, thus the closed practice.

"It was great to get that first win but we need a lot more polish," Dimel said. "The game will be tough-enough but if we're not precise in executing our assignments the challenge for us just escalates even more.

"Last week Texas had to play a tough Pac-10 team on the road, and now we're the team that has to play a very good team on the road," Dimel added. "There are always tough games and it's our turn this week."

One trend Dimel does not want to see continue is the injury situation to his receiver corps. The Cougars have lost a different wide receiver to injury in every game of the season so far. Receivers Orlando Iglesias (vs. Rice), Kendall Williams (vs. LSU) and Brandon Middleton (vs. Army) were all injured in consecutive weeks, while Jerrian James and tight end Jonathan Pritchett have been out of action since the preseason.

That's five of the team's top receivers from UH's spring drills missing action in the fall. The good news for Houston though is that Dimel listed Kendall Williams (Dallas/Roosevelt HS) as 80 percent and Pritchett (Friendswood, TX/Clear Brook) as 75 percent recovered. Even with the receivers resembling a M*A*S*H unit, Cougar senior quarterback Jason McKinley has been averaging almost 31 completions and over 346 yards passing per game.

Saturday's showdown is a homecoming for McKinley, who grew up in nearby Round Rock, Texas, and played quarterback for Westwood High School. McKinley has a chance to move into sole possession of third place on Houston1s all-time list for career passing yards. He has 7,037 yards in 33 college starts and needs only 76 more yards to pass Chuck Clements, a four-year letterman who led UH to the Liberty Bowl in 1996 before being selected in the NFL draft the following spring.

Dimel said McKinley will certainly be a key for the Cougars, but sees the need for a balanced attack when playing a ranked team.

"Jason's lost a different receiver every week and he's continued to do an outstanding job of moving the chains," Dimel said. "It's tempting to put everything on his shoulders but no question about it, we will have to be able to run the ball to make the passing work. We will have to establish a balance because if the offense gets too lopsided it won't work."



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