No last-second heroics, no late taking the foot off the gas. Simply a dominating performance led Houston to a 42-14 win over Connecticut on Sept. 29. The Huskers (2-3, 0-2) handed the Cougars a 20-17 loss last season.
Coach Tom Herman said the team talked during the offseason about how they messed up a perfect record.
“We never use the word revenge,” he said. “The word we used was atonement, to make a wrong a right. We took our foot off the gas for a little bit, and it showed up in UConn week 11.”
Houston (5-0, 2-0) took a 28-7 lead into the half and were never threatened.
Herman commended his players for weathering the storm that included missing starting running back Duke Catalon because of a concussion.
It didn’t matter as quarterback Greg Ward Jr. threw for a career-high 389 yards and five touchdowns while playing three quarters.
“He’s a competitive dude,” Herman said. “He’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever been around in my career. His fire and energy is palpable this season, and I look forward to getting back to work with him again. He’s playing with a tremendous amount of confidence.”
The Cougars scored all five times they were in the red zone and were 8 of 16 on third down despite missing four starters.
Herman credited the assistant coaches for getting the players prepared and noted one of the four pillars of success for the program was on display: competitive focus. He said a backup can either ignite excitement or disappointment when he takes the field depending on how he has practiced leading up to the moment.
“That implements being ready when your number is called,” he said. “For the most part, our guys take that mantra seriously. When a number is called, you have to be ready.”