Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
Houston had the day off on Sunday.
Players, coaches, trainers; it was the first time the football facility had been quiet since fall camp started, and after Saturday’s performance against No. 5 Oklahoma State, it was well deserved.
Houston went into Stillwater, Okla., jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead, weathered a furious third-quarter comeback by Oklahoma State only to pull out a 45-35 upset victory.
It was one of those moments where a coach sees his team grow up through the course of a game.
“To me, that shows a team that’s making some strides and maturing,” Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said of his team handling the Oklahoma State comeback. “We were basically in the same situation last year right before the half. We couldn’t answer their intensity last year and I think this year we’ve got more depth and I thought that our guys and our staff handed things a lot differently than we did last year. It was a sign of a team that was a lot more mature than it was last year.”
Now, Sumlin has to make sure his team doesn’t lose that maturity.
The Cougars have a bye this week before hosting Texas Tech Sept. 26. Sumlin said he’d meet with his team today to discuss their national ranking, the Cougars’ first since 1991.
Sumlin said he won’t make a big deal of the ranking and his tone won’t be any different than it was when the Cougars were picked to win Conference USA back in late July. Sumlin said he was pleased with the way his team handled that challenge, and he's hopeful that they’ll have the same attitude about being ranked No. 21 in the recent Associated Press poll.
“How we handle success or failure will show how much this team is growing up,” Sumlin said. “As long as we can continue to believe what’s being said in our room and not let outside forces tell us how good or how bad we are, we’ll be all right.”
There are mixed feelings about having the weekend off after such a big win. There’s the thought that the Cougars would want to capitalize on the momentum, but Sumlin points out that the Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State was one of the most physical his team has been involved in the past couple years, and he has a few players who are banged up and could use a couple days of rest.
But after that rest, Sumlin expects his team to be as fervent in its preparation for Texas Tech as it was for Oklahoma State. He hopes his team realizes that it’s just the second game of the season and the Cougars have a long way to go.
“We’re talented enough to win every game on our schedule,” Sumlin said. “Whether we’re mature enough is another thing. That’s why I’m encouraged by last Saturday’s game. I saw some guys that spoke up and then some guys who played as hard as they could play in first and second strings. It was a team win because everything didn’t go right all day for all three sides.
“But how are we going to handle success? We’ll see because that’s going to take some leadership, not just from me and our coaches, but it’s going to take some leadership from them.”