The University of Houston Cougars closed out their regular season with a 24-14 win over the Navy Midshipmen on Friday afternoon at TDECU Stadium.
With the win, the Cougars (7-4 overall and 5-3 in conference play) clinched a second-place finish in the American Athletic Conference West Division while Navy (6-5, 4-4) sits in third.
Houston quarterback D’Eriq King threw for 277 yards, going 21-of-27 and throwing one touchdown pass. He rushed for 57 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns on the ground.
The Cougars held Navy to only 79 second-half yards of offense.
“We were very consistent in the second half,” said Houston head coach Major Applewhite. “We came out in the second half and got the stops that we needed. For us to create that many stops was just tremendous. Navy is a very good football team, and they’re well-coached.”
Wide receiver Steven Dunbar had 142 yards receiving and a touchdown from eight receptions while Linell Bonner had eight receptions for 98 yards.
Navy running back Malcolm Perry had 82 yards rushing from 15 carries and a touchdown.
Wide receiver Tyler Carmona had 40 yards receiving for the Midshipmen. Quarterback Zach Abey went 2-of-4 for 45 yards passing.
The Midshipmen finished with 74 yards passing but finished with 217 yards rushing.
“Navy’s a tremendous football team and to get the win against them was great,” Applewhite said. “They’re a well-coached team. But our defense played great today.”
It was the last home game for the Cougar seniors as they went out with a win.
Navy’s first drive ended when Bennett Moehring’s 40-yard field goal attempt went wide left.
The game remained deadlocked when neither team could get anything going on offense during the next two drives.
King completed passes of 32 and 24 yards to Bonner on the Cougars’ second offensive drive to bring Houston inside Navy territory.
That set up Houston’s first touchdown, coming on the heels of King’s 9-yard run with 2:21 left in the first quarter.
The Midshipmen had a swift response, scoring on an eight play, 75-yard drive with Perry scoring on a 12-yard run early in the second quarter. The drive included an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Cougars’ Alexander Myers after a 17-yard run by Anthony Gargiulo just two plays before the Midshipmen found the end zone.
Things didn’t get easier for Houston when John Leday fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return and Navy’s Myles Davenport recovered at the Cougars’ 21.
But the Cougars’ defense bailed them out, forcing a turnover on downs after Abey’s run was stuffed short at the Houston 2-yard line.
But Navy’s offense responded once again, scoring on a 13-yard run from Gargiulo just two plays after Abey’s 40-yard pass to Tyler Carmona brought the Midshipmen to the Houston 15.
The Cougars’ offensive woes followed them into the second half when King fumbled on a 1-yard run and Winn Howard recovered at Houston’s 46 early in the third quarter.
But Houston’s offense found its footing soon enough.
A 34-yard pass to Dunbar brought the Cougars to midfield on their second drive of the third quarter.
“Steven played really well for us,” Applewhite said. “I’ve enjoyed watching him play.”
Houston’s first fourth down attempt of the day resulted in a 3-yard run by King to convert, bringing the ball inside Navy’s 30.
A Dunbar holding penalty negated a 13-yard touchdown run by King.
But the Cougars found the end zone after King rushed from 2 yards out and Caden Novikoff’s PAT tied the game with 3:27 left in the third.
“After that turnover, we played clean,” Applewhite said. “We made big plays in the passing game and our quarterback threw well. We played as well as we could in the second half.”
Houston didn’t reclaim the lead until Dunbar’s 61-yard touchdown reception, just a minute after the fourth quarter started, capping a three play, 73-yard scoring drive.
Novikoff drilled a 35-yard field goal with 7:57 remaining to give the Cougars a 10-point lead.
An interception by Myers with 2:59 remaining iced the game.
• Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush did the coin toss at the start of the game.
• Houston went 3-of-12 on third down conversions.
• Bonner left the game with an injury in the third quarter.
• Garret Lewis went in at quarterback for Navy with 4:04 left in the game.
• King was making his third start of the season for the Cougars.
• Navy had 57 yards rushing in the second half.