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Friday, August 19, 2022

Commentary

The good, bad and ugly: quarterback play leads to victory over Louisville


WEB-Justin-Tijerina-IMG_9289

It may be early in the season, but Tom Herman is already off to a great start at Houston, with a 2-0 record and a big win over the University of Louisville. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

With the football team taking the 34-31 victory over the University of Louisville Cardinals Saturday afternoon to push their record to 2-0 to start the season, it’s time to take a closer look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the game.

The Good: grabbing a piece of national relevancy

The Cougars came into the game as 13-point underdogs to the Cardinals, according to the odds makers in Las Vegas.

That fact was not lost on head coach Tom Herman, who used his team’s position as an underdog to motivate his players all week before the game.

Herman urged his players to take a note from the Boise State playbook and steal a little national notoriety by taking down a team from a Power 5 conference on the road, a feat the Cougars have not accomplished since beating Oklahoma State and Mississippi State in 2009.

Not only did Herman’s squad defeat the Cardinals, they looked like the superior team on the field in doing so.

On offense, the Cougars outgained the Cardinals 462 total yards to 395, ran the ball hard for 226 team rushing yards and converted 50 percent of their third-down attempts.

Defensively, Houston was able to hold Louisville to just 70 rushing yards on the afternoon and came away with four quarterback hurries, two sacks and four turnovers.

With just over two minutes left in the third quarter, the UH offense had been in a slump since early in the second quarter and was down 17-10 after a Cardinal field goal.

That changed however when junior return-man Brandon Wilson took the ensuing Louisville kickoff 100 yards for the score and ignited the Cougar offense.

The Bad: quarterback Ward was a ‘bad man’ Saturday

Though his performance was far from perfect, junior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. stepped up in just his tenth start for the Cougars.

Ward picked up where he left off last week, leading his team on a six-play, 51-yard drive, capped off with a 29-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Steven Dunbar on the opening possession against Louisville.

After a rough patch in the middle of the game, Ward rebounded in dynamic fashion.

Following the Cougar defense getting the ball back with an interception by senior safety Trevon Stewart, Ward led the offense on three consecutive scoring drives for 17 fourth-quarter points, including the game winning score.

On that play, Ward showed his mental development at the quarterback position. After seeing the Louisville defense line up in a similar formation earlier in the game, Ward checked to a new call when they showed the same front again and he hit receiver Demarcus Ayers for a 15-yard touchdown pass along the sideline.

Ward finished the game with 236 yards and three scores through the air to go along with 21 rushes for 98 yards.

The Ugly: missed opportunities

While it is difficult to find too many negatives in this win, the missed opportunities by the Cougar offense are too glaring to ignore.

The defense had its share of struggles on the afternoon, giving up 325 passing yards and was seemingly unable to stop Louisville at times, but did give the offense plenty of chances to gain ground with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

Too many times, the offense was unable to capitalize on the defensive gifts.

Of the four extra possessions, the team scored just three points on a field goal after getting the ball at the Louisville 27-yard line to start the drive.

The team missed two field goals and, before the game-winning drive, failed to find the end zone twice despite being inside the Cardinal nine-yard line.

Though UH came out on top in this game, they left far too many points on the field if they want to hold onto a little of that national relevancy.

The Cougars got the first signature win of the Tom Herman era with a strong performance against a good team and will have a bye week to work on their offensive efficiency. They take the field again when the Texas State Bobcats come to town on Sept. 26.

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