There were a chorus of preseason whispers about Houston as a possible American Athletic Conference champion and New Year’s Six bowl representative from the Group of Five, and the man who was going to take the Cougars there – sophomore quarterback John O’Korn.
O’Korn earned AAC Rookie of the Year honors after stepping into the starting role following David Piland‘s abrupt retirement due to concussion issues by completing 58 percent of his passes for 3,117 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, aiding the Cougars to an 8-5 finish and an appearance in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Houston was pegged third in the AAC this year but that has not gone to plan – at all. Houston opened the season and brand new TDECU Stadium with a 27-7 loss to UTSA in which O’Korn tossed four interceptions, and things haven’t gotten much better from there. For the year O’Korn is completely a shade under 52 percent of his passes for 188.8 yards per game with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. After throwing a pick every 25.9 throws as a freshman, O’Korn’s interception rate has more than doubled to one oskie for every 11.1 attempts.
Head coach Tony Levine replaced O’Korn during the Cougars’ 17-12 loss to Central Florida after he connected on just 12-of-26 passes for 98 yards with no scores and two interceptions for the versatile sophomore Greg Ward, Jr. – have you ever heard a more perfect NASCAR name in your life? – who completed 10-of-17 passes for 116 yards with no interceptions in the loss.
The loss dropped Houston to 2-3 on the season.
On Sunday, Levine announced that the arrangement will continue into the Memphis game on Saturday
“This decision is more of a reflection how Greg performed in his last game,” Levine told the Houston Chronicle.
Ward switched from quarterback to wide receiver in the spring in an effort to see the field and get out from under the seemingly entrenched O’Korn, though he has had a package of plays at quarterback. Thus far in 2014 Ward has completed 11-of-20 passes for 124 yards, rushed 16 times for 53 yards and a touchdown, caught 15 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown and returned nine punts for 93 yards.
“All I’m trying to do is help my team win,” Ward told the paper. “The decision they made is what we’re all living with and we’re moving on from here.”
The move had to be made if Houston has any hope of rectifying a season rapidly moving from struggling to sinking. Houston ranks 78th nationally in scoring offense, while Saturday’s opponent Memphis places 22nd in scoring defense.