Greenberry performance unlike the past
We’ve seen Deontay Greenberry execute the same pitch-and-catch plays so many times this season, launching him into one of the most lethal receivers in the nation last season.
Thursday night, he dropped the ball — many balls — en route to a nightmarish performance in the Cougars’ 17-12 loss to Central Florida at TDECU Stadium.
The junior star receiver managed just three catches for 26 yards, with one going for 21 on the Cougars’ final drive. Greenberry was targeted 11 times and dropped a recorded two balls, though I counted at least four.
In the second quarter, senior Daniel Spencer’s 4-yard rush for a first down to the Knights’ 34-yard line was wiped out due to a crucial 10-yard holding penalty by Greenberry. The drive stalled and led to a punt. UH committed a season-high 11 penalties for 99 yards.
Two drives earlier, the Cougars failed to build a two-possession lead and put pressure on the Knights due to a questionable 4th-down play call. O’Korn’s pass to Greenberry (6-foot-3; 200 pounds) from the Knights’ 1-yard line was broken up by the Knights’ Jacoby Glenn (6 foot; 186 pounds) and forced a turnover on downs.
“We’ve seen a lot of 1-yard touchdown fades to Greenberry from John O’Korn in the last year,” said head coach Tony Levine.
“We work on it in practice, and we had the match-up and coverage we wanted. It never comes down to that 4th-down play if we get two yards on first down, second down and third down.”
UH, at one point, was 1st-and-goal from the UCF 2-yard line, and after an incomplete pass and run for one yard, Levine forwent the field goal attempt.
“(We) wanted to try and be aggressive there. If we could convert, we had a chance to go up 10-0 early in the game and get some momentum,” Levine said. “If not, we felt like we’d have them pinned back deep (and) give our defense a chance to create a turnover; or if we hold, they punt it and we’d get it back at mid-field in good field position.”
Sophomore quarterback John O’Korn finished 12-26 with two interceptions and was benched in favor of Greg Ward in the third series of the third quarter.
Both of O’Korn’s interceptions were passes targeted to Greenberry. O’Korn should have hit his receiver earlier on the inside slant route, but after waiting too long and staring Greenberry down, he allowed Knights defensive back Clayton Geathers to jump the route and intercept it.
Then in the third quarter, the two ran a similar route. O’Korn hit him perfectly in the chest this time, but Greenberry was unable to gather the ball before he hot-potatoed it right into the arms of the Knights’ Brandon Alexander.
“I’ve seen him catch that a thousand times in the last two and a half years,” said Levine, whose Cougars lost seven of their last nine Football Bowl Subdivision opponents.
Greenberry — who led the American Athletic Conference last season with 1,202 receiving yards — was the recipient of several pitch-and-catch inside slant routes that led to him either racing past defenders after catching it in stride or ripping off huge gains.
After Greenberry said last week, “We don’t expect this game to be close,” the bold statement backfired and led to his least productive game as a pass catcher since Oct. 17, 2012, when he hauled in just three balls for 17 yards in a 45-35 win over UTEP.