Very few players have changed the trajectory of the Houston Cougar program as much as Greg Ward did. That’s why we celebrate Greg Ward Day every October 2nd!
In 2014, UH was a middling, ho-hum team that often struggled to score more than one touchdown.
John O’Korn had been dreadful in a few of his early starts that season, first in the opener with UTSA and then at BYU. In the October 2 game vs. UCF on a Thursday night, O’Korn had issues again. Fans were starting to boo until Greg Ward saved him, flying free across the middle. This time, O’Korn hit him.
That 36-yard strike was O’Korn’s longest of the night and gave him a little breathing room. But after a UCF penalty put the Coogs at the two-yard-line, O’Korn couldn’t get it in the end zone in four tries. Some light booing starting to wash over a pretty empty stadium, and on the next series, Ward was given a chance at QB.
Well … a chance. It was one series. Then, Tony Levine and Travis Bush put O’Korn back out there and he was picked off on the very first play of the series. But they stuck with O’Korn and had Ward back fielding punts. O’Korn went three and out with a sack the next time out and the booing became worse.
Returning from the half, the coaching staff sent O’Korn back out there. He missed on a slant to Ward on 3rd down and UH had to punt again. On the next drive, he bounced a swing pass to Ward on first down. The boos start to rain down, aimed at Tony Levine for keeping him out there and at O’Korn for his poor play.
On the next snap, O’Korn threw across the middle, another of his no-touch bullets. It hit Deontay Greenberry, bounced up, and was picked off. O’Korn was now 12/26 for just 98 yards and 2 INTs. That bullet was his last meaningful snap at UH.
Finally, with 8:25 to go in the 3rd quarter, Greg Ward takes over as Houston’s QB. It’s a job he would keep for 34 games.
That’s why we remember the date: October 2nd, 2014. It was the day that Tony Levine got booed into putting Greg Ward at QB.
GW3: By The Numbers
In the 10 games before Ward’s first start, UH scored 2 TDs or less 5 times (3 of those games were 0 or 1 TD).
Once Greg Ward became the starter, UH scored 3 TDs or more in 32 of 34 games. The embarrassing Levine/Bush/O’Korn offense was transformed by the play of #1.
As the starter, Greg Ward went 28-6, won 2 bowls including a New Year’s Six game, a conference title, he went 6-0 vs P5 teams, 9-1 out of conference, and 19-5 in the league. All this after Levine went 15-15 in his 30 games before starting Ward. Before Ward, UH played just 2 P5 teams under Levine – both blowout losses.
Greg Ward Jr. in 34 starts
52 TD/25 INT
Ward finished his career 2-0 vs top 5 teams, 3-0 vs Top 10 teams. 6-0 vs top 25 teams. He was 13-4 in ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 games, 16-1 at TDECU, and 15-0 at home in his final two seasons. He was 10-2 in November. 1-0 in conference title games. Won the AAC title. Won a Peach Bowl title. Won an Armed Forces Bowl title with the largest fourth-quarter comeback in bowl history.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#c62b29″ class=”” size=””]Ward finished his career 2-0 vs top 5 teams, 3-0 vs Top 10 teams. 6-0 vs top 25 teams.[/perfectpullquote]
One day soon, Ward will go into the University of Houston’s Hall of Honor. Deservedly so.
And to think that until he was guilted into the move, Tony Levine mostly used Greg Ward as a punt returner and 2nd-string WR. Ward managed to overcome it all: 3 head coaches, multiple injuries, and a schedule that was much more difficult than any recent UH QB had played.