After losing two straight games in an upset against Tulsa and a 17-point collapse against Memphis, Houston's season looked to be headed for a dark place. The Cougars rebounded, easing the minds of their fans, with a 28-24 upset of No. 17 USF on the road Saturday.
After two opening drives resulted in four total yards, Houston’s inconsistent offense found itself being led by its third quarterback of the season when sophomore D’Eriq King stepped in to replace Kyle Postma.
Wet conditions stifled both offenses early, and USF led 7-0 Bulls at the half. Houston flipped the script of its recent games and was the stronger team in the second half. Just two minutes into the third quarter, King hit receiver Courtney Lark in stride for a 39-yard touchdown pass.
“He did a great job of making plays with his feet but also making his throws,” Head coach Major Applewhite said. “I just want to see consistency from that position for overall offensive success.”
The teams would exchange short rushing touchdowns in the third quarter with the Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers taking his in from three yards out and Houston’s Mulbah Car responding with another just five minutes later.
King would score his second touchdown of the day on a 3-yard run with just over six minutes remaining to tie the game at 21. USF kicked a field goal with 1:46 left in the game to go up 24-21 setting up the sophomore quarterback to drive his team downfield running the two-minute drill.
After being sacked on third down with just over a minute left, the Cougars loss looked like a lock as they were forced to pass it on 4th-and-24. King rolled out of the pocket escaping from pressure and hit Lark for 30 yards and a first down.
A 6-yard run and subsequent pass put the Cougars at the Bulls’ 21-yard line. With On 3rd-and-nine just a few plays later and with 11 seconds remaining in the game, King broke off a 20-yard touchdown for the go-ahead touchdown.
Despite rushing for two touchdowns, the Houston defense prevented Flowers from passing any touchdowns and finished the game with four sacks and 12 tackles for a loss.
“It was great to see a great second half from them,” Applewhite said. “Belief is a powerful thing and it was good to see them play the full game against a really good offense so to finish the game like they did I think brings a lot of confidence in.”
On the offensive side of the ball, King finished the game going 12-for-21 for 137 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 83 yards and 2 more scores. Car finished the game with 18 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown.
Applewhite said King will start the Cougars next game against East Carolina on Saturday.
The win kept Houston’s hopes of winning the division with three games left in the season. Their game against the Pirates kicks of at 11 a.m. at TCDEU Stadium.