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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 22, 2003

Houston's Kolb a precocious gunslinger

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

The last time the University of Houston played a bowl game in Hawai'i, it was 1988 and required the arm of an emerging sophomore quarterback, Andre Ware, to propel the Cougars to the Aloha Bowl.

Kevin Kolb ranks among the best quarterbacks in Houston's storied history. He was named College Football News freshman of the year and C-USA newcomer of the year.

Houston Chronicle photo

A year later, Ware won the Heisman Trophy, gathered up the rest of his awards, and left school early to become a first-round NFL draft pick.

Now, the Cougars are back and it is a freshman quarterback, Kevin Kolb, who is surpassing Ware's early numbers and leading them to their Christmas Day Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl date against the University of Hawai'i.

In just a season, Kolb (pronounced Cobb) has begun to invite comparisons to the cream of the school's quarterback lineage both for his passing proficiency and production.

It isn't just that Kolb led the Cougars to their first bowl berth in seven years, but how he went about it in a season where he was named the College Football News freshman offensive player of the year and Conference USA newcomer of the year.

Just three months out of Stephenville (Texas) High, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Kolb took over the controls of a rebuilding Cougar offense from the first snap and combined precision (23 touchdowns to four interceptions) and prolific (2,771 yards) numbers in a 7-5 finish. He also ran for 339 yards.

Kolb facts
  • Height: 6-4
  • Weight: 220
  • Class: Freshman
  • Hometown: Stephenville, Texas
  • High School: Stephenville
  • Birthdate: Aug. 24, 1984
  • Pastimes: Fishing, hunting
  • Recruited by: TCU, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech
Along with remarkable consistency, there have also been some real eye-openers, including Kolb's 578 total yards against Texas Christian.

All of which is noteworthy on a team that runs a balanced offense. Unlike Houston's earlier run-and-shoot days, these Cougars have passed on only 36 percent of their offensive plays. "We run to set up the pass," Kolb says. "We're flexible in our offense to take advantage of what the defense gives us."

"His play has been a real bonus," said Houston head coach Art Briles. "He's been everything we could have asked."

That Kolb ended up at the other UH surprised only Oklahoma State, which thought it had him locked up. But while traveling to Stillwater, Okla., on a recruiting trip this time last year, Kolb got a call on his cell phone from Houston, where Briles and some other coaches with ties to Stephenville, had just taken over.

It was the success of Briles, who was something of a legend in Texas high school circles, and the records his offense generated that first attracted Kolb to Stephenville from Decatur, Texas, where he had gone to junior high. Kolb said, "I wanted to play somewhere that would give me a chance to earn a college scholarship."

Briles left Stephenville after Kolb's freshman year for a three-year stint as an assistant at Texas Tech. But it was the opportunity to stay in the same offense that reunited them at Houston. "I guess I just keep following him," Kolb said.

Now, some will tell you, he has an opportunity to follow in Ware's cleats, too.

• • •

How Kolb compares

Freshman Kevin Kolb ranks with the best Houston quarterbacks:

Passing yards

Player, Year Yards
1, David Klingler, 1990 5,140
2, Andre Ware, 1989 4,699
3, Jimmy Klingler, 1992 3,818
4, David Klingler, 1991 3,388
5, Kevin Kolb, 2003 2,799

Touchdown passes

Player, Year TDs
1, David Klingler, 1990 54
2, Andre Ware, 1989 46
3, Jimmy Klingler, 1992 32
4, David Klingler, 1991 29
5, Andre Ware, 1988 25
6, Kevin Kolb, 2003 23

Passing yards by Houston freshman

Player, Year Yards
1, Kevin Kolb, 2003 2,799
2, Jason McKinley, 1997 1,910
3, Chuck Clements, 1993 1,216
4, Andre Ware, 1987 996
5, Gerald Landry, 1983 957

Touchdown passes by Houston freshman

Player, Year TDs
1, Kevin Kolb, 2003 23
2, Jason McKinley, 1997 9
3, Gerald Landry, 1993 5
4, Chuck Clements, 1993 4
4, Andre Ware, 1987 4

Passing yards by 2003 Division I freshman

Player, Year Yards
1, Kevin Kolb, Houston 2,799
2, Chris Leak, Florida 2,167
3, Reggie Ball, Ga. Tech 1,980
4, Brady Quinn, N.Dame 1,831
5, Kris Heavner, Arizona 1,508

Touchdown passes by 2003 Division I freshman

Player, Year TDs
1, Kevin Kolb, Houston 23
2, Chris Leak, Florida 14
3, Reggie Ball, Ga. Tech 10
4, Brady Quinn, Notre Dame 9
5, Kris Heavner, Arizona 8