O’ Korn’s performance propels turnaround from last season

The highly recruited quarterback, John O' Korn, helped turn the program around from how it concluded a year ago, a lack-luster 5-7 record. After a mixture of strong performances and disappointing losses, the gunslinger out of Florida placed the Cougars back on the map with a winning record and berth to the BBVA Compass Bowl. | Caitlin Hilton/The Daily Cougar

The highly recruited quarterback, John O’ Korn, helped turn the program around from a lack-luster 5-7 record. After a mixture of strong performances and disappointing losses, the gunslinger out of Florida placed the Cougars back on the map with a winning record and berth to the BBVA Compass Bowl. | Caitlin Hilton/The Daily Cougar

The UH players sported a new slogan on T-shirts and wristbands all season. It was set to represent what needed to be accomplished. The lettering read, “Something 2 Prove.” And they had every right to, as they were determined to put aside the 2012 season that displayed nothing short of utter disappointment.

The start of the season presented several changes:  four new assistant coaches; new conference (tougher opponents); new uniforms; no traditional home stadium and a three-man quarterback competition that included a young man out of Florida who was barely old enough to purchase lottery tickets ­— John O’ Korn.

Although David Piland was announced the starter, he and O’ Korn shared playing time in the team’s win against Southern. But the following week against Temple was a little different: O’ Korn lead in the second half after Piland was knocked out of the game with a concussion, which forced him to end his football career. O’ Korn finished the game and aided the Cougars to a 2-0 start and was then handed the keys to the Ferrari-like type offense that had averaged more than 40 points per game in its last five seasons ­— an ideal system for O’ Korn, who orchestrated his St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders to average 43 points per game.

Just like the good old days

The Cougars Air Raid is designed for the quarterback to complete short and medium passes at a fast rate out of the shotgun formation with four wide receivers and a running back. If ran efficient, it puts points on the scoreboard just as fast.

But it’s a double-edged sword. If it isn’t able to sustain drives, the offense will crash — like a Ferrari — and get off the field just as fast as it was at scoring points. The 2012 offense crashed and ranked last in the country with a mere 24:48 time of possession and converting only 41 percent of third downs, its lowest since 2005. The Cougars have been ranked in the top 10 for touchdowns in three of the last five seasons.

Well, O’ Korn didn’t exactly wield the offense to four of the last six in that stat line, but he did lead the team to a winning record and the program’s sixth bowl appearance in the past eight seasons. Not bad for an 18-year-old.

Buying in?

My gut tells me that they are a team on the rise that had a strong 7-1 start, but my head keeps reminding me to pump my brakes, and come to the realization that the Cougars didn’t finish the season strong, losing four of their last five games, including a 41-24 defeat to Vanderbilt in the BBVA Compass Bowl. The inside of me counters.

Heart: be fair, Andrew, it’s a young team. O’ Korn still finished the year by leading all true freshmen in touchdown passes (26). He was one of many contributors who helped drastically turn this team around from what it was a year ago.

O’ Korn did have a strong season. No doubt; and he is clearly going to be the face of the program as long as he’s sporting Cougar red, as were his predecessors, UH legends Case Keenum and Kevin Kolb. He’s only going to get better. The team should get better, too.

“Going into this season, our motto was ‘Something 2 Prove.’ I think we’ve proved a lot, as coach preached, not just by our entire body of work and not just in the game,” O’ Korn said. “Those who are close to the program know that we haven’t even reached our full potential yet, and we’re real excited about next season moving forward.”

Well, once next season comes around, one of the areas O’ Korn has to improve on if he wants to take his team to the next level is consistency, primarily against stiffer competition, and finish drives with the game on the line. He had plenty of opportunities this season to complete that, but was unable to follow through.

Not quite there, yet

  • O’ Korn threw an interception on the first play of the final drive that could have won the game against BYU.
  • He was unable to cash-in for the game-winning touchdown on four attempts from inside the Central Florida 10-yard line.
  • The offense kept moving backwards and turned it over on downs on its final possession in a 20-13 loss against Louisville.

The Cougars’ conference opponents, whom they beat, finished with an 18-43 record, compared to the ones they were unable to beat, 33-6.


Gut: but he responded so well after his three-interception performance in a loss. He threw for five touchdowns and no interceptions the following weekend in a blowout win at Rutgers homecoming, which hosted a crowd of more than 52,000. Also, Rutgers had won four of its last five entering that game.

“After the Rutgers game, I realized that I had an opportunity to do some good things here, and that was, really, what I feel was my coming-out party,” O’ Korn said. “As an offense, I felt we really started to click around that time.”

Head: he still has to play better against top-notch opponents, too. Not just against ones that finished with either a losing or subpar record.

Head coach Tony Levine has said to everyone that one of the two things he assures is that his quarterback has always shown great poise when adversity presents itself.

Is he perfect? No.

Does anyone expect him to? Certainly not.

Did he encounter a number of inevitable freshman mistakes? Yes.

However, the second thing that Levine continues to say about his young quarterback is that you only need to tell him once after he makes a mistake, because he will hardly make the same one twice.

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