Ward rallies No. 6 Houston to win over Cincinnati

Joe Kay
Associated Press

Cincinnati — Greg Ward Jr. returned from a one-game absence and ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to help No. 6 Houston — steadied by its fabulous defense — pull away to a 40-16 victory over Cincinnati on Thursday night.

The Cougars (3-0, 1-0 American Athletic) trailed 16-12 early in the fourth quarter before Ward and the defense took over. Ward had the scoring runs to regain the lead, and the Cougars returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns to close it out.

“The fourth quarter exemplified a veteran team that’s played in big games,” coach Tom Herman said. “They go down and score and we come back and take the lead.”

Ward sat out a 42-0 victory over Lamar on Saturday with a sore shoulder. He came through pregame warm-ups fine Thursday and dispelled any worries about his arm with a 39-yard touchdown pass on the Cougars’ second series. He was 24 of 36 for 326 yards with two interceptions, and he ran 26 times for 73 yards.

Houston’s defense took away any semblance of a running game from Cincinnati (2-1, 0-1) and accounted for 16 points on its own — a safety and the two interception returns by Steven Taylor and Howard Wilson.

The Cougars haven’t allowed any of their last five opponents to rush for 100 yards. Cincinnati managed only 30 yards rushing, putting too much pressure on redshirt sophomore Hayden Moore, whose two fourth-quarter interceptions allowed the Cougars to pull away.

Moore had never faced a defense so good. He made an impact early with a 61-yard touchdown pass , but the lack of a running game was tough to overcome. Moore finished 21 of 37 for 275 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and three sacks.

“You can’t beat any good team if you can’t run the football,” Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said. “They put all the pressure on our quarterback and receivers and they dictated the game to us.”