Houston Cougars

Report: Houston QB considers transfer to Texas, Florida

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After being benched during his sophomore season with the Houston Cougars, quarterback John O’Korn decided to transfer after the season.

This could develop into one of those rare cases where a player is benched at a smaller school yet transfers to a higher profile program.

O’Korn entered the 2014 campaign as one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the country.

As a true freshman, O’Korn completed 58.1 percent of his passes with 28 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions.

The native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, regressed during his second season. O’Korn threw only six touchdowns compared to eight interceptions this past fall.

Despite the poor season, O’Korn will be hot commodity among teams searching for a pro style quarterback. Greg Ward Jr. was a better option for the Cougars over the second half of the season due to his ability to run the football, and he will remain so in Tom Herman‘s spread offense. O’Korn, on the other hand, is a pure pocket passer. Thus, it makes sense he’s considering Florida and Texas.

Both programs run systems that best suit O’Korn’s skills. Florida is a particularly interesting option due to it being the quarterback’s home state, and new head coach Jim McElwain recently worked wonders with quarterback Garrett Grayson at Colorado State.

If both schools are interested in O’Korn, it must be due to an assumption that his 2014 performance was merely an aberration and still see his potential.

Houston has yet to grant O’Korn his release, but the school previously granted the quarterback permission to contact other schools about possibly transferring, per SI.com’s Thayer Evans.

Tom Herman names Major Applewhite new offensive coordinator at Houston

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Tom Herman hasn’t fully invested himself into his role as the new head coach of the Houston Cougars, but he still found the time between his National Championship Game preparation as part of the Ohio State’s staff to hire another coordinator.

The school announced Thursday that former Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator Major Applewhite will serve as Herman’s offensive coordinator.

“Major has always been innovative on the football field with a focus on an explosive offense, both as a coach and player,” Herman said in a statement released by the school. “He is bright and has been on an elevated level in our profession beginning early in his career. Along with his offensive background, he is very well respected in the state of Texas which will provide benefits on the recruiting trail.”

Applewhite was out of football during the 2014 season after spending the previous six seasons as part of Mack Brown‘s staff. During his final three seasons in Austin, Applewhite served as the Longhorns’ co-offensive coordinator.

The paths of these two coaches previously crossed.

While Applewhite was a quarterback at the University of Texas, Herman just started his coaching career as a graduate assistant with the program. Apparently, their mutual admiration didn’t diminish during the following 14 years.

Applewhite is already Herman’s sixth hire to his evolving coaching staff. The new coordinator joins previously named defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, co-defensive coordinator Craig Naiver, special teams coordinator Jason Washington, wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer and tight ends coach Corby Meekins.

UCF continues conference dominance after 17-12 victory over Houston

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Whether it is the Big East or American Athletic Conference, the UCF Knights won 10 straight league games after Thursday’s 17-12 victory over the Houston Cougars. It only took a game-saving forced fumble by Knights safety Brandon Alexander with 24 seconds remaining to clinch the win.

While the Knights had the luxury of quarterback Blake Bortles in previous seasons, a George O’Leary squad is always built around fundamentally sound defense. The defense couldn’t have come up any bigger than it did against the Cougars as it appeared the game was about to slip away and result in a loss.

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. was on the verge of slicing through the Knights’ defense to steal a victory as he dove for the end zone. Alexander worked his way across the field to hit Ward’s arms as the quarterback attempted to stretch the ball beyond the goal line. Alexander’s hit forced a fumble which went out of the back of the end zone. And a desperate Cougars comeback fell short.

Despite coming up inches short, a quarterback controversy is brewing for the Houston Cougars.

Ward did everything in his power to close the deficit the Cougars faced after sophomore signal-caller John O’Korn struggled through another half. O’Korn may be the traditional pocket passer while Ward does everything on offense and special teams, but the backup quarterback brought a completely different dynamic as a runner as well as a passer. Ward was 10-of-17 passing for 116 yards in the second half. O’Korn, meanwhile, was 12-of-25 passing for 98 yards and a pair of interceptions through the first two quarters.

UCF doesn’t have the same concerns. They settled on sophomore Justin Holman after the first half of the first game against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Holman was only 3-of-10 passing in the first half, but he connected with wide receiver Breshad Perriman for 52 yards and the game’s deciding touchdown in the third frame.

