HOUSTON — D’Eriq King ran through the arms of a USF defender and pushed off two more before spinning to his right and sprinting more than a quarter of the field for a Houston touchdown.
It was one gaudy play in an extravagantly offensive game for the junior quarterback.
King threw for 419 yards and rushed for 137 more and finished with seven total touchdowns as he and the Cougars out-dueled the No. 21 Bulls Saturday afternoon at TDECU Stadium. He is the first Houston player with at least 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing since 2003.
“The whole time in my head I was thinking, ‘You’ve got to make a play,’” King said of his video game-like touchdown. “I just made a couple guys miss and the rest is history.”
Houston has scored at least 40 points in eight straight games, a new school record. And all eight touchdowns the Cougars scored were on drives of at least 74 yards.
“He’s everything we thought he could be and more,” Houston head coach Major Applewhite said. “I remember standing back behind the huddle with (former Houston head coach) Tom Herman and thinking, ‘Oh my, this kid can absolutely do it.’ It’s been a fun thing to watch him grow from a distance.”
Marquez Stevenson caught six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns and Jeremy Singleton had five receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown. Courtney Lark had four receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown before being carted off in the fourth quarter with a leg injury.
Defensively, the Cougars were without All-American lineman Ed Oliver due to a knee injury. Applewhite said he’s been going through drills, but he’s day-to-day going into the final month of the season.
Houston allowed 263 yards through the air and 204 yards on the ground against one the American Athletic Conference’s most potent rushing duos. But it had two turnovers, an interception by Nick Robinson and a fumble recovery by Austin Robinson.
“We love (Ed) to death, but we want to show the world that it’s not all about him sometimes,” Robinson said. “We come to play as a unit and I’m proud of the defensive line for stepping up today.”
Houston was in control early on thanks to a 47-yard touchdown run by King and a 15-yard touchdown reception by Marquez Stevenson on its first two drives of the game.
USF scored its first touchdown after a 15-play, 79-yard drive that took just over five minutes and the took the lead after picking off King early in the second quarter. The two teams traded touchdowns until the Bulls were forced to punt with under a minute left in the half.
King was called for intentional grounding in the end zone on the first drive of the second half for a USF safety, but the Bulls could only manage a pair of field goals despite getting near the Houston red zone.
Houston pulled away with King’s video game-like run, a 52-yard touchdowns pass to Jeremy Singleton and an 11-yard run by Mulbah Car in the final two quarters. After scoring three touchdowns in the first half, USF was held to just one in the final 24 minutes.
“All year, it’s been up and down,” King said. “We know what it’s like to be in a tight game and we showed it there. Eight games in, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve got great coaches and we’ve got good guys on offense that make it work.”
Houston is on the road against SMU next Saturday at 11 a.m. before returning to TDECU Stadium to face off with Temple on Nov. 10.
Riding a five-game winning streak, there’s a pretty good chance when the polls come out on Sunday that the Cougars will be listed among them. It would be the first time since Applewhite took over they would have the designation.
“It helps everybody see that these guys are being rewarded, but in terms of what we want as a football team, there are no rewards being sent to our office tomorrow,” he said. “They’re not going to stop playing college football. It shows what type of ball we can play.”