The football team will take the field in one of its most anticipated games in history, its conference opener against Houston Baptist University in the new Wildcats Stadium.
Saturday’s game will mark the first time the team will play on campus since 1958.
Director of athletics Lee De Leon said only about hundred general admission tickets remain as of Wednesday, meaning that it should be a near-sellout crowd.
Houston Baptist boasts a 1-1 record after finishing non-conference play; however, the team’s games included a 20-11 loss to FBS competitor Texas State in the first week, and a 24-17 win against Texas Southern, both teams that haven’t had a winning season in the last two years.
The Wildcats come out of non-conference with a 0-2 record as well, but both losses came against tough Mountain West teams in New Mexico and Colorado State. Head coach Adam Dorrel said special teams played an important role in both games.
“We’ve outplayed our opponents in special teams the first two weeks,” Dorrel said. “When I go back and watch the film, we’re playing better on special teams than two FBS teams, and I want to carry that into conference.”
Last year, the Wildcats met up with the Huskies in Houston for what was also it’s conference opener and played to a heartbreaking 27-24 overtime loss. Senior kicker Nik Grau had his only miss of the season in the game, as the HBU got a hand on the kick late in the fourth.
Ahead of Saturday’s game, junior quarterback Dallas Sealey leads the Wildcats offensively, having thrown for 498 yards of the team’s 615 total yards with a 63.7 completion percentage.
Sophomore wide receiver DeShun Qualls has gained most of Sealey’s passing yardage with 116 receiving yards in the team’s two games so far.
Sophomore safety Bolu Onifade stands out defensively for the Wildcats after a big game against Colorado State in which he made 17 tackles and a tackle for a loss. He leads the team with 19.
For HBU, freshman QB Bailey Zappe has thrown for 447 yards with a touchdown and an interception in two games this season. Freshman running back James Brown has also shown young leadership with 144 rushing yards and a touchdown this season.
Dorrel said he expects more from his team in its first Southland game.
“We have to be on the plus side of the turnover battle,” Dorrel said. “We want to stop giving up big plays on defense especially on third down. The last thing is that we have to run the football better. We’ve been working on that in practice and trying to put an emphasis on that.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. and can be seen as one of ESPN3’s featured games of the week. Tailgating for the game will begin in the mall area, between Moody Coliseum and the GATA fountain at 3 p.m.