EditorsNote: adds King’s yardage total in 5th graf
D’Eriq King matched his season-high with five touchdown passes and rushed for two scores as Houston halted No. 21 South Florida’s undefeated run with a 57-36 victory in a matchup of American Athletic Conference contenders Saturday at Houston’s TDECU Stadium.
It marks the second consecutive season that the Cougars (7-1, 4-0 AAC) have handed the Bulls (7-1, 3-1) their first defeat after a 7-0 start to the season.
The Bulls had rallied from fourth-quarter deficits in four previous games but went scoreless in the final period against a Houston defense that was playing without star defensive tackle Ed Oliver, out with a knee injury.
King scored on runs of 47 and 36 yards on his way to rushing for a season-high 132 yards and had touchdown connections covering 15, 38, 30, 52 and 27 yards, two to wide receiver Marquez Stevenson.
King completed 28 of 40 passes for 419 yards, but had two intercepted and was responsible for a USF safety when he was penalized for intentional grounding on an attempt from the end zone.
Quarterback Blake Barnett was 26-of-39 passing for 263 yards, and freshman running back Johnny Ford rushed for 106 yards for the Bulls, his second consecutive triple-digit game.
USF running back Jordan Cronkrite saw his streak of 100-yard rushing games end at five when he managed only 72 on 19 carries.
The Cougars took a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the game, but the Bulls responded with three touchdowns in the second quarter — two by Ford — to pull into a 21-21 tie with under four minutes left in the half.
Houston responded with an eight-play, 75-yard drive capped by wide receiver Courtney Lark’s 30-yard reception to go to the locker room up 28-21.
It nearly was a two-touchdown margin, but free safety Jaymon Thomas intercepted King’s long, Hail Mary pass in the end zone as time ran out in the half.
USF was within 43-36 entering the fourth quarter before the Cougars put it away with two unanswered scores.
—Field Level Media