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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Football

When Postma-n delivered: A Memphis story


In November 2015, all hope seemed lost when quarterback Greg Ward Jr. went down with an injury against Memphis. But a performance from backup Kyle Postma helped cement his legacy in Cougar lore. | File photo/The Cougar

The frenzy that surrounded Cougar football in November 2015 had not been seen in years.

UH was 9-0 after wins against Vanderbilt and Cincinnati, bringing its rank to No. 16 in the AP Poll. Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. had the Cougars rolling, and people were starting to believe the Cougars could go undefeated.

But on Nov. 14, 2015, they hosted the No. 25 Memphis Tigers, the defending American Athletic Conference champions. The 8-1 Tigers, led by future NFL draft pick Paxton Lynch, were still contenders for a repeat championship.

The fans were not focusing on little-known backup sophomore quarterback Kyle Postma, now a senior and the Cougars’ starting QB.

Some may have remembered him from early in the season when he played wide receiver. But after an injury to Hunter McCoy, Postma returned to the backup quarterback role, where he and the rest of Cougar nation watched as Memphis jumped out to a 20-0 lead in the first half.

The Cougars punted five times and lost two fumbles. It was a night when everything that could go wrong went wrong. Adding salt to the wound, Ward went down with a sprained ankle with a just over a minute left in the first half.

Providing a spark

Trainers evaluated Ward and determined he was out for the game. Knowing his team’s back was against the wall, Ward gave his replacement a piece of advice.

“He was just telling me to just be me,” Postma said following the game. “Do what I can and not be nervous. Go out there and make plays, and don’t stress about anything.”

Trotting out onto the field for his first drive in Ward’s relief, Postma was about to perform his best.

He completed four of his first five passes while marching the offense 53 yards down the field with just over a minute to play, capping the plays off with a 30-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Linell Bonner. Fans in the stadium quickly started to take note of who No. 3 was.

The Cougars carried that momentum into the second half, going 75 yards on their opening drive to cut the lead to six. But Memphis managed to score twice more after that, making the lead 34-14.

Momentum swing

But in the fourth, the Cougars had a little bit of a luck go their way. The defense forced a fumble, an interception and a punt in successive drives for the Tigers, and the Cougars responded with a touchdown each time.

All the while, Postma showed off his knowledge of the offense, completing passes to wide receivers Bonner, Demarcus Ayers, Chance Allen and Steven Dunbar and handing the ball off to running backs Kenneth Farrow and Javin Webb.

In total, Postma completed 21 passes for 236 yards for one touchdown and no interceptions.

For Ayers, witnessing Postma’s growth on this night was a truly special moment.

“Postma was one of the guys that I came in with,” Ayers said. “He and I joke all the time that he didn’t get to play a lot his freshman year, but he probably transferred all his tickets to me every game so that my family could come and see me play… to see these guys grow and create history here has been a tremendously fun atmosphere for this program and this university.”

The junior QB was fearless throughout his effort, showing a willingness to put himself at risk to move the ball. Postma led the team in rushing that night, gaining 49 yards on six carries and scoring the go-ahead touchdown run from seven yards out to give the Cougars. They secured the lead with only 90 seconds left.

One missed field goal later, the Cougars were 10-0 with two games left on their schedule.

“It’s indescribable, honestly,” Postma said following the game. “I still don’t even know how to put this all into words. It’s crazy just coming out and being able to play for my brothers. Just making plays out there on the field.”

Ultimately, Ward returned to the quarterback position once his ankle recovered. But after that night, the Cougar offense knew they had a talented quarterback, should the coaches ever need one.

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