The Knights are now one of four teams in the American to open conference play with a 1-0 record. This particular victory was vital since the Cougars were expected to be one of the top teams vying for a conference crown. With Houston out of the way, UCF can now concentrate the No. 18 BYU Cougars before the Knights reenter conference play.

Defenses come to play as UCF leads Houston 7-6 at halftime

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Prior to Thursday’s meeting, the Houston Cougars and UCF Knights combined to average 56.5 points per game. Of course, a defensive skirmish ensued during the first half.

The Knights lead 7-6 after two quarters of play

In today’s college football landscape, it’s odd not seeing two teams easily march up and down the field on offense. Yet, neither team managed to reach 150 yards of total offense in the first half. Houston actually gained more yards with 143, but UCF was up to the task in the red-zone.

The key moment came when the Cougars drove the ball to UCF’s one-foot line. On 4th-and-goal, Cougars quarterback John O’Korn attempted a back-shoulder fade to wide receiver Deontay Greenberry. The pass fell incomplete, and UCF took over on downs.

Even the game’s lone touchdown was set up by UCF’s defense. Knights safety Clayton Geathers read O’Korn’s eyes, drove on an underneath route to cut off the intended pass and ended up with an interception. With the ball at Houston’s 25-yard line, the Knights were in business.

Five plays later, UCF quarterback Justin Holman found receiver Jackie Williams open in the end-zone. Ironically, the Cougars had a safety covering over the top and a linebacker underneath the slant route, yet neither defender was able to identify the football to make a play before Williams ensnared the pass.

Neither quarterback proved to be efficient. Both teams should turn to their running games in the second half to finally get on track. The Knights should also receive a boost from wide receiver Rannell Hall, who missed the first half after a unnecessary roughness penalty last weekend. But UCF is expected to be without a reliable target in J.J. Worton, who left the game in the second quarter due to a rib injury.

Both these defenses have been stingy through two quarters, but both offenses are bound to play better in the second half after poor starts to the game.

BYU’s quest to reach CFB Playoff remains intact after victory over Houston

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BYU’s Thursday night meeting with the Houston Cougars had all the makings of a trap game for the home team.

Bronco Mendenhall‘s squad was coming off a season-defining 41-7 victory over the Texas Longhorns. BYU then returned home for first game at LaVell Edwards Stadium this season. The team brought a national ranking with it for the first time in two seasons. The No. 25 BYU Cougars could have been overconfident and let the visiting Cougars sneak away with a victory. Instead, BYU overcame mistakes to win the contest 33-25, while showing exactly why they have the potential to earn a bid as the non-Power Five qualifier for one of the New Year’s bowl games.

It starts with BYU’s quarterback, Taysom Hill. The senior didn’t have his best game by any stretch of the imagination. Hill was intercepted twice by the visiting Cougars. But he still amassed 360 total yards and a pair of touchdowns. The signal caller now has 689 passing and 356 rushing yards through three games. Hill provides BYU with an advantage every week, because he’s the best player on the field during each contest.

BYU surrounded Hill with the caliber of weapons that can make the Cougars’ offense special. Hill has his choice between multiple massive targets, including 6-6 wide receiver Mitch Mathews and 6-6 tight end Devin Mahina. The offensive line is a good combination of talent and experience. Running back Jamaal Williams is a tough runner between the tackles who ran for 139 yards Thursday. And the Cougars even adjust their tempo to control what opposing defenses can and cannot do against their offense. It makes it very difficult to adjust to what BYU does when it has the ball.

On the defensive side of the football, BYU’s scheme is flexible and has plenty of talent at each level. Senior Alani Fua is the wild card. The 6-5 linebacker can line up as an edge rusher and beat opposing offensive tackles to get pressure on the quarterback, or he can line up in coverage over a wide receiver. The team’s secondary is also very physical, and the play-calling is always aggressive. This unit sets the tone for everything the team does each week.

Finally, BYU has gotten past a possible stumbling block against Houston. Mendenhall and his squad can now look to the future and a schedule that sets up nicely in the coming weeks. The Houston contest was the first of three straight home games. The Virginia Cavaliers and Utah State Aggies are next on the docket. If BYU can avoid losses at UCF on Oct. 9 and Boise State Oct. 24, the Cougars will likely face the Pac-12 Conference’s Cal Golden Bears with perfect season on the line during the last week of the regular season.

The talent is finally in place for BYU to make the run that’s been expected of it since Mendenhall took over the program.