Houston game provides unique, Sunday setting

The Pride of Oklahoma celebrates before the Sooners’ game against Houston in 2016 at NRG Stadium. Houston scored an upset that day and returns the second game in the series to Norman for the 2019 season opener.

Dana Holgorsen always seems to find his way back to Oklahoma somehow.

The former Oklahoma State assistant and West Virginia coach returns to Norman as Houston’s head coach, in a game that might taste like revenge for some OU fans.

The Cougars stunned the Sooners 33-23 in 2016 at NRG Stadium in Houston. This year’s meeting is the return game in that series, and the last one scheduled between the two for the foreseeable future.

Houston also meets Washington State and North Texas in non-conference play. Holgorsen doesn’t love the schedule, but he has no sympathy for those worried about the Cougars potentially being saddled with three losses before American Athletic Conference Play.

“Better learn to deal with it,” he said during AAC media days Wednesday.

And with that is another reminder of the blunt personality who will walk the opposing sidelines at OU again. Holgorsen is never shy about a quote and has never beaten the Sooners as a head coach, going 0-7 while at West Virginia.

• When: Game 1 | Sunday, Sept. 1 (Time, TV: 6:30 p.m., ABC) | Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

• Why it’s No. 6: Houston struggled defensively a year ago, but offensively it bring back most of an offense that averaged 43.9 points. That could be enough to give the Sooners trouble.

But in all reality, this is a game OU should win. The Sooners have claimed 13 consecutive home openers and are 77-15-4 all-time.

The setting is what sets this meeting apart from others.

OU has never played a regular-season game on a Sunday. This one will be in prime time, with a huge national audience. The environment ought to be special.

• Last time: Brandon Wilson stole headlines with a kick-six touchdown that helped No. 15 Houston knock off No. 3 OU.

The Sooners bounced back to win the Sugar Bowl by season’s end in what became then-coach Bob Stoops’ final year. But it was a shaky start, put in motion by a victory from then-Houston coach Tom Herman.

A look at the Cougars

• The skinny: Expect Holgorsen to run an Air Raid-type system with D’Eriq King at quarterback.

King threw for 2,982 yards and ran for 674 with 49 total touchdowns before an injury sidelined him for the season’s final two games. (The Cougars finished 8-5 but could have used him in a 70-14 dismantling at the hands of Army in the Lockheed Martin Armed Services Bowl.)

• Best returning player: It will all start with King, who is 100 percent healthy and will be the backbone behind the Cougars’ potential run to the AAC title.

• Biggest departure: Star defensive tackle Ed Oliver was one of the nation’s best players before getting hurt and sitting out the last part fo the season. If there’s any plus, it’s that the Cougars became used to playing without him.

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