HOUSTON - Junior quarterback Greg Ward Jr. enjoyed the best day of his collegiate career Saturday evening as the Cougars dominated Texas State 59-14 at TDECU Stadium. With the win, Houston improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2013.
Ward did a little of everything well for the Cougars. The sophomore threw for 274 yards with a career-high four touchdowns on 17-of-21 passing and added a game-high 91 rushing yards on only 10 carries with a pair of touchdowns.
The Tyler, Texas, native also improved to 9-2 as the Cougars' starting quarterback and moved higher on Houston's career charts with an .818 winning percentage.
Ward led a Houston offense that rolled up 689 yards of total offense, including 366 yards on the ground. It was the most yards compiled by the Cougars in a game since posting 693 yards in a 56-49 loss to Louisiana Tech on Sept. 9, 2012.
Sophomore running back Javin Webb added 90 rushing yards on 15 carries.
When the Cougars went to the aerial assault, junior wideout Demarcus Ayers was the leading target, hauling in eight catches for career highs of 126 yards and two touchdowns. The Lancaster, Texas, native also broke off a career-long 53-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, the Cougars forced four turnovers for the second straight game. Senior safety Adrian McDonald and senior linebacker Elandon Roberts led all players with 10 tackles apiece, while senior cornerback William Jackson III posted a 13-yard fumble return and returned an interception 35 yards late in the first half to give the Cougars a 42-7 advantage at the break.
In his first season at Houston, Head Coach Tom Herman became only the second coach in program history to lead the Cougars to a 3-0 record in his inaugural campaign. John Jenkins led the Cougars to an 8-0 start on the way to a 10-1 record in 1990.
It took Houston just five plays and 1:49 to march 85 yards for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game. Ward capped the drive with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Chance Allen, giving the Cougars a 7-0 lead on Allen's first career scoring reception.
The Bobcats evened the game with 1:47 left in the first quarter. Quarterback Tyler Jones capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run, capping a 10-play, 57-yard drive that tied the game at 7-7.
Ward wasted little time reclaiming the lead for Houston. On the second play of Houston's ensuing drive, the junior connected with Steven Dunbar on a 65-yard touchdown pass. The reception was the longest of Dunbar's career, and it gave Houston a 14-7 lead.
Houston struck again on their first drive of the second quarter. A 33-yard scramble by Ward set up the Cougars with a 1st-and-goal from the Texas State 2-yard-line. Two plays later, Houston's field general called his own number and scored from the 1-yard-line to make the score 21-7.
The Cougars scored again on their next drive after the Houston defense came up with a turnover. Ward started the drive with a 50-yard completion to Ayers and ended the drive with a 3-yard touchdown toss to the junior, and Houston held a 28-7 lead.
The duo linked up again for yet another touchdown on Houston's next drive. This time, Ward capped an 8-play, 69-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown strike to Ayers. With the touchdown, Houston's lead ballooned to 35-7.
The Houston defense got in on the scoring action on Texas State's next drive. Jones was intercepted by Jackson III, and the senior raced 35 yards for his second career touchdown. The score accounted for the final points of the half, giving Houston a 42-7 lead at intermission.
The stat sheet was as lopsided as the scoreboard at halftime. Houston racked up 428 yards of total offense in the first half, while Texas State had 217. The Cougars posted 18 first downs to Texas State's 10 and forced three turnovers while committing none.
An interception by Houston's Howard Wilson ended Texas State's first drive of the third quarter, and the Cougars cashed in with their first field goal of the day. Kyle Bullard ended a 6-play, 53-yard drive with a 24-yard field goal, and the Houston lead was 45-7.
Ward found the end zone for the sixth and final time midway through the 3rd quarter on his final drive of the game. The junior scampered into the end zone from nine yards out with 6:03 left in the period to stretch the advantage to 52-7.
Texas State got back on the board with 12:57 left in the game. Chris Nutall scored on a 1-yard rush, capping a 13-play, 85-yard drive. The touchdown cut Houston's lead to 52-14.
The Cougars answered with 3:52 remaining. Senior running back Ryan Jackson found the end zone on a 25-yard rush, bumping the lead up to 59-14.
Houston opens American Athletic Conference action when they go on the road to face Tulsa at 11 a.m. (CDT), Saturday at H.A. Chapman Stadium in Tulsa. Live television broadcast is available on CBS Sports Network, and fans can listen on KPRC 950 AM.
Houston returns to TDECU Stadium Thursday, Oct. 8, to host SMU. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CDT), with live television available on ESPN2.
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