Tom Herman’s hell-bent on making Houston a team you don’t mess with
Houston is 7-0 and rolling. Rookie head coach Tom Herman has learned well from his time under Urban Meyer and isn’t about to lose sight of the little details that might lead to a stumble.
In junior Greg Ward Jr., Herman has his latest playmaking QB protégé. After developing Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones at Ohio State as he helped the Buckeyes to the national title, Herman’s new dynamic triggerman has thrown 10 TDs and just two INTs and is completing 72 percent of his passes. Ward, who has 15 rushing touchdowns, is also No. 9 in the nation in total offense, accounting for 344 yards per game.
Herman says Ward has really improved his grasp of the offense since the start of the season because he’s making faster decisions. UH doesn’t do much of the QB zone or QB power game that Herman used at OSU. Ward thrives on perimeter runs, making the Cougars’ attack especially dangerous.
“He’s like a poor man’s Braxton,” Herman said. “He’s so explosive with a lot of wiggle and great change of direction. He also throws it much better than people think."
The Cougars are No. 5 in the nation in total offense and No. 7 in rushing. (Last year, UH was No. 58 in total offense and No. 44 in rushing.) Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that they are starting three freshmen on their interior O-line this season with true freshman Will Noble at center and redshirts Colton Freeman and Mason Denley manning the guard spots.
With the Cougars having cracked the Coaches Poll last week for the first time, Herman noticed something that set him off last Monday. He went into the UH locker room and noticed dirty laundry all over the floor and some foot lockers open.
“The place looked like (bleep),” Herman told FOX Sports. “We want that place to be ‘recruit-ready’ 24 hours a day. It needs to be pristine, and it wasn’t."
Herman winced about what the sloppy locker room was a sign of. “We’re changing back into these old ways,” Herman thought — and that can’t happen. Herman ripped his team the next day at a meeting and had everyone — players, staff, even UH’s head trainer, who Herman said is like 71 years old — running half-gassers after practice. “Yeah, we were 6-0, but I’m thinking, ‘If I let this one go, we’re heading down a slippery slope and it was gonna bite us in the ass."
Houston trailed host UCF 10-7 midway through the second quarter before taking the game over and crushing the Knights, 59-10. Now is when the schedule begins to toughen up. Next up is a game against Vanderbilt before the Cougars face Cincinnati and Memphis, the other undefeated team in the AAC West.
Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for FOXSports.com and FS1. He is also a New York Times best-selling author. His new book, “The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks,” came out in October 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB and Facebook.