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Wednesday, September 27, 2023


O’Korn shows he has promise, room for improvement

Freshman quarterback John O'Korn threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns during his first collegiate start.  |  Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Freshman quarterback John O’Korn threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns during his first collegiate start. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

John O’Korn’s first collegiate start began like a fairy tale.

On his first throw, the freshman quarterback tossed a strike to sophomore receiver Deontay Greenberry that went for 61 yards down to the Rice 1-yard line. One play later, sophomore running back Ryan Jackson gave UH a 7-6 lead when he crossed the goal line for a touchdown.

The contest also ended well for O’Korn, who led the Cougars to a 31-26 victory.

Fans and media were ready to anoint O’Korn as the heir apparent to the Cougars’ line of successful quarterbacks who have commanded the Air Raid offense, but O’Korn’s following drives may have given UH supporters more pause.

After his first pass to Greenberry, O’Korn completed only two of his next eight passes and threw an interception.

He showed glimpses of the electric arm strength that allowed him to be accurate on deep passes and the inconsistency that can cause many freshmen to struggle. O’Korn showed poise when he led the Cougars 62 yards in 46 seconds right before the half ended, but also made “freshman mistakes” in crucial situations, head coach Tony Levine said.

“You had a throw at the end of the game where there’s four minutes on the clock, and he throws it right to a Rice safety that should have been intercepted when we’re trying to milk the clock,” Levine said.

“In the same respect, it’s fourth down and he throws a laser to Daniel Spencer for a touchdown with five seconds left. I certainly recognize the poise he has for an 18-year-old and how he continues to develop.”

O’Korn joined UH with more hype and expectations than former quarterback Case Keenum, who didn’t have any other Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offers. Many UH fans have known O’Korn’s name since he committed in June 2012. The hashtag #InO’Kornwetrust became popular among UH faithfuls. The pressure intensified after junior quarterback David Piland struggled during the Cougars’ 5-7 season last year.

That’s a lot for an 18-year-old in his first college semester to handle.

O’Korn behaves like a senior off the field, teammates said, which allowed him to throw three touchdowns in his first career start.

Greenberry, whom O’Korn connected with six times for 146 yards and a touchdown, said the freshman quarterback built chemistry by spending extra time working with him.

“We did a lot of time on the field throughout the summer running routes. I guess that paid off. He’s in rotation now, so I’m looking for the ball every time,” Greenberry said.

O’Korn got his chance to start after Piland suffered a head injury against Temple. Piland’s status for the Cougars’ Sept. 28 contest against UTSA is unknown.

But despite the freshman mistakes, O’Korn has outplayed Piland so far. Piland is completing only 52 percent of his passes in a system predicated on quarterback efficiency, and O’Korn has five more touchdowns than his counterpart.

The biggest difference between the two players is arm strength. O’Korn can make throws down the field that Piland can’t. Greenberry said the receivers have to stay on their toes because of Piland.

“We just trust he will get it there because he has a rocket,” Greenberry said.

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