5 Thoughts On The Armed Forces Bowl

Recap, 5 Thoughts and what's next for each team in the Armed Forces Bowl

Jan. 2 Armed Forces Bowl
Houston 35, Pitt 34

And You Care Because … Pitt was cruising along up 34-13 with just over six minutes to play, and then Houston pulled off an all-timer of a bowl miracle as Greg Ward Jr. found Deontay Greenberry for a touchdown, the Cougars recovered the onside kick, Ward Jr. found Demarcus Ayers for a 29-yard score with under two minutes to play, the Cougars recovered the onside kick, and shocked the Panthers with a 25-yard scoring pass to Greenberry to pull within on. On fire, Houston went for two and got it as Ward Jr. calmly waited until Greenberry broke open for two and the improbable lead. Pitt still had one last shot, and would’ve been well within field goal range in the final seconds , but Tyler Boyd dropped a pass and the Cougars ended up holding on.
What Else? Houston QB Greg Ward, Jr. completed 15-of-24 passes for 274 yards and three scores, and ran 14 times for 92 yards
- Pitt RB James Conner ran 21 times for 90 yards and two scores, and WR Tyler Boyd caught nine passes for 112 yards
- Total yards: Houston 486 – Pitt 449
- Houston RB Kenneth Farrow ran 22 times for 103 yards and two scores
Game Rating: A

By Pete Fiutak
1. In the 1979 Cotton Bowl, Houston was having no problems whatsoever with Notre Dame, building up a 34-12 lead on the way to an easy win. One problem – Joe Montana fought through the flu, got back into the game with under eight minutes remaining, and turned in one of his most legendary performances as he took the Irish to the win. Houston was getting crushed and weren’t even close late in the game, but with two recovered onside kicks, a two-point conversion, and a final stop almost made this game more amazing. Greg Ward, Jr. is no Joe Montana, and this game wasn’t nearly as big as that Cotton Bowl, but it was still special. This turned into one of the greatest bowl games ever – or at least one of the greatest fourth quarters of all-time.

By Rich Cirminiello
2. First order of business, Coach Herman, is to change the culture at Houston. Then starting working on the psyche of sophomore QB John O’Korn.

O’Korn became a microcosm for the Cougars’ disappointing season, earning a spot on the bench following a slow start. And don’t be fooled by today’s miraculous rally in the Armed Forces Bowl, which was fueled by some deft onside kicking, and will wear off long before spring drills begin. The fact is that Houston needs its 6-4, 220-pounder to recapture the form that made him the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year in 2013.

Whenever Houston has had success, it’s been fueled by a prolific gunslinger, like Andre Ware, David Klingler, Kevin Kolb or Case Keenum. O’Korn has a high ceiling, and Herman, who piloted an Ohio State offense that’s flourished with two backups this season, knows a little something about maximizing a quarterback’s potential.

Greg Ward Jr. has put in a valiant effort this season, and he’s clearly a dynamic athlete who belongs on the field in some capacity. But another feast-or-famine passing effort today in Fort Worth is a signal that the Cougars need the old O’Korn to return to form in 2015. And Herman is just the guy to bring his potential to the surface … as soon as he’s done coaching the Buckeyes in the national championship game.

By Pete Fiutak
3. You just know Pat Narduzzi was ripping things apart watching his new Pitt team fall apart. It stinks for interim coach Joe Rudolph to forever be tagged with one of the worst collapses in college football history, but it also showed just how much the program is ready for a defensive superstar head coach like Narduzzi to help change things around. It’s not like the D was bad under Paul Chryst, and it’s going to finish the season in the top 30 and 19th in the nation against the pass, but all anyone will remember is the final seven minutes against Houston. So now it’s a perfect situation for Narduzzi – he has a good group returning, and he has a rallying point.

4. What’s next for Pitt
Pat Narduzzi, first things first, get your team over the Armed Forces Bowl collapse. Fortunately for the new head coach, he gets back a fantastic group of skill players with RB James Conner and WR Tyler Boyd among the best in the ACC. While the right side of the line is gone with OG Matt Rotheram and OT T.J. Clemmings gone, the other three starters return. Can QB Chad Voytik take his game to another level? He’ll have to do it without a few key targets, but Boyd is special.

Narduzzi is known as a defensive coach, and he has some work to do with three of the top four tacklers gone and only LB Matt Galambos back. Three of the front four is back, and there’s enough talent across the board to hope for a big improvement under the new coaching staff led by corners Lafayette Pitts and Avonte Maddox and solid safety Reggie Mitchell. P Ryan Winslow is okay, and PK Chris Blewitt is good, but needs to be a bit more consistent.

5. What’s next for Houston
Tom Herman was brought on to crank up the offense, and he has an interesting quarterback situation with John O’Korn coming off of injury to battle with Armed Forces star Greg Ward Jr. Three starters are back up front including LT Travis Cross and LG Ben Drew, but who’s the No. 1 target? Deontay Greenberry is leaving early for the NFL and Markeith Ambles is gone, but Demarcus Ayers and Steven Dunbar are back. Running backs Kenneth Farrow and Ryan Jackson are back, and Ward will be one of the team’s most dangerous runners.

Leading tackler and key linebacker Efrem Oliphant has to be replaced, and two starters are gone from the front four, but Steven Taylor and Matthew Adams are two solid outside linebackers to work around, and DT B.J. Singleton should help ease the loss of Joy Mbu inside. All four starters are back in the secondary including safeties Adrian McDonald and Trevon Stewart. The punting game needs to be stronger, and Logan Piper will give it a try after averaging under 40 yards per pop.

Scout CFB Top Stories