ORLANDO, Fla. -- Storm Johnson ran for a career-high 127 yards and backup tailback William Stanback added 74 yards and two touchdowns to help Central Florida to a nerve-wracking 19-14 win over Houston on Saturday.
UCF improved to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the American Athletic Conference. Houston dropped to 7-2, 4-1.
UCF scored once at the end of third period and again early in the fourth to break open what had been a defensive battle. Stanback scored both touchdowns on runs of 15 and 38 yards.
The Knights then withstood a late rally by Houston that started when the Cougars blocked a 50-yard field goal attempt by UCF kicker Shawn Moffitt with 6:06 left. Houston drove the ball 53 yards for a touchdown that narrowed the deficit to 19-14; freshman quarterback John O'Korn hit Wayne Beadle with a 12-yard pass with 4:04 left.
The Cougars forced UCF to punt and got the ball back at their 38-yard line with 3:02 left. O'Korn got Houston to the UCF 7-yard line with 20 seconds left, but Deontay Greenberry and Aaron Johnson couldn't handle passes in the end zone.
The Cougars, shut out in the first half for the first time this season, got a break midway through the third quarter when Blake Bortles fumbled after being sacked by Houston's Jeremiah Finley. Cougars defensive end Cameron Malveaux fell on the ball at the UCF 37-yard line.
Four plays later, O'Korn rambled 24 yards for a touchdown. The freshman quarterback scrambled away from the UCF rush and sprinted untouched through the middle of the Knights' defense to give his team its first lead of the game.
It didn't last long.
On the next possession, the Knights went 75 yards on 10 plays, aided by an offsides call and 15-yard facemask penalty that helped them convert a second-and-20 situation. Stanback got the last 20 yards, including a 15-yard dash through the left side of the Houston defense for a touchdown.
UCF went 98 yards on its next possession to push the advantage to 19-7. Play was stopped for 12 minutes during the drive when Houston defensive back Zach McMillian was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on UCF wide receiver Breshad Perriman with 12:52 left in the fourth quarter. Perriman gave a thumbs-up to the crowd as he was wheeled off the field on a stretcher.
Four plays later, Stanback burst up the middle and scored from 38 yards out.
Houston saw its streak of scoring in 39 straight quarters end in the first period. The Cougars were the only team in the country to score in every quarter this season, but they went three-and-out on their first two possessions and had just 33 yards in the period and 105 yards for the half.
UCF, meanwhile, moved at will against Houston for most of the first half, rolling up 224 yards. But its first two drives ended with turnovers in the red zone.
The Knights did get field goals of 40 and 45 yards from Shawn Moffitt for a 6-0 halftime lead.
NOTES: The Cougars have 19 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries and lead the nation in turnovers forced. Their plus-21 turnover ratio also was No. 1 nationally entering the game. ... UCF's Moffitt is perfect this season, having hit all 11 of his field goal attempts. ... Houston had scored in 39 straight quarters, dating back to Nov. 17, 2012, game against Marshall, before being shut out in the first half Saturday.