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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Commentary

The good, bad and ugly: Career days for key players lead to rout


WEB-Justin-Tijerina-IMG_0133

Junior quarterback Greg Ward, Jr. built on an already-successful year, with a career-high total touchdowns, with four passing and two rushing. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

After the Cougars dismantled the Bobcats in their 59-14 win Friday night, it is time again to examine the good, the bad and the ugly for this 3-0 squad.

The good: Career days for Ward and Ayers

After a quick start for the Cougar offense, the game was close for most of the first quarter, until UH exploded, scoring on their next seven possessions to pull away from the Bobcats.

Junior quarterback Greg Ward, Jr., who sat out most of the second half, completed 17 of 21 passes for 274 yards and tossed a career-high four touchdowns, while also putting up 91 yards and two more scores on the ground.

“His athleticism and speed is certainly prevalent, he got out of containment and it was very difficult,” Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione said of Ward after the game. “He threw a good ball, and he’s a really good player”

For the third straight game, Ward’s favorite target was junior receiver Demarcus Ayers, who finished with eight catches for 126 yards and two scores on the night, both career numbers for him.

After spending his first two seasons in a reserve role, Ayers has emerged as the go-to receiver in this offense through the early goings of the season.

“It was very mentally tough for me (last season) but it helped me grow as a person,” Ayers said. “Now to see my role increase, I really embrace my role right now, because I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in.”

If the Ward to Ayers connection can stay strong throughout the season, more career days might be in store for these two.

The bad: first half mistakes

Through the first three games of this season, penalties have been a recurring issue for this Cougar squad.

UH is ranked 113 in the nation with 26 total penalties and is averaging more than eight per game.

“Obviously, it’s an issue that’s now three weeks running,” head coach Tom Herman said. “We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board, myself as a head coach and our staff, and figure out why these things are happening.”

Of those 26 penalties for 200 yards by the Cougars, nine of them came in the first half against Texas State, including three within the first few minutes of the game.

“I told our guys at halftime, ‘if they’re expecting a pat on the back for being up 42-7, then they’re in the wrong program’,” Herman said. “I challenged them at halftime to come out and play much more fundamentally sound and execute better, and we did that.”

Herman’s words must have struck a chord with his players, as they were only flagged once more for five yards the rest of the game.

The ugly: QB injury, depth-chart reshuffle

With the game well in hand 52-7, the Cougars put backup quarterback Adam Schulz into the game with four minutes left in the third quarter.

On his second series of the game, Schulz led the offense down to the Bobcat eight-yard line with a 49-yard pass.

Two plays later, Schulz scrambled up the middle of the Texas State defense, but went down with an apparent knee injury.

“Obviously it doesn’t look good any time a guy has got to get helped off the field and you’re there examining his knee,” Herman said. “The first thought that goes through your mind is not about the team and its effect on the team, it’s about the young man.”

Schulz, the fifth-year senior will miss the rest of the season after an MRI confirmed an ACL tear in his right knee Sunday.

With Schulz sidelined, the Cougars are left with few experienced options at the quarterback position.

Herman told the media after the game that the team will look to sophomore Kyle Postma to replace Schulz.

A third-string quarterback during camp, Postma was switched to receiver when the season began and immediately had an impact for the depleted position.

“Where it probably hurts us the most is in our depth at wide receiver,” Herman said. “We moved Kyle there for a reason, because we were thin at wide receiver; now it heightens the sense of urgency to a couple of those guys in the receiving room to step up.”

While the Cougars are in good shape heading into their first conference game of the season this Saturday when the team travels to face the University of Tulsa, there is still plenty for this squad to work on.

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