PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Somewhat overlooked at the start of the season, Houston deserves attention now.
The Cougars have an outstanding true freshman quarterback to run a high-octane offense, two good wide receivers and a defense that is tops in the nation in takeaways.
It was all on display Saturday as John O'Korn threw for career bests of 364 yards and five touchdowns and Houston forced a season-high six turnovers in routing Rutgers 49-14.
"We always play with a chip on our shoulders," said sophomore Cougars receiver Deontay Greenberry, who had 168 yards and three touchdowns receiving, both personal bests. "We always feel like we have something to prove going into every game. That's what gives us the extra urge to give it more every play."
In handing Rutgers its worst loss since 56-5 to Louisville in 2005, Houston became bowl eligible with five games left.
The Cougars, who host USF Thursday, have a shot at the conference's BCS berth if they can run the table — and they'll know where they stand soon as their next two games after facing the Bulls are Nov. 9 at No. 21 UCF and Nov. 16 at No. 18 Louisville.
"I was watching the Louisville (vs. UCF) game and the ESPN commentators were talking about they were going to run the conference and do this and do that," said safety Adrian McDonald, who had two of Houston's five interceptions. "They didn't even say anything about us. Coach talked about it. This is motivation. We're coming from the bottom and we're just going to work our way up."
O'Korn came in leading true freshmen with 14 touchdown passes and added to the total to help Houston rebound from its first loss of the season against BYU.
SMU 59, Temple 49: The host Mustangs scored 45 after halftime to wipe out a 21-point deficit. "I challenged our defense to stop them on the first series, and then if the offense scored on their first series we were going to win the game," SMU coach June Jones said he told his team at halftime. SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert had a school-record 538 passing yards and four touchdown passes, and added 97 yards and two TDs rushing. His 635 yards of offense were an SMU record and seventh most ever in Division I-A.