The Houston Cougars were held in check through three quarters in Cincinnati on Thursday night. But then the fourth quarter happened.
No. 6 Houston outscored Cincinnati 28-6 in the final frame to win 40-16.
“It was a very exciting game,” Houston defensive end Cameron Malveaux said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Us defensively, we had to really keep them down, not let them get as much momentum as our offense got back on their feet. So that was a big thing for us, just slowing down the run game.”
The Bearcats rushed 25 times for just 30 yards (1.2 yards per carry) but still managed a fourth-quarter lead. In fact, Cincy quarterback Hayden Moore found Nate Cole for a 4-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to give the Bearcats a 16-12 lead.
After that, however, it was all Cougars.
Greg Ward Jr. led two scoring drives on Houston’s next two possessions – which he capped with runs of 12 and three yards, respectively – and then the defense went crazy. Steven Taylor authored a 74-yard pick-six, while Howard Wilson had a 28-yard pick-six on the very next possession.
In al, the Cougars scored 28 points in just over eight minutes.
“Man, that as crazy,” Malveaux said. “As a matter of fact, Howard came up to me before that drive and was like, ‘Hey, man, it’s Prime Time.’ Then he went out there and made that amazing play. And Steve ran it all the way back. It was just an exciting time. I don’t really have words for it. It felt good to be a Coug.”
Houston (3-0) entered the game as a touchdown favorite, but many people thought the Cougars would be in trouble against Cincinnati (2-1), which was coming off a 38-20 road win at Purdue. It was close for a while, but in the end, the Cougars pulled away.
“We have a lot of people that still think we’re about to lose, but we’re going to approach every game the same way each week,” Malveaux said. “We work the same. Whatever’s put in front of us, we’re going to try to compete. Tonight I guess we put more into it.”
Greg Ward, who missed last week’s win over Lamar with a shoulder injury, was spectacular Thursday. He went 24-of-36 for 326 yards, one touchdown and two picks. He also ran 26 times for 73 yards and two scores.
“Greg is one of the most dynamic players that I’ve ever seen with my two eyes,” Malveaux said. “Great competitive focus. We weren’t really worried about him. He said he was ready to play, so that was the main thing: If he was ready, then we knew we would be all right.”
Houston plays at Texas State (1-0) on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. ET.