So far, D’Eriq King seems to be enjoying his time at quarterback for the Houston Cougars.

After taking over the spot in last week’s win over previously undefeated South Florida, the sophomore threw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns in the Cougars’ 52-27 win over the East Carolina Pirates on Saturday afternoon at TDECU Stadium.

King went 15-of-21 and finished with 330 passing yards, helping the Cougars’ offense put up 472 total yards.

“It means a lot to me,” King said. “I’ve been working for it, so I was just excited to go out with there with my teammates and get the job done.”

Steven Dunbar had 171 yards from six receptions and one touchdown, while Linell Bonner had seven receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown.

Duke Catalon compiled 77 yards from nine carries and one touchdown.

The 52 points were the most the Cougars scored this season.

If there were any worries that the Cougars (6-3 overall, 4-2 in the American Athletic Conference) would fall back to earth after last week’s upset over USF, those thoughts were put to rest quickly as Houston raced to a 21-0 first quarter lead, and with the win, became bowl eligible.

“It feels good to get the win,” said Houston head coach Major Applewhite. “I was a little nervous with how we would respond after last week’s big win. But we came out and we had a good week of practice. I’m proud of the way that we played.”

ECU (2-7, 1-4) committed three turnovers while Houston had none.

Mulbah Car’s 19-yard carryon a handoff helped set up King’s 2-yard touchdown run on the game’s opening drive, covering 75 yards in 11 plays.

With the Pirates facing third down deep in their own territory, Thomas Sirk’s pass was intercepted by Terrell Williams who returned it 11 yards to set up Catalon’s 22-yard touchdown run on the next play with 7:02 remaining in the first quarter.

After the ECU turnover, the Pirates made a quarterback change and Gardner Minshew took over on their third drive.

Minshew finished with 463 yards passing, going 52-of-68 and throwing three touchdown passes.

Trevon Brown had 141 yards from 11 receptions and two touchdowns while Quay Johnson had 115 yards from 14 receptions and one touchdown.

King hooked up with Dunbar for a 41-yard completion to the ECU 40 shortly before the quarterback spotted an open Courtney Lark on a 5-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter.

“I was comfortable in the pocket today,” King said. “My receivers did a great job of getting open and creating plays.”

The Pirates’ first promising offensive possession came on a 16-play, 70-yard drive, advancing as far as the Houston 2-yard line before they were forced to settle for a Jake Verity 22-yard field goal after the Cougars’ defense held firm with 7:40 left in the second quarter.

The Cougars’ offense didn’t take long to respond.

Bonner’s 39-yard reception brought the Cougars inside the red zone and Car’s 1-yard touchdown rush gave Houston a 28-3 lead just over a minute after the Pirates’ field goal.

Brown hauled in a 34-yard touchdown pass for the Pirates at the 5:24 mark in the second quarter.

ECU ended the first half on a dud with Verity’s field goal from 37 yards sailing wide left. The miss came just a few plays after the Pirates got inside the 10-yard line before Leroy Godfrey sacked Minshew for an 8-yard loss.

The Pirates made up for it at the start of the second half, finding the end zone on Brown’s second touchdown of the afternoon, hauling in a 9-yard pass and cutting their deficit to 11 points.

But Houston had a quick response.

King spotted Dunbar on a pass and the receiver dashed down the field for a 75-yard touchdown pass.

On Houston’s next drive, the Cougars only needed two plays in 65 yards to extend their lead, capping it off with a 62-yard touchdown pass to Bonner and Houston’s lead became 42-17 with 6:09 still to go in the third.

Caden Novikoff booted a 44-yard field goal inside the last two minutes of the third.

Minshew’s first interception of the day turned into a Houston touchdown as Brand McDowell darted off to the end zone on a 74-yard score early in the fourth quarter.

The Cougars will now have a bye this coming week. Houston’s next game will be on Nov. 18 at Tulane

Michael Bauer: 409-683-5247; michael.bauer@galvnews.com

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