New records, greatness highlight season
UH closed out the regular season on a high note with a 52-31 win over No. 16 United States Naval Academy, clinching the West Division and a berth in the American Athletic Conference championship game against Temple University next Saturday.
But a lot happened to get us to the AAC championship game. Let’s take a look at three of the top story lines from the Cougars’ journey here.
Ward’s evolution at quarterback
After taking over as the starting quarterback for a stumbling 2-3 squad last season, Greg Ward Jr. turned the Cougars’ fortunes around, leading his team to a 6-2 finish and a comeback victory in the Armed Forces Bowl last season.
Ward may have stabilized the position, but he was far from a finished product after converting from his wide receiver role.
With his first off season taking reps as a starter, the prevailing thought was that Ward’s game would take a major leap forward in 2015 with the guidance of quarterback wizard Tom Herman as his new head coach.
Oh, how right they were.
The junior passer was much improved under center, particularly in his pocket awareness, consistency and leadership.
Statistically, his numbers did not rise drastically, but he did improve in every category.
Ward’s athleticism shined for the Cougars this season as he broke multiple school records, including the single-game rushing yards record for a quarterback with 182 yards against the University of Tulsa and the single-season rushing touchdown record previously held by UH great Case Keenum.
Backup quarterback steps up, leads Cougars past Tigers
The contest against No. 21 University of Memphis was earmarked by many from the start of the season as the key game on the Cougar’s schedule, and that was certainly the case.
But the hero of the game was not Memphis’ highly-touted NFL quarterback prospect Paxton Lynch or Heisman-hopeful Ward.
It was the former walk-on from Seven Lakes High School, sophomore backup quarterback and wide receiver Kyle Postma, who would serve as the unlikely hero in the Cougar victory.
With UH down 20-0 late in the first half against Memphis, the fortunes of the team seemed at their bleakest when Ward limped off the field after injuring his ankle mid-drive.
In the most unfavorable of circumstances, Postma stepped in and delivered for his team with a memorable comeback to keep the Cougars alive in the West.
Chasing history in one year
The Cougars came within one touchdown of finishing the regular season undefeated.
But finishing with an 11-1 record and a chance at the conference title is still a historic season for a UH team that is under the leadership of a first-time head coach.
Tom Herman came to Houston and electrified the program. Herman’s first year with the Cougars will go down as the best of any first year coach in the school’s history.
Better than Art Briles, Kevin Sumlin, Jack Pardee or even Hall-of-Famer Bill Yeoman accomplished in their first seasons on Cullen Boulevard.
Should Herman and company close out with two more wins, the 2015 Cougar football team will cement its place in the history of the program.