The New Mexico Bowl game Thursday at 3:30 pm features a line of Cougars -10.
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Houston won’t have too far to go to play in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 24. The Cougars do not have to head west to Albuquerque, where the game is normally played.
Instead, Houston will face Hawaii on Thursday in Frisco, Texas, near Dallas. The game was relocated from New Mexico due to that state’s health guidelines regarding intercollegiate athletics and travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The game was set on Dec. 13, the day after both teams played their final regular-season game. Hawaii got its fourth win with a 38-21 triumph over UNLV, leveling its overall and Mountain West Conference marks at 4-4, then accepted the bowl invitation.
Houston (3-4, 3-3 American Athletic Conference) is headed to its seventh bowl in the past eight seasons and the first under second-year head coach Dana Holgorsen. The Cougars are 11-15-1 all time in bowl games, having lost their past three.
It’s been a bumpy ride for teams all across college football, and the Houston program has not had it easy. The Cougars had eight games postponed, canceled or rescheduled due to COVID-19 issues. Between Nov. 14 and the upcoming bowl game, they played just one game, a 30-27 loss to Memphis on Dec. 12.
Houston is 19-7 all time against current Mountain West Conference teams, including losses in three straight bowl games to Mountain West teams.
“I challenge (our players) to win this game so we can buy some rings that say ‘COVID CHAMPS’ on them, something to remember 2020 by,” Holgorsen told Houston radio station SportsTalk 790 last week. “Let’s do something to feel good about what happened in 2020. Let’s get a ring, put it on the shelf and look at it and say, ‘I remember 2020,’ and tell your kids about it one day.”
Quarterback Clayton Tune has 1,832 passing yards with 13 touchdown tosses and seven interceptions. He also has 269 rushing yards and five TDs on the ground.
The Rainbow Warriors left early Monday morning for the mainland, and they will make just their third-ever trip to a bowl in the 48 contiguous states and first since the 2008 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. First-year head coach Todd Graham led Hawaii to its fourth bowl bid in the past five seasons.
Graham can reach 100 wins as a head coach with a win on Christmas Eve.
“I am so excited for our team and staff,” Graham said in a release. “They’ve worked hard throughout this entire season, under such challenging circumstances. This game is a great chance to showcase our team to the people of Texas and to a national television audience. Houston is a fine program and we can’t wait to compete against them on Christmas Eve.”
The Rainbow Warriors are led by quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, who has thrown for 1,947 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He leads the team in rushing with 450 yards and seven TDs.
The teams are set to meet for the second time in a bowl game. Hawaii edged Houston 54-48 in triple overtime at the 2003 Hawaii Bowl.
–Field Level Media