CINCINNATI, Sporting Alert – Greg Ward Jr. and strong defensive work helped No. 6 Houston recover from three sloppy quarters to pull away to a 40-16 victory over Cincinnati in College Football Week 3 action on Thursday night. Box Score
The Cougars (3-0, 1-0 American Athletic) trailed Cincinnati 16-12 early in the fourth quarter, but Ward Jr. and some impressive defending took over to setup the dominating win.
The star quarterback got the ball rolling in the fourth quarter when he broke free to run in for a 12-yard touchdown to give Houston a 19-16 lead before rushing into the end zone again from three-yards to increase the score to 26-16.
Steven Taylor and Howard Wilson finished things off with two interception returns, as the visitors scored 28 unanswered points in the final quarter.
“The fourth quarter exemplified a veteran team that’s played in big games,” coach Tom Herman said.
“They go down and score and we come back and take the lead.”
He admitted: “It was ugly for a long time. I think we’ll be OK if we can take care of the self-inflicted wounds.”
Ward Jr., who passed a pregame fitness test on his shoulders, and then received treatment on the sideline during the contest, finished with 24 of 36 on completed passes for 326 yards with two interceptions and a touchdown pass to Chance Allen.
He also carried the ball 26 times for 73 yards.
“They were keeping my shoulder warm on the sideline,” said Ward Jr., who sat out the 42-0 win over Lamar with the problem.
“It tends to get tight. I was thankful to be out there.”
Linell Bonner took eight catches for 119 yards and Allen caught the ball five times for 94 yards for Houston in the win.
Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville admitted that he did everything to try and stop the Cougars star quarterback, but his versatility made it difficult for his team to contain him.
“We put in a defense just for him, some guys that were faster,” Tuberville revealed.
“We did a good job in pass coverage and he’d just pull it down and run. That’s hard to defend.”
Meanwhile, Hayden Moore went 21 of 37 for 275 yards and threw touchdown passes to Devin Gray and Nate Cole for the Bearcats (2-1, 0-1).
However, Moore, who was sacked three times, also threw two fourth-quarter interceptions, which were punished by Houston, as they used them to pull away and seal the win.
The Cougars finished with 506 total yards, while holding Cincinnati to just 30 yards rushing.
“You can’t beat any good team if you can’t run the football,” Tuberville said.
“They put all the pressure on our quarterback and receivers and they dictated the game to us.”
Next on the schedule for Houston is a date at Texas State on Sept. 24, while Cincinnati will next be in action again on the same day when it host Miami (OH) in the Victory Bell.