Loss to BYU provides late-game lesson

Although he threw two first-quarter interceptions, freshman quarterback John O'Korn rebounded with 363 passing yards and three touchdowns.  |  Justin Tijerina/the Daily Cougar

Although he threw two first-quarter interceptions, freshman quarterback John O’Korn rebounded with 363 passing yards and three touchdowns. | Justin Tijerina/the Daily Cougar

Freshman quarterback John O’Korn is no stranger when it comes to playing in big games.

Last year, he led his St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders to a Florida state title in a competitive 7A conference. But Saturday’s test against BYU as a true freshman was his biggest yet.

The outcome didn’t go according to plan, as O’Korn and his Cougars were on the wrong side of a 47-46 score. Although it was their first loss of the season, O’Korn proved he can perform well on a nationally televised stage against an accredited program — but he did have a few mistakes.

O’Korn’s interception on the final drive sealed the Cougars’ fate in a game in which he threw for a career-high 336 yards and three touchdowns, but the three interceptions were not to be overlooked. After all, O’Korn entered the game with only one interception.

“I give (BYU) a lot of credit. They created three turnovers,” head coach Tony Levine said. “John was able to make some plays. He took some chances; some paid off and some resulted in negative plays for us.

“I think more than anything, to be able to get this type of experience (and) to learn from any mistakes (O’Korn) is making and correct them moving forward is certainly going to help him,” Levine said.

Offensive coordinator Doug Meacham said O’Korn received a lot of looks and learned a lot of valuable lessons from the game in terms of what to do with the ball.

After his two first quarter interceptions, he played solidly. O’Korn completed 28 of his next 38 passes and threw for three touchdowns leading up to the game-ending interception.

UH fans didn’t receive the fairy-tale ending that most would have envisioned to conclude their Homecoming week, but it sure was close — close enough to give the impression that UH is a legitimate contender in a wide-open American Athletic Conference.

BYU was the first opponent against which O’Korn was placed in a position to win a game on the final drive. Levine said it was “without question” that it won’t be the last.

“I told the team today that we’re going to be in a game like that again at some point this season,” Levine said. “We’ve got to learn from the things we did well and definitely from the things we need to correct. So when we get into that game again, we win.”

It is inevitable that any quarterback will make errors at crucial points of a game. In O’Korn’s case, it was the perfect situation to get it out of the way sooner rather than later, as it will allow the 18-year-old to grow with each lesson he encounters.

“He’ll be calm for the next time that happens. He’ll be more relaxed (and realize) it is not the end of the world and everything will be fine,” Meacham said. “(He’ll) go out there and won’t panic, stay calm and just concentrate on making routine plays and reads and won’t try to press too much.”

The Cougars will play in at least three more nationally televised games, starting this weekend against Rutgers on ESPNews. If the Cougars are to have success, it is imperative that they play soundly and don’t turn the ball over like they did against BYU — and it starts with O’ Korn.

“You can’t let one game beat you twice. You have to learn and note-take the mistakes you made for the future and focus on the next team,” Meacham said.

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    • If Cosh was the better QB, I’m confident that Meacham would be playing him. This is the second time I read this comment from you. It appears you have an agenda. I have no problem keeping John, as first string, and continuing to develop him.

  • There is no education in the second kick from a mule. John O’Korn is still learning but he is learning. I doubt you see any second mistakes by him.

  • I was very pleased with the way O’Korn played after the first quarter. He’s got the skills. All he needs is experience and he got light years of it against BYU. Major kudos to the coaching staff for recruiting such a talented QB. IMHO this current coaching staff is much better at recruiting than the one assembled under Sumlin.

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