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Thursday, June 8, 2023


Football plays complete game in rout of Cardinals


A field storming was in order after the Cougars pulled off one of the biggest upsets in program history Thursday. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

The Cougars just earned the biggest home win in team history.

In their victory Thursday, the Cougars used every facet of their game to dominate the No. 3 University of Louisville Cardinals. Offense, defense and special teams all displayed their best possible play.

“Another great team win,” Head coach Tom Herman said. “(The defense) will get a lot of credit and deservedly so. Three turnovers, 11 sacks and extremely disruptive overall. Special teams set the tone early when they popped out the first kickoff and scored on one play. Our offense took advantage of some of those turnovers, and we took advantage of the fake punt conversion.”

Despite an injury against Tulane University, senior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. proved doubters wrong. He led his offense to a complete game where seven receivers got their hands on the football.

Sophomore running back Duke Catalon had arguably his best game of the season with 107 yards of total offense and three total touchdowns. The Houston native routinely extended plays, pushing for crucial first downs.

Ward wasn’t the only senior who stood out on Senior Night. Wide receiver Chance Allen played arguably his most impressive game in a season where, in multiple games, he hasn’t performed at his best.

It was a different Allen on Thursday. He led the team with four receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Interestingly, that touchdown reception came from junior wide receiver Linell Bonner and not Ward.

The special teams — a largely unheralded part of the Cougars — have dealt with their fair share of criticism during the season.

Senior kicker Ty Cummings was perfect on Thursday, going 2-for-2 on field goals with a season-long 46 yarder.

Freshman punter Dane Roy followed his American Athletic Conference’s Special Teams Player of the Week performance against Tulane with a stellar performance against the Cardinals. His fake punt pass to junior tight end Byron Simpson provided an unexpected swing in momentum for the Cougars.

The Cougars did not waste the opportunity.

“It felt like it was in the air for nine seconds,” Herman said of Roy’s first career pass attempt. “That’s something we’ve been practicing since the third or fourth week of the season. It helps when the punter is 6-foot-7 and can see over some of the guys. It was well-executed and a product of preparation.”

The defense is going to get all the attention after Thursday night’s win, and rightfully so.

Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando called possibly his best game as the Cougars were able to get in the face of Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and keep him from getting any substantial yardage.

In total, eight different defenders sacked Jackson for a total of 11 times and hurried him nine more times.

The Cougars were able to preserve their undefeated record at home under Herman; the team has pulled off two major upsets against top-five teams.

However, the big story for Herman and the coaching staff is that this class of seniors will be able to leave Houston as the winningest class in the school’s history.

“They deserve it,” Herman said. “It’s hard to win football games, and we played good enough tonight to win. It’s a great moment for them that they will remember forever. We’re going to celebrate this one, but we’ve got a chance to win 10 regular-season games and put ourselves in a position for a good bowl game so we can truly send them out the way they deserve to be sent out.”

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