ORLANDO — William Stanback scored two touchdowns and No. 19 UCF held off a late Houston threat to win 19-14 Saturday night and take sole possession of first place in the American Athletic Conference.
Storm Johnson added 127 yards rushing for UCF (7-1, 4-0 AAC), which now has the inside track to the league's automatic BCS bid after victories against the Cougars and Louisville. Its remaining conference games are against Temple, Rutgers, USF and SMU. Among those, only Rutgers (5-3) has a winning record. The other three are a combined 6-19.
The Cougars drove to the UCF 10 in the final minute but came up empty on consecutive passes from John O'Korn into the end zone. The first went off star receiver Deontay Greenberry's fingertips. The second, to Aaron Johnson, was broken up by linebacker Brandon Alexander.
O'Korn had a touchdown pass and two interceptions for the Cougars (7-2, 4-1), whose only previous loss was 47-46 to BYU.
The Knights had three giveaways and lost receiver Breshad Perriman early in the fourth.
Trailing 13-7 in the fourth, Houston pinned UCF on its 2. But the Knights got some space on a 17-yard completion from Blake Bortles to Perriman.
Bortles went to Perriman again two plays later, but his pass over the middle was broken up by cornerback Zach McMillian. McMillian was flagged for targeting and ejected. (He returned to the field a few minutes later in street clothes but was ordered off by the game officials.)
Perriman remained down on the field for several minutes and was carted off. His status was unknown.
The Knights weren't shaken, though. Stanback scored his second touchdown of the game five plays later to stretch UCF's lead to 19-7 with 10:23 to play. The seven-play, 98-yard drive was the Knights' longest of the season.
Houston got life when UCF missed a field goal. Soon after, O'Korn found Wayne Beadle in the end zone from 12 yards to close the gap to 19-14.
UCF gave Houston the ball right back with 3:02 to play after going three-and-out.
Houston went to the air and moved quickly, using a 14-yard pass on third down by O'Korn to get into the red zone. But the Knights held.
After a defense-dominated first half, the offenses picked it up. Houston's first possession of the second half ended when Alexander intercepted a deflected pass. The Knights turned it right back over when Bortles fumbled after being sacked from behind.
The Cougars needed just four plays to set up a 24-yard touchdown run by O'Korn to put them up 7-6.
The Knights offense recovered and capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown run by Stanback to make it 13-7.
The first quarter ended 0-0, ending Houston's streak of scoring at 39 quarters. It had been the only Division I-A team to score in every quarter this season.