ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — So many times No. 19 UCF has had to rely on its offense to be the savior in its biggest moments this season.
This time, it was the Knights' defense that saved the day and possibly their hopes of earning the school's first trip to the BCS.
With team leader and quarterback Blake Bortles struggling, UCF's defense kept pressure on one of the nation's top scoring attacks and hung on for 19-14 win over Houston Saturday night.
Freshman William Stanback scored two touchdowns and the Knights survived three turnovers to hold off a late Houston threat and keep first place in the American Athletic Conference.
"I thought defensively, to hold that team to 14 points, and (to have) a great play at the end of the game to save the win, that was a big-time team win," Knights coach George O'Leary said.
Storm Johnson added 127 yards rushing for UCF (7-1, 4-0), which now has the inside track to the league's automatic BCS bid, with victories against the Cougars and Louisville.
The Cougars drove to the UCF 10 in the final minute, but came up empty on back-to-back passes from John O'Korn into the end zone. The first went off star receiver Deontay Greenberry's finger tips and the second sailed high.
O'Korn had a touchdown pass and two interceptions for the Cougars (7-2, 4-1).
The Knights had three giveaways of their own and lost receiver Breshad Perriman to a targeting hit early in the fourth quarter, but rallied to preserve the win.
Bortles said the injury wound up giving the team an emotional jolt.
"That's a brother," Bortles said. "That was on me a little bit for throwing that ball and kind of setting him up. We finished the game out for him. That gave us a little fire and a little extra motivation to win the game."
Trailing 13-7 in the fourth, Houston pinned UCF on its own 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 Cougars' cornerback Zach McMillian. McMillian was flagged for targeting on the play, and was ejected after a review.
Perriman remained down on the field for several minutes receiving medical attention and was carted off.
The Knights weren't shaken, though, and 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.