New coach, offense, quarterback have UH on rise

Updated: October 6, 2003, 10:45 PM ET

HOUSTON -- Houston freshman Kevin Kolb had some rare advantages over most beginning college quarterbacks when he arrived on campus this fall. He knew the Cougars' intricate pass-oriented offense and the man implementing it.

Kolb has been learning the same offensive alignment since he was in the seventh grade in Stephenville, a small community southwest of Fort Worth. Kolb saw a familiar face in new Cougar coach Art Briles, who invented and refined the offense as the Stephenville Yellowjackets head coach and brought it with him to his first college assignment.

"When you go to college football, there are so many things you have to adjust to," Kolb said. "Knowing the offense was one more burden off my back. I can attribute that to my success."

Kolb jumped at the chance to join Briles at Houston. The results have been good so far. Kolb has completed 78 of 126 passes for 1,051 yards, nine touchdowns and only one interception. He leads the team in total offense, averaging 226 yards per game.

Houston is 4-1 and off to its best start since 1990 going into Saturday's Conference USA opener against Tulane.

The Cougars are averaging 396 yards per game and a victory over the Green Wave would give them a 2-0 start in the conference for the first time since 1997

"We have a long way to go," Kolb said. "You're so happy when you win a game, then you look at the film and it's never as good as you thought it was. When we get it rolling, I'm not going to say it will be this year, but when we get it like we should be, it's going to be hard to stop, yes sir."

The Cougars have had two winning seasons since 1990 when they finished 10-1.

"The journey is not over as far as our season," said Briles, who got a late start on recruiting after accepting the job in December. "We don't feel we've arrived. We're just now kind of pulling our chair up to the table. We haven't started eating yet."

Briles didn't get to coach Kolb on the Stephenville varsity. He left a highly successful high school career behind to become an assistant coach at Texas Tech. When Dana Dimel was dismissed at Houston after last season, Briles took over and brought his high-tech offense with him.

Getting Kolb in his first recruiting class was a break for the program.

"Kevin has the ability to make plays consistently, those are the things that stuck out with us and made us feel he'd be able to go in there and do a good job," Briles said. "He's just carried on what he's been doing since the seventh grade."

Senior wide receiver Brandon Middleton, who has waited his entire college career to be part of a winner, thinks Kolb is a reason for the Cougars' early success.

"I thought me and the other receivers would have to make more plays to keep the pressure off him, but he's been able to take the pressure off us when he's able to scramble around like he has and rush the ball," Middleton said.

"The thing that has surprised me has been his demeanor in the huddle. He's cool and collected. He has exceeded his age as far the way he handles himself."

The Cougars only loss was to No. 20 ranked Michigan. Their victories have been over teams with a combined 2-19 record.

Still, Briles won't give the wins back.

"If you don't take victories, you're not very smart," Briles said. "We'll play our schedule and what they do with their season is out of our control. All we can control is the 60 minutes we'll play against them."

Briles expected to see immediate progress and isn't accepting his first season as head coach as a rebuilding year.

"I see a lot of progress but we still can get better," Briles said. "We're going in the right direction and that's the encouraging part for me. But, there's a lot more out there. We're not tapped out."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index