The Houston Cougars dominated Grambling State 47-0 on Saturday night at TDECU Stadium to get into the win column for the first time in 2014, but the Cougars offense still needs work.
Houston improved to 1-1 on the season. The Coogs thoroughly outclassed GSU from the opening kickoff. Houston needed just two running plays to march 80 yards in their first possession for the score, and the rout was on.
Houston ended the first quarter up 10-0 and never looked back.
The good news for Cougar fans is that Houston’s offense, which practically no-showed last week against the University of Texas at San Antonio, displayed viable signs of life against GSU.
Junior wide receiver Deontay Greenberry totaled 110 yards on five catches. Junior running back Kenneth Farrow bulldozed his way to 130 yards and one touchdown on just 13 carries, and Houston’s offensive line opened up running lanes and gave up zero sacks.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect, sophomore wide receiver Greg Ward showed why he might be the most versatile offensive player in the country. Ward caught a touchdown and rushed for one, too. He returned punts, kicks and played multiple snaps at the quarterback position.
Ward’s athleticism makes him hard to tackle in the open field, and he has enough speed to take it to the end zone any time he touches the ball. Head coach Tony Levine seems to know it, and that might be best thing of all.
Ward was “Mr. Everything” for Houston against GSU, something offensive coordinator Travis Bush might do well to remember as the Cougars march toward American Athletic Conference play.
But Houston also suffered several miscues on the night. Greenberry, as sure-handed and gifted as any receiver in the nation, dropped at least two passes in the game, one a sure touchdown from Ward in the end zone that hit him right on the hands.
Still, Greenberry is likely Houston’s premier offensive player, and if ever there was a team to drop a few passes against, it was GSU.
The Houston players were simply bigger, faster and stronger than the Tigers, and GSU committed six turnovers to make thing even worse for themselves. GSU lost three fumbles on the evening, and quarterbacks Stephen Johnson and D.J. Williams combined for three interceptions.
Yes, Houston did what it was supposed to do against GSU, but it would have almost been difficult not to.
Houston was in the red zone nine times on the night and came away with points seven times.
While that’s a sharp improvement over their abysmal seven-point performance against UTSA, Houston will need to improve greatly on offense if conference title hopes are to remain grounded in reality.
Sophomore quarterback John O’Korn played better than he did last week. O’Korn threw for 200 yards and one touchdown. Perhaps most importantly, O’Korn did not throw an interception and wasn’t sacked.
O'Korn threw four interceptions in the opener and was sacked four times.
But O’Korn’s accuracy still leaves much to be desired. He completed just 14-of-25 passes, throwing many of his misses too wide for his receivers to even have a chance.
The former Florida high school standout’s play was erratic. His cannon of an arm means little when he consistently misses open receivers. Against GSU, he forced the ball into coverage enough times to leave Cougar fans wondering if they’ll ever be allowed to exhale during an offensive series.
That isn’t to say O’Korn isn’t a smart, talented and hardworking player. By all accounts, he’s everything a coach would want in a young quarterback. O’Korn led all true freshmen last season with 28 touchdowns, and he has as high a ceiling as any signal-caller in the nation.
But O’Korn seems to lock into his favorite target, Greenberry, way too much. In fact, it seems Greenberry is O’Korn’s escape plan when the pocket collapses: No matter how covered Greenberry might be, O’Korn is throwing it to him.
Regardless, hopes remain high for the Cougar faithful. Seeing their team for just the second time this season in their brand new stadium, Houston fans have plenty of things to feel good about heading into next week’s game against BYU.
And, sure, fans should feel good about their offense, too. Houston racked up 477 total yards on the night and had most of its starters yanked before the end of the third quarter.
But fans shouldn’t feel great about it. Not just yet.
Levine, Bush and company still have plenty of work to do on the offensive side of the ball before Houston fans can start believing week one’s single touchdown effort was the exception in 2014 and not the rule.
@KelseyMcCarson covers University of Houston football for Bleacher Report.