HOUSTON (AP) — Houston is in between coaches and dragging around a seven-game bowl losing streak.
Interim coach Chris Thurmond doesn’t want his Cougars worrying about any of that stuff heading into the Texas Bowl against TCU tonight.
“Players and coaches are expected to win no matter when it is,” Thurmond said. “We aren’t looking back. We are just trying to get ourselves in a position to beat TCU. We don’t talk about that. We only talk about things that give us a chance to play well in this game.”
The Cougars (8-4) of Conference USA haven’t won a bowl game since the 1980 Garden State Bowl. They lost their coach, Art Briles, in late November when he left to replace Guy Morriss at Baylor.
Kevin Sumlin was hired as Briles’ permanent replacement two weeks ago, but for now he’s still Oklahoma’s offensive co-coordinator and Thurmond, the secondary coach, is in charge.
TCU (7-5) is playing in this bowl for the second time in three seasons after beating Iowa State in 2005 when it was known as the Houston Bowl. It is the Horned Frogs ninth bowl appearance in the last 10 years.
TCU coach Gary Patterson, who has several players from the Houston area on his roster, likes playing in Houston to help with recruiting.
“Being able to say hello to the coaches, you know you can’t talk to recruits (but) they come out and watch practice,” Patterson said. “Those things are invaluable because we don’t get a chance to come down to Houston as much as we would like … getting a chance to give back is a big deal.”
Horned Frogs quarterback Andy Dalton is from the Houston suburb of Katy and enjoyed being back in his hometown during the holidays.
“I’m loving it,” he said. “I’m getting to play in front of all my friends and family and it’s going to be a great atmosphere.”
Ranked as high as 19th early in the season, TCU was the preseason favorite to win the Mountain West Conference and talked about as a possible BCS buster.
The Horned Frogs didn’t live up to their advanced billing.
TCU lost two games early and eventually fell out of the rankings. TCU defensive end Chase Ortiz thinks the Horned Frogs are better than their record indicates.
“I definitely think we gave a couple away,” he said. “Every year we talk about: ‘Finish the game.’ The past couple of years, we’ve won a bunch of games by three points or a touchdown here and there. This year we lost a bunch of games by a touchdown or a field goal.”
Aside from a 34-13 loss to Texas, all of TCU’s losses have been by seven points or less, including two three-point losses.
Leading Houston’s offense is running back Anthony Alridge, who is just 190 yards rushing shy of breaking the school’s 30-year-old single-season record. He has 1,568 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“It’s crazy,” Alridge said of the possibility of breaking the record. “I look forward to trying to reach that goal. Playing in a game as big as this is, having not won a bowl game since 1980, if I can get that rushing record with the win, oh man, that’s great.”
After playing Baylor, Texas and SMU this season, Patterson knows how intense it is when two teams from Texas meet and expects the same on Friday.
“I call this an emotional game when you’re back in the state of Texas,” Patterson said.