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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Football

Cougars ride Green Wave to homecoming victory


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Senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. tied the career rushing touchdown record for the Cougars with his 38th at UH. | Justin Cross/The Cougar

In front of a jam-packed TDECU Stadium crowd, the Cougars gave fans and alumni a homecoming to remember as they defeated the Tulane University Green Wave 30-18 Saturday afternoon.

The win marks the 14th in a row at TDECU Stadium, which is good for the third longest streak in the nation. With an offensive attack that featured just 221 yards passing and 22 yards rushing, football found the end zone early in the rout of Tulane.

“I am really proud of our guys,” Head coach Tom Herman said. “Especially the way that we came out in the first half, got special teams touchdowns, got some big stops by our defense, and our offense started clicking towards the end of the first quarter and second quarter.”

Fortune favored the Cougars early on after senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and Co. were stifled by the Green Wave defense on their first drive.

Freshman punter Dane Roy got off a career long 51-yard punt that sent Tulane punt returner Parry Nickerson dangerously close to his own end zone. Electing to try and field the booming punt, Nickerson would immediately regret the decision as he botched the return inside the five yard line.

Sophomore cornerback Jeremy Winchester quickly found the loose ball and fell on it in the end zone to give his team an early 7-0 advantage that the team would not look back from.

“I just capitalized on an opportunity where somebody didn’t catch the ball and it ended up rolling in our favor,” Winchester said. “Once I dove on it and saw the referee’s hands go up I was like ‘that’s good.’ I went to the sideline and it was better than I thought. I was so happy.”

Ward took advantage of the early momentum by leading his team on an 11 play, 82-yard drive the next possession that resulted in a 5-yard rushing touchdown for the signal caller and a 14-0 Cougar lead.

The score ties Ward for the all-time Cougar lead in rushing touchdowns with 38.

The senior injured his shoulder on the final play of the first half, which sent the Cougars to the locker room with a 28-10 lead and a hobbled quarterback. Ward was replaced by backup quarterback Kyle Postma, but returned to action when Postma injured his wrist on the last play of the third quarter.

When all the dust settled, Ward finished his night with 189  yards through the air with three total scores.

“We know (Ward) is tough and he is going to play if he is hurt,” Junior wide receiver Linell Bonner said. “If he is good he will try to play unless he cannot play.”

Although a good offensive performance by the Cougars helped in the win, their defense is what calmed the Green Wave. The defense allowed 10 points early in the contest but silenced the Tulane offense the rest of the afternoon.

In his first game back from a broken eye socket, senior linebacker Tyus Bowser made an immediate impact. Bowser led the team with 11 total tackles—3.5 for a loss—and three sacks.

“I had that mindset that I wanted to come out here and dominate,” Bowser said. “Being out for the last four games, I felt like I needed to come back, do my job and just bring back that energy that we had when we first started the year out with Oklahoma.”

The Cougars will once again have a quick turnaround as they are scheduled to host the University of Louisville Cardinals Thursday night.

Herman and his team will enjoy the victory for now, but are eager to get back to work Sunday night. Louisville’s offense is one of the best in the nation and are led by Heisman front runner Lamar Jackson. The coaching staff will have their hands full in preparation.

“He’s the best player in college football, that’s pretty undisputed right now,” Herman said. “We normally have a 24-hour rule on celebrating. Go celebrate with your friends and family tonight, but when you wake up tomorrow morning it’s Tuesday of game week, and we have a big on to prepare for.”

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