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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Commentary

The good, bad and ugly: Powerful run game helps Cougars coast to win


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Senior running back Kenneth Farrow had a break-out game on Saturday, rushing for 159 yards and his first two scores of the season against Tulsa. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

The Cougars came up big in their first taste of action against fellow American Athletic Conference competition this season with a dominating performance over the University of Tulsa to improve to 4-0 on the season. With the 38-24 win, its again time to examine the good, the bad and the ugly of the game.

The good: dominant running game

UH’s rushing attack was simply fantastic against the Tulsa defense Saturday afternoon, with the team finishing with 365 yards, five touchdowns and 13 first downs gained on the ground.

Junior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. set a new UH record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a game after rushing for 182 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.

Ward ripped through the Golden Hurricane defense at 9.1 yards per carry in route to eclipsing Lionel Wilson’s previous record of 158 yards against TCU in 1982.

Senior running back Kenneth Farrow broke out of his slump against Tulsa, rushing for a career high 159 yards and two scores – his first TDs of the year.

After nearly doubling his season average with his 8.4 yards per carry on the afternoon and finally looking like the Farrow of 2014, it just might be safe to say that he is on the right track.

The bad: passing game regression

Despite the success for Ward on the ground Saturday, his performance as a passer was a step in the wrong direction for the junior quarterback.

He missed several open receivers, couldn’t make some throws he typically makes and, for the first time in six games, didn’t complete a TD pass.

After completing 22 of 38 passes, Ward’s 57.9 completion percentage against Tulsa was his lowest since taking over as the full-time starter in the Memphis game last year.

His 118.2 passer rating marks the lowest of the 2015 season and the second lowest of his career.

While the dominant rushing performance overshadowed the faults in the passing game, the poor third and fourth down conversion rate, 46 percent, can be attributed to the passing game either failing to convert directly or leaving a longer down-and-distance for the run game.

The…better?

Honestly there was not a lot of ugly for the Cougars in this game.

Sure, the passing game struggled at times and senior kicker Kyle Bullard had two missed field goals on the afternoon, prompting a possible kicking competition, but the defense’s performance deserves more mention here.

The “Third Ward Defense” for the Cougars continues to improve every week and their shutdown of a potent Golden Hurricane team was a thing of beauty, amassing five sacks, seven tackles for loss, nine pass breakups and forcing two turnovers against a top-10 offense.

Tulsa came into the game averaging 41 points, 216 rushing yards, 390 passing yards and 607 total yards per game, but was held to season lows in all four categories against UH, finishing with 24 points, 130 rushing yards, 326 passing yards and 456 total yards.

UH’s front seven held Tulsa’s lead running back Zach Langer to just 62 yards and a 3.3 per carry average, while senior cornerback William Jackson III blanketed their top target, Keyarris Garrett, who hauled in seven catches for just 85 yards and a season low 12.1 yards per reception.

The Cougars best defensive performance was turned in by junior linebacker Steven Taylor, who finished with three sacks, four tackles for a loss and 16 total tackles, all career highs.

Facing a short week, with the Southern Methodist University Mustangs (1-4) coming to town for a Thursday night showdown, the Cougars have positioned themselves well to make a run at starting 5-0 for the second time in three years.

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