Jackson the backbone of Cougars' surge

If you happened to catch the wild west show spectacular that was the Houston Cougars raining on the No. 5 Oklahoma State Cowboys' parade Saturday and noticed the Cougars were as strong in the fourth quarter as they were in the first, you can point to Rockdale's Larry Jackson as the reason.

Ever since the former Rockdale star stepped on campus at Cougarville four years ago, the Coogs have gotten visibly stronger and have stamina to burn.

It was never more evident than on Saturday when Houston hung in there and whomped the BCS Bowl hopeful Cowboys 45-35.

The Cougars outscored the Cowboys 21-7 in the fourth quarter.

It was the Cougars first victory over a Top 5 team in 25 years.

Houston was rewarded with a spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll at No. 21, the first such ranking since 1999.

The Cougars will have ample opportunity to prove if they belong when after a muchdeserved week off, they host Texas Tech on Sept. 26.

Jackson declined to follow Art Briles to Baylor and also turned down a job with the San Francisco 49ers to remain at Houston and they are giddy that he did.

Jackson Jackson Houston insiders will tell you that Jackson is making a palpable difference.

In a recent article in the Houston Chronicle, Houston coaches and players alike praised Jackson's no-nonsense approach to getting your butt in the weight room.

During the summer, the Cougars belong to Jackson and his influence is undeniable. He organizes summer workouts and the first group of players arrive at 5:30—a.m. that is.

"I think the attitude of our team starts in the summer," said Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin. "Your conditioning coach becomes one of the key components in your program. He's with them more than any coach."

"A lot of strength coaches are old power lifters and old wrestlers," Jackson said. "I know what gets tired on the field. I know what you need to train, because once you get tired you're not a good football player. What I deliver, what I tell these guys, is that a football game is not a power-lifting competition.

"Although it's great to say, 'I can bench-press 600 pounds,' if you can do it only once ... You've got to be able to play four quarters, which means you have to be strong for four quarters."

"That's something we're still working on, but we've made leaps and bounds in the right direction," quarterback Case Keenum said. "We've got players calling people out, not just the coaches. Players who care, instilling the habits."

Jackson is the rare strength coach who is a former player and not a weight lifter or wrestler.

Jackson, 36, left Rockdale for a standout career at Texas A&M as a linebacker and played in the NFL for four seasons after signing with Denver as a free agent in 1995.

Jackson had stops at Texas A&M and Oklahoma as a strength coach and both times, Sumlin was also coaching there.

That's why Jackson decided to stay put when Sumlin got the Houston post.

"All I know is there were several games last year when the other team was completely out of gas and we were able to run all day," Sumlin said. "We were getting stronger."

Jackson works hard to keep a certain symmetry in the Houston strength and conditioning program.

"When a new guy comes in, they pull them into the cult," Jackson said. "Keep rolling. One group out, new group in. Keep rolling."

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