UCF got 127 yards rushing from Storm Johnson and its defense made a game-saving stand in the final seconds to beat Houston, 19-14, and grab the inside track for the American Athletic Conference title.
The Knights improved to 7-1 and 4-0 in conference and edged closer to its first BCS bowl game. Houston fell to 7-2 and 4-1.
UCF featured a balanced attack, getting 210 passing yards from quarterback Blake Bortles and 188 rushing yards thanks to Johnson and his backup, freshman William Stanback, who had 74 yards and two key TDs on nine carries.
The Knights held a 6-0 lead at the half courtesy of two Shawn Moffitt field goals, but Houston came back to take the lead in the third quarter on a 24-yard touchdown run by quarterback John O’Korn, who also threw for 231 yards and a touchdown on 24 of 46 passing.
Down 7-6, UCF stormed back with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was aided by a personal foul penalty on Houston before Stanback scored from 15 yards out. The Knights led 13-7 as the fourth quarter dawned, but were pinned down at their own 2-yard line when they got the ball back. No matter — UCF went 98 yards in seven plays, with Stanback going in from 38 yards this time to put his team up, 19-7 (a two-point conversion pass attempt by Bortles failed).
That’s when Houston stormed back. After O’Korn’s pass was intercepted on the ensuing drive, the Knights drove to the Houston 33 and attempted a 50-yard field goal. But it was blocked! O’Korn then drove the Cougars 53 yards in eight plays, culminating in a 12-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Beadle. Suddenly, it was 19-14. The Knights got the ball back with a little over four minutes to play.
Houston’s defense forced a three-and-out and UCF punted the ball away to the Cougar 38-yard line. O’Korn found Kenneth Farrow on completions of six and 22 yards and then hit Deonte Greenberry on a clutch 14-yard pass on third and 10 to set the Cougars up at the UCF 20-yard line. Two rushes produced a first and goal at the 10 and Houston had four plays to get it into the end zone. But the Knights defense stiffened when it mattered and O’Korn’s fourth-down pass sailed over the end line and that was the ball game.
UCF has now beaten Louisville and Houston, which should leave a clear path to the league title. Games against Temple, Rutgers, South Florida and SMU remain, but the Knights would have to lose twice to not get it done and make it to a BCS bowl.