HOUSTON — Greg Ward Jr. threw for a career-high 389 yards and accounted for five touchdowns in just more than three quarters to help sixth-ranked Houston beat Connecticut 42-14 on Thursday night.

The victory was a bit of redemption for the Cougars, whose only loss last season came in a 20-17 defeat by the Huskies when Houston was 10-0.

Ward didn’t start that game because of an ankle injury, and there was a scary moment early in the second quarter Thursday when he took a hard hit in the midsection by Junior Joseph on a flea-flicker and had to leave the game.

But he missed just one play before returning and showed no ill effects from the blow, leading the Cougars (5-0, 2-0 American) on three more touchdown drives in the half to leave Houston up 28-7 at halftime.

Ward and Joseph got in each other’s faces after another hit by the linebacker on a touchdown throw by Ward later in the second quarter, and it earned Joseph an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Ward had touchdown runs of 30 and 10 yards and threw scoring passes of 3, 15 and 4 yards. He was replaced by Kyle Postma with 12 minutes remaining.

Noel Thomas had a career-high 135 yards receiving and a touchdown for Connecticut (2-3, 0-2), and Bryant Shirreffs threw for 239 yards and ran for a TD.

ALABAMA: Redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Barnett has left the program and withdrawn from school.

The former five-star recruit from Corona, California, started the opener against Southern California for No. 1 Alabama.

Since then, freshman Jalen Hurts has claimed the starting job. Coach Nick Saban had said that Barnett met with him before practice Wednesday with concerns about playing time.

Saban said Tide coaches “are very disappointed any time a player leaves the program who feels he can compete for a starting position elsewhere, rather than here at Alabama.”

Alabama plays Kentucky on Saturday with Cooper Bateman and David Cornwell behind Jalen Hurts at quarterback.

Barnett played in three games, completing 11 of 19 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns.


MAINE 1, UMASS-LOWELL 0: Kendra Ridley placed a header into the top left corner off a corner kick from Vivien Beil at the 10:55 mark for the only goal of the contest as the Black Bears (6-3, 2-0 America East) got past the River Hawks (3-5-2, 1-1) at Lowell, Massachusetts.

UMass-Lowell had the advantage in shots, outshooting Maine 14-9.

Samantha Cobotic turned aside five shots for Maine, while Julia Schneider had three saves for the River Hawks.