Nearly 48 hours after leading Houston to a 33-23 win over Oklahoma, Tom Herman is still feeling the effects of one of the best games from college football’s opening weekend.
“I’m tired,” Herman said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “That’s one of the downfalls of playing a game like that early in the season. Every season is a grind, but I feel like it started a little bit earlier this year.”
Herman, though, will gladly take it. His team entered the game as decided underdogs, with Oklahoma a preseason favorite to reach the College Football Playoff. The Sooners led 17-13 midway through the second quarter, but Houston scored the next 20 points, including seven on a 100-yard kick-six return by Brandon Wilson.
The game truly changed several minutes earlier, however, when Houston safety Garrett Davis laid out Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine in a brilliant open-field tackle. Any jitters Houston had about the setting or stakes immediately vanished.
“There was a definite change in attitude from our guys,” Herman said. “They said, okay, ‘Garrett showed us how we’re supposed to play. Let’s go continue playing this way the rest of the game.’ And we did.”
Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. was masterful in leading the offense. He finished 23-of-40 for 321 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought last year he was just an athlete taking snaps; this year, he’s proved to us that he’s a quarterback that just happens to be able to run a little bit,” Herman said. “He understood the game plan. He understood that in a lot of their coverages they’re going to leave their corners in one-on-one situations and that we’ve got big, strong possession guys. We’re not going to run by their corners, but if you give your guy a chance on a 50-50 ball, the odds are he’s going to come down with it. He took advantage of a lot of those opportunities.”
Ward, it is worth noting, injured his shoulder in the win but suffered no structural damage. Still, Herman said there’s only a 70 percent chance that Ward plays against Lamar (0-1) this Saturday.
Then again, Houston will probably be okay with or without Ward, seeing as how Lamar lost its season-opener, 38-24, to Coastal Carolina.
Either way, Houston has to be on cloud nine. The Cougars ended last year with a 38-24 win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl, and they started this year with another double-digit win over a national power. The Cougars are clearly deserving of their No. 6 national ranking.
You’ll certainly get no argument from Bob Stoops on that one. After the game, Stoops approached Herman and shook his hand.
He meant it, too.
“It was very gracious of Coach Stoops,” Herman said. “I remember he said, ‘You’ve got a great team, a really good team.’ He looked me in the eye. It was very flattering. If you’re going to write a blueprint for a young coach to grow up and model your program after – not just from a wins-and-losses standpoint, but from a quality-of-life standpoint, the fact that his coaches love coaching for him, his players love playing for him and he’s won numerous championships, a national championship, and he’s been at one place for 17 years – I think that’s a pretty good blueprint to follow. I was kind of a bit starstruck, to be honest with you, being able to shake his hand and (for) him to tell me that he thought well of our team.”
Houston also proved without a doubt that it can compete in the Big 12. Whether the Cougars join the league, however, remains to be seen.
“That decision is made by politicians and presidents and boards of regents,” Herman said, refusing to bite. “It’s well above my pay grade. They don’t ask coaches because I know what my answer would be if I were sitting in some of those shoes on the other side. We’ll wait and see how it plays out.”