The Houston Cougars’ season opener against UTSA on Sept. 2 has been postponed due to flooding in the area following Hurricane Harvey, it was announced Tuesday.
Houston will now open the season against the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson on Sept. 9, adding an interesting wrinkle to a game that could be season-defining for Arizona.
The Wildcats have two easier non-conference games (vs. NAU, at UTEP) on their schedule along with the contest at Houston, so the Cougars are likely the only thing standing in Arizona’s way to a 3-0 start.
The cancellation doesn’t change much for Arizona, except that it won’t have any game film on the current Houston team. The Cougars, however, have already been impacted by the storm.
For one, the Cougars won’t have a tune-up game to evaluate their team and knock off some of the offseason rust before arriving in Tucson. That might be more important than usual, considering Houston has a new coach and quarterback, and lost 45 percent of its production from a season ago.
But besides the on-field stuff, Houston’s football program is in disarray right now for other, obvious reasons.
The flooding in Houston forced the Cougars to move their practices to Austin this week, and head coach Major Applewhite had to change their practice schedule after he noticed the players’ “minds weren’t there.”
"I came down for breakfast [on Sunday], and I could see everybody on their phones. I just knew the minds weren't there, and it wasn't a good day to practice," Applewhite told ESPN. "So [we decided to] make our off day [Sunday], and we'll go back to the fields [Monday] when we know what's going on with the storm. That's the thing: Forget football. There's lives, there's families, there's people. That's where our emphasis needed to be yesterday."
Applewhite told ESPN that there is no timetable for the Cougars to return to Houston, so they may very well be prepping for Arizona in Austin.
It’s understandable that football is secondary for the Cougars right now, and hopefully their players and families are safe and they can return to Houston soon.
That said, the unfortunate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey may give Arizona an edge in a game that could determine whether or not the Wildcats reach a bowl game at the end of the season.