CINCINNATI — Quarterback Greg Ward Jr. returned from a one-game absence and ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to help No. 6 Houston — steadied by its defense — pull away to a 40-16 victory over Cincinnati on Thursday night. The Cougars (3-0, 1-0 American Athletic) trailed 16-12 early in the fourth quarter before Ward and the defense took over. Ward had the scoring runs to regain the lead, and the Cougars returned two interceptions for touchdowns to close it out. Ward sat out a 42-0 win over Lamar on Saturday with a sore shoulder. He came through pregame warmups fine Thursday and dispelled any worries with a 39-yard touchdown pass on the Cougars' second series. Houston's defense took away any semblance of a running game from Cincinnati (2-1, 0-1) and accounted for 16 points, including a safety. The Cougars haven't allowed any of their last five opponents to rush for 100 yards. Cincinnati rushed for 30 .The Cougars next play at Texas State on Sept. 24. Last year, Ward led them to a 59-14 win by throwing for four touchdowns and running for two more as Houston piled up 689 yards. The Bearcats host Miami of Ohio on Sept. 24 for the Victory Bell. They've won 10 in a row over their rival. BRAVE WORDS: Oklahoma backup quarterback Austin Kendall doesn't seem impressed with Ohio State's defense with the Buckeyes visiting the Sooner on Saturday. "I think they have a really basic defense," Kendall said. "I think we can go out there and, I mean, Baker (Mayfield), he'll light them up. I'm really looking forward to it. If my number's called, I think I can do the same." USC: Suspended linebacker Osa Masina was charged with rape and two counts of forcible sodomy by authorities in Utah.USF: The Bulls announced a home-and-home series with Central Michigan beginning Sept. 14, 2019 in Mount Pleasant, Mich. The Bulls will host the Chippewas on Sept. 11, 2021. The teams never have met.