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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Commentary

O’Korn rebounds in high fashion against Rutgers


featured O'Korn

After throwing three interceptions in a loss against BYU, freshman quarterback John O’ Korn responded against Rutgers by throwing for career-highs in both yards (364) and touchdowns (5) in a 49-14 victory at Rutgers. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Following the Cougars’ first loss of the season last weekend against BYU, offensive coordinator Doug Meacham said the next time freshman quarterback John O’Korn — who threw three interceptions in that game, including the one that ended a possible game-winning drive — steps on the field, he’ll be more relaxed and “concentrate on making routine plays.”

O’Korn got the message. He went through his progressions and saw opportunities for his receivers to make those routine plays at Rutgers. It resulted in touchdowns — many touchdowns.

O’Korn shredded Rutgers’ secondary all afternoon with a combination of short, medium and long passes that resulted in career-highs of passing yards (364) and touchdowns (5) in a 49-14 blowout victory in Piscataway, N.J.

“It feels great to go out there and beat a team like them and put the hammer on them,” said junior receiver Daniel Spencer, who had six catches for 117 yards.

The play of O’ Korn was instrumental. He made throws that Rutgers defenders just couldn’t stop. On the first touchdown, he found sophomore receiver Deontay Greenberry from 10 yards out on a fade toward the left side of the end zone. The defender didn’t even have a chance to make a play, as Greenberry, who is 6-foot-3, simply out-jumped him.

“He looked at me and liked what he saw with me in the corner, so he took advantage of the mismatch, and we made the play,” Greenberry said.

“We knew that going into the week, they were going to play two freshmen (defensive backs). It was in our game plan to go in and attack them.”

Greenberry has caught a touchdown in five of UH’s seven games this season. His 168 yards receiving and three touchdown catches were both career-highs.

After he and Greenberry hooked up for an 83-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter to break the tie and go up 21-14, the Cougars never looked back. But O’Korn was just getting started.

Less than a minute later, he found freshman receiver Demarcus Ayers on a perfectly thrown seam route for a 26-yard touchdown to go up 28-14.

O’Korn played his worst game as a Cougar last week against BYU, but at Rutgers, which held its homecoming and hosted more than 52,000, he arguably played his best. Rutgers had won four of its last five games, was coming off a bye week and 10-point favorites, according to Vegasinsider.com.

“That’s a pretty impressive thing for a guy that just turned 18. We kind of heard a little all week of reasons why we should not have won this football game. I think it brought a little bit of fuel to the fire in terms of the heartbreaking loss we suffered last week,” head coach Tony Levine said of O’Korn.

“Our kids are young, and they thrive on that. I’m proud of them. It was a hostile environment and an outstanding football team — an established program that Rutgers certainly has.”

It was a statement game, to say the least. With the Cougars’ fast-paced style, it was important for the quarterback to play at a high level. And O’Korn showed it on Saturday. To top off his career day, it was only right for O’Korn to finish the game the way he started it — a fade to Greenberry toward the left side of the end zone for his fifth touchdown to settle the final score.

“(O’Korn) gets more and more comfortable every week. Whenever he’s comfortable and we get rolling, that’s pretty much it,” Greenberry said.

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