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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Football

Quarterback decision difficult, but Ward was right choice


The Cougar/ Justin Tijerina

Tom Herman coached his first game as UH’s head coach Saturday against Tennessee Tech. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

When Herman was announced as head coach last December, questions floating around weren’t just what he could do with the team, but what he could do with quarterback Greg Ward, Jr.

“From the things that Coach Herman has done with the three quarterbacks at Ohio State, I knew he could push me to a limit I have never been pushed to,” Ward said.

With his first win under his belt, Tom Herman started a new era in Cougar football and it’s in full effect off of the Cougars’ 52-24 blowout against the Golden Eagles.

“We’ve been working nine months for this, so the first one is extremely gratifying,” Herman said. “It was neat to see the smiles on the faces of all the guys that have put in the time, effort and energy, blood, sweat and tears to get to this point.”

The victory was expected but not overlooked, with last season’s guaranteed victory ending in an upset to the hands of UTSA. Houston was hesitant to look past Tennessee tech.

“We are blessed to have him on board,” senior safety Adrian McDonald said. “My freshman year we lost to an underdog, and last year we lost to an underdog.  Just to go out (with a win) with this one for my last year, it was big and it was a great start for (Herman), too.”

In the season opener, Ward threw for 275 yards including a 39 yard pass to Demarcus Ayers and a touchdown pass to third string quarterback and wide receiver Kyle Postma. Ward also rushed for 125 yards with two rushing touchdowns.

“A little bit erratic in the throw game, made some beautiful throws but also missed some open receivers so we got to go back and see,” Herman said. “But as far as his leadership ability and play making ability it’s off the charts, the kids feed off his energy there’s no doubt about that.”

Although it might not have been uncertainty, Ward knew his starting position wasn’t guaranteed. He’d have to earn it.

“(Backup quarterback) Adam (Schulz) is a great competitor, he’s a great quarterback and me and him just battled out during camp, summer workouts, and in the spring,” Ward said. “We both didn’t know how it was going to go.”

Ward started half way through the 2014 season and projected to start this season when Herman brought in Schulz. Ward made sure he’d give Herman a difficult choice to make.

“It was really hard, Adam Schulz is a hell of a player, a hell of a quarterback and a great kid,” Herman said. “We told both of those guys earlier in the week who it was going to be and had both in the room because we wanted them to both hear the same message.”

Schulz was inserted into the game in the fourth quarter and put up 80 yards with a 33 yard pass to Kyle Postma. He also rushed in for a touchdown to put the Cougars up 45-10.

Herman said statistics show they’re going to need Schulz at some point to win the game this season, recalling back to his situation in Ohio State when his quarterbacks were plagued with injuries but managed to continue to win with his backups.

But for now, Ward is appreciative of the choice Herman made.

“I’m just blessed to be a part of this team as the starting quarterback,” Ward said.

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