The Quick Hits
Final score: 40-16, Houston
Greg Ward is an absolute animal. He took a beating in this game. His injured right shoulder was killing him and he took vicious hit after vicious hit all night long.
The offense was out of sync, the defensive secondary struggled, but the sign of a good team is its ability to fight through adversity and win anyway.
Ed Oliver update: still beastlike — of or pertaining to a beast.
Health could be an issue with this team moving forward. The Cougars desperately need to heal. Ward’s shoulder is a problem. Defensive back — and return specialist — Brandon Wilson banged up his ankle on another great runback. He was forced to leave the game but eventually returned. Wide receiver Linell Bonner also limped off with a gimpy ankle at one point.
Either way, Houston has to be perfect this year. Injuries will hinder that effort.
Howard Wilson made up for a potential dropped pick six in the first half that could have turned the tide of the game early by making a crucial interception late in the game and added the icing on the cake by grabbing a pick six with 3:40 to go in the game.
Tale of the Tape
Total yards: Houston 506, Cincinnati 307
Rush Yards: Houston 180, Cincinnati 30
Pass Yards: Houston 326, Cincinnati 277
Houston QB Greg Ward: 23-26, 326 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs ... 26 carries, 76 yards, 2 TDs
Cincinnati QB Hayden Moore: 21-37, 275 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs ... 4 carries, -14 yards
I predicted the score would be 38-17 in Houston’s favor.
It ended 40-16.
I only say that because for the first 45 minutes of game time, it looked like neither team would even come close to 38 points and it genuinely appeared as though Houston could lose.
The offense was discombobulated, disjointed and displeasing to watch. Greg Ward looked slow and tentative in the first half, and for good reason. His throwing shoulder isn’t fully healed from an injury suffered versus Oklahoma. UH struggled to run with Catalon and the rest of the running backs, so Ward was forced to shoulder the load (pun intended).
And he took some PUNISHMENT. I’m honestly surprised the coaching staff chose to feed him so many designed runs, but it’s a credit to his fortitude as a competitor that he managed the pain and carried his team.
Ward was sacked on two straight third-and-long situations in the first quarter, but he still managed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Chance Allen.
Cincinnati’s defensive line pushed Houston’s offensive line back into Ward’s face for the whole first half. But he continued to fight and helped lead UH on two scoring drives.
On defense, the Cougars’ secondary gave huge cushions to Cincinnati’s wide receivers. Bearcats’ QB Hayden Moore lobbed a 61-yard touchdown pass straight down the middle of the field to a wide open Devin Gray.
And then there were the two plays that could have changed everything: Houston DB Howard Wilson dropped an easy interception that he could have walked in for a touchdown and UH receiver Isaiah Johnson coughed up a fumble that resulted in a play you have to see to believe.
Watch the clip. It’s worth it. And if you don’t watch it here, it’ll be replayed on SportsCenter until the sun burns out.
But Cincinnati failed to capitalize on the turnover and the teams went to halftime tied 10-10 and burdened by missed opportunities and bountiful mistakes.
The Houston offense was still out of sync to start the second half. Luckily, as I referenced earlier, Ed Oliver is a beast. He and the UH defense stuffed Cincinnati for a safety early in the third quarter to put the Cougars ahead 12-10.
Again, UH couldn’t capitalize on its good fortune. The Cougars drove down the field after receiving the kickoff only to have the possession end in an interception in the end zone.
Cincinnati’s play of the night came on its ensuing drive. The Bearcats were on the move and then threw a double-reverse flea flicker pass that put them in the red zone. They scored a TD just three seconds into the fourth quarter.
They missed the 2-point conversion, but that drive ignited a scoring barrage.
Moore threw two more touchdowns to finish his night — however, they were to UH defenders. In total, Howard Wilson and Steven Taylor intercepted three passes on consecutive drives to destroy any chance Cincinnati may have had at a comeback.
Taylor ran one back for a TD with 3:47 left to go in the game. Wilson ran one back just seven seconds later.
Those were the proverbial nails in the coffin, but prior to those three interceptions — and two defensive TDs — the Houston offense actually looked like itself.
The Cougars drove right down the field on back-to-back possessions and smashed the ball into the end zone. It took three and one half quarters, but they did it.
All in all, it was nothing to write home about. But it was a win. Now it’s time to rest up and heal and hope Texas State does not present as much of a challenge next week.