Running game, opportunistic defense allow Cougars to top Jaguars

Sophomore running back Ryan Jackson led the Cougars in rushing with 120 yards in the season debut against Southern.  |  Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Sophomore running back Ryan Jackson led the Cougars in rushing with 120 yards in the season debut against Southern. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

A year after its plans derailed in a 30-13 loss to Texas State, UH bruised Southern into submission with a strong running game that scored four times and an opportunistic defense during a 62-13 win.

The defense forced four turnovers and held Southern to 13 points. Junior linebacker Derrick Mathews, who tied for the team lead with nine total tackles, said he expected the Cougars to limit Southern’s offense.



“It didn’t surprise me how well we played,” Mathews said. “We practice everyday like that and that’s what is expected.”

The secondary struggled with the quick-passing game early — allowing Southern quarterback Dray Joseph to go 19-22 passing while throwing for 166 yards and a touchdown in the first half — but caused turnovers in crucial points and didn’t allow its opponent to threaten it vertically.

Southern squandered a few opportunities that pushed the game out of reach.

During the first quarter when the Cougars led by only 10, the Jaguars gained 65 yards on a flea flicker and put the defense on its heels. One play later, redshirt freshman Steven Taylor forced a fumble that was recovered by senior linebacker George Bamfo.

From there, the lead only expanded.   

The Cougars took control of the game early, but the quarterback battle lasted into the length of the game. The team debuted its two-quarterback system, including starter redshirt junior David Piland and freshman John O’Korn, who split time commanding the offense.

The plan was for O’Korn to play during the fourth drive of the game regardless of score and most of the second half, head coach Tony Levine said. He declined to give more specific details about the two-quarterback system moving forward.

“I was happy with both of their play,” Levine said. “I thought they both operated the offense well.”

Piland led the Cougars on five scoring drives and helped orchestrate 27 points while throwing for 148 yards and one touchdown. O’Korn tossed three touchdowns en route to helping the Cougars score 35 points while under center.

Piland played most of the first half but led the offense for only one drive in the second half.

Both quarterbacks displayed chemistry with junior wide receiver Daniel Spencer, who caught two touchdown passes and rushed for another and set a career high of nine receptions. Sophomore wide receiver Deontay Greenberry was also a factor with six receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Sophomore running backs Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson proved to be a dynamic duo, and both nearly surpassed the century mark. Jackson displayed elusiveness en route to 120 yards and two touchdowns on Friday while Farrow rushed for 97 yards. The Cougars rushed for 372 yards as a team. 

“Ryan Jackson, 12 yards per carry, that’s pretty good regardless of the opponent,” Levine said.

The Cougars got Jackson going with a two-back set early in the first half when he rushed for 80 yards and averaged 11.4 yards per carry. It was a strong day offensively for the Cougars, who tallied more than 600 yards of total offense.

“We came out there and played with an attitude as a team — I played with an attitude,” Jackson said.


Correction: An earlier version of this article said the Cougars forced five turnovers. They caused four. 

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  • I was very impressed with O’Korn and very disappointed with Piland. David is a junior now and John looked better than him as a true freshman. I’ve given David as much support as I can, but he had several very bad passes that should never happen with someone with as many games under his belt. The UH defensive secondary will provide many of us with much frustration this season if they don’t get it together. I’m glad for the lopsided win (as it should have been), but many glaring deficiencies were noticed………….can we PLEASE cut it with the stupid penalties?!!!!

  • I am pretty sure that there will be plenty of “Come to Jesus” meetings about the numerous penalties in the game last night! (I certainly hope so!) It was a shame that many of them wiped out long gains and one brought a score back.
    While O’Korn shows a lot of raw talent, he still has a ways to go to catch up to the speed of the college game. Many of his passes were behind the receivers on the passes over the middle. Piland might not have the talent but he doesn’t deserve the ‘dissing’ that so many people pile on. The one thing I think he needs to continue to work on is the ‘touch’ on his passes. It seems like he thinks he has to throw every pass like a fast-ball.

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