HOU-UC grades: Effects from Greg Ward Jr.'s injury apparent in win over Bearcats
Houston Cougars 40, Cincinnati Bearcats 16
Here are the biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from the Houston Cougars’ 40-16 American Athletic Conference win over the Cincinnati Bearcats on Thursday night.
Quarterback grade: Greg Ward Jr., 74.6
Greg Ward Jr.’s injury affecting passing efficiency
Ward is playing hurt, and it definitely shows. While he completed three of the six passes he attempted traveling 20 yards or further downfield and made some big plays with his legs, forcing three missed tackles on his 22 non-kneel-down carries, he was off as a passer. He particularly struggled under pressure, seeing his completion percentage drop from 81.8 percent with no pressure, to just 42.9 percent when the Bearcats defense got to him. Houston is a team with serious College Football Playoff dreams, but they need Ward back to his healthy best if they are to make that a reality.
Top offensive grades
RT Na’Ty Rodgers, 75.7
WR Chance Allen, 75.0
C Will Noble, 73.9
LT Josh Jones, 69.9
HB Mulbah Car, 68.6
Mixed performances on the Houston offensive line make life difficult on offense
While neither had true standout performances, both offensive tackles for the Cougars played well enough to be among the five highest-graded players on the Houston offense. Both LT Josh Jones and RT Na’Ty Rodgers allowed just two total pressures each on 49 pass-blocking snaps. The same can’t be said on the inside, where both guards really struggled. LG Alex Fontana allowed a sack, a hit, and two hurries, while RG Marcus Oliver allowed three hurries of his own. They struggled even more so as run blockers, with Houston averaging just 2.6 yards per carry on eight runs off left guard, and 1.8 yards per carry on four runs off right guard.
Top defensive grades
CB Howard Wilson, 93.2
ILB Steven Taylor, 81.8
ILB Matthew Adams, 81.8
OLB Tyus Bowser, 80.8
NT Ed Oliver, 80.4
Freshman sensation Ed Oliver continues to shine
Nose tackle Ed Oliver featured in our Group of 5 college team of the week for his debut game against Oklahoma, and he hasn’t let up his performances in the last two weeks, either. Strong in run defense yet again, Oliver has hit double-digits in stops already, and has a higher grade at this stage of the season than any other freshman DT in the last three seasons. The undisputed star of the night for Houston, though, was cornerback Howard Wilson. A dropped pick six, a force-out, and two interceptions—one of them a pick-six beating backup QB Ross Trail on a trap coverage—helped Wilson earn one of the highest single-game grades for a cornerback so far this season. It will take a big game from a couple of corners on Saturday to keep Wilson out of our college team of the week for Week 3.
Quarterback grade: Hayden Moore, 53.5
Erratic performance from Moore helps Houston pull away late
When Hayden Moore exploited a coverage bust on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Bearcats up 16-12, an upset win was in the cards for Cincinnati, but ultimately, Moore’s erratic performance played its part in Houston pulling away late in the game. Fortunate not to have already thrown two interceptions in the first half, including a dropped pick-six, Moore’s misreads of coverage and forced passes caught up with him in the fourth quarter, with interceptions that led to two Houston touchdowns that put the game out of reach. There were strong throws in this game from Moore, but the big mistakes were too plentiful, and eventually Houston made him and Cincinnati pay for them.
Top offensive grades
WR Devin Gray, 77.3
WR Nate Cole, 75.0
LT Ryan Stout, 71.9
WR Avery Johnson, 69.7
HB Mike Boone, 60.6
WRs Gray and Cole continue to produce
The passing game isn’t all about the quarterback, and it was Hayden Moore’s receivers who turned in the best performances of the night for Cincinnati on Thursday. Devin Gray snagged his first career touchdown when he turned Houston’s Jeremy Winchester inside out on a post route for a 61-yard score to tie the game in the first quarter. Gray added further value later in the second quarter, turning into a DB to break up a pass that was aimed into the Houston corner’s leverage at the goal line. Slot receiver Nate Cole snagged his fourth score of this young season, and is now less than 60 snaps shy of his total production from the 2015 season.
Top defensive grades
LB Antonio Kinard, 88.9
DT Marquise Copeland, 83.4
DT Cortez Broughton, 82.4
CB Mike Tyson, 81.5
S Carter Jacobs, 80.6
Cincinnati’s front-seven stands out in loss
Despite a score line that suggests otherwise, this was more a game that got out on hand late than a true blowout. Cincinnati did a pretty good job containing the Houston offense through three quarters, and it started up front. Defensive tackles Marquise Copeland and Cortez Broughton had impressive gains, often making is look like both guards from Houston were on skates. Both impressed against the run, with Copeland registering three tackles resulting in a defensive stop on 19 snaps against the run, while Broughton impressed more as a pass-rusher, registering three hurries on 20 pass-rushing snaps. At linebacker, Antonio Kinard registered a sack and made eight tackles resulting in a defensive stop in coverage and against the run. He also had a pass breakup and forced a fumble to cap an impressive night.