By Russell Ramsey
As the Bobcats prepare to face the No. 4 Houston Cougars, I was able to get a phone interview with Alex Cooper, a captain and guard from last year’s Cougar team. Cooper has graduated and spent some time in the NFL since last year, but he played against Texas State multiple times in his career and was also able to give me some valuable insight on one of the hottest coaches in the country, Tom Herman.
“It would be like meeting your first police officer,” Cooper said when describing meeting Herman for the first time after UH played their bowl game in 2014. Herman would then ask to meet with all the upcoming seniors and asked what they wanted the 2015 UH Cougars to be known for. This meeting must have struck a chord with the Cougars, as they improved from 7-5 in 2014 to 13-1 with an upset win over Florida State in 2015.
Before almost doubling their win total in 2015, serious changes had to occur with the program.
“You have to surrender to coaching, there’s no one better than Tom Herman who had literally just won a National Championship (with Ohio State) weeks before he had taken the job,” Cooper said.
As Cooper points out, Herman had the championship experience and he brought it to UH. If there was ever anyone to surrender to coaching to, it’s Tom Herman. Cooper also mentions Herman’s mentality of going 100% on every rep, something that paid dividends down the stretch of the season.
Coach Herman was able to instill a winning culture in the UH program before he even spent a full year there.
“He made every single thing we did a competition,” Cooper said. “Everything is 1-0, it’s about everything you do. When your alarm clock goes off in the morning, are you gonna get up or hit snooze? Are you gonna be 1-0 against your alarm clock or are you gonna be 1-0,” said Cooper. That 1-0 mentality took the Cougars to the Peach Bowl and saw them win what may prove to be the most important game they have ever played.
“That Florida State game is probably the biggest game we’ve ever had,” Cooper said.
Despite winning 12 games the year before, this was the game that proved once and for all that the Cougars were a force to be reckoned with in the landscape of college football.
This is not Coach Herman’s first time in San Marcos. He served as Offensive Coordinator for two years under Coach David Bailiff and was part of one of the best Bobcat teams this century when they went 11-3 and lost in the semifinals of the NCAA Division 1-AA tournament.
“The first time we played Texas State with Coach Herman, he made no mention of it,” Cooper said. “I kind of had to find out by myself. He was very respectful in that he knew what the guys in San Marcos every day, and that we would have to be ready to win that game.”
Despite his intimidating first meeting with Coach Herman, Cooper said the one thing that separates Coach Herman from the rest is love.
“Coach Herman genuinely loves us,” Cooper said “Before every game, he hugs and kisses us on the forehead before every game. We do everything as if we are doing it for our family, not ourselves.”
That caring attitude Coach Herman lives his life with further encouraged those players to buy in, as Cooper stated. The rest of college football is still feeling the impact of the team mentality coach Herman brought to UH.
“They both move really, really well,” Cooper said. “It works to any quarterback’s advantage to be that athletic and be able to throw the ball too, I think it’s gonna be a good matchup.” Cooper spent over a full season blocking for Ward Jr. directly, so the comparison brings high praise for Jones.
Cooper also had some advice for the Bobcats in their first year with Coach Withers after his first season with Coach Herman.
“It’s all up to the seniors, the seniors have to buy in,” Cooper said. “If they buy in, all the freshman, sophomores and juniors will follow suit.” Having been a part of a team that did just that and been very successful, Cooper knows how powerful this concept can be. If the same thing can happen at Texas State, who knows what might happen.
Cooper did have one last bit of advice for the Bobcats as they take the field against his former team.
“I think Texas State has a lot of talent and I think it will be a good game,” Cooper said. I would say go out and play hard because Houston is definitely come to play hard.”
As it has been mentioned, the No. 4 Cougars are the highest ranked team to ever come to play at Bobcat Stadium. While this is undoubtedly the toughest game on the Bobcats schedule by far, anything can happen. Some younger Bobcats may not remember but Texas State beat Houston at home in 2012 in a game no one saw the Bobcats winning.
The Cougars remember. Cooper told me they still had a bad taste in their mouth from that game. While Coach Herman knows a thing or two about coaching an offense inside Bobcat Stadium, he has yet to coach against the Bobcats here. The Bobcats know how big of a game this can be for them, we’ll know for sure Saturday night.