HOUSTON — The Houston Cougars defense continued to make a difference Saturday.
Houston's offense struggled for the better part of three quarters, but the defense did what it has done so far this season -- create turnovers.
John O'Korn threw for 198 yards and a touchdown and Kenneth Farrow ran for two second-half touchdowns as Houston overcame a slow start to defeat Memphis 25-15 and remain undefeated.
O'Korn finished 13-of-30 and Deontay Greenberry caught four passes for 76 yards for the Cougars (5-0, 2-0 American), who were outgained 349 yards to 247.
Houston, which is 5-0 for the fourth time in school history and the second time in three years, already has tied its win total from last year when it finished 5-7.
"It wasn't pretty," Houston coach Tony Levine said. "It wasn't perfect. It may never be perfect. I am really proud of our defense creating those four turnovers. Offensively, we have to turn those turnovers into points, and we weren't able to do that consistently."
Paxton Lynch was 21-of-41 for 222 yards passing and Brandon Hayes rushed 12 times for 72 yards to lead the Tigers (1-4, 0-2), who lost four fumbles. Mose Frazier caught five passes for 81 yards.
Jake Elliot tied a school record set by Ryan White in 1999 with five field goals for Memphis.
Houston has forced 18 turnovers this season.
"It's a different look," Houston linebacker Efrem Oliphant said of the Cougars defense. "Everybody expected them to score I'm sure. They haven't focused on Houston being a defensive team, so that should open eyes that we are playing defense."
Trailing 15-10 midway through the third, Farrow put the Cougars ahead with a 1-yard run and followed that by taking O'Korn's shovel pass in for a two-point conversion, capping a 7-play, 75-yard drive.
O'Korn passed to Greenberry for 30 yards to begin the drive, and the Cougars were able to keep it going with a penalty by Memphis on a fourth-and-4. O'Korn found Xavier Maxwell for a diving catch good for 33 yards to the 1-yard line, and Farrow ran it in on the next play.
Farrow extended the lead to 25-15 on a 6-yard touchdown run with 10:21 remaining in the game. Ryan Jackson got the Cougars to the Tigers' 18 on a 44-yard screen pass down the right sideline from O'Korn.
Tennessee State 31, Jacksonville State 15
At Jacksonville, Ala., Michael German threw three touchdown passes and Tim Broughton rushed for 181 yards to pace the Tigers' Ohio Valley Conference win.
German threw to three receivers for scores in the first half -- A.C. Leonard, Wesley Samuels and Weldon Garlington -- to put the Tigers (6-1, 3-0) ahead 21-6.
The Gamecocks (5-2, 1-2) used a DaMarcus James 2-yard rushing score and a safety early in the fourth quarter to pull within six, but Tennessee State responded with a Jamin Godfrey 50-yard field goal and Samuels' second touchdown reception of the day, a 10-yard strike from Ronald Butler.
German finished 13-of-21 for 118 yards. Broughton had 24 carries, his longest going for 39 yards in the first quarter.
Jacksonville State's Max Shortell was 14-of-24 for 131 yards, and Markis Merrill had 83 yards on two receptions.
North Texas 34, Middle Tennessee 7
At Denton, Texas, Reggie Pegram scored two touchdowns, and a pivotal burst of 17 unanswered points late in the second quarter lifted North Texas over Middle Tennessee.
The teams traded turnovers in the early going and were tied 7-7 until the Mean Green (3-3, 1-1 Conference USA) put the game out of reach. Brandin Byrd's 1-yard run capped a 12-play drive putting North Texas ahead for good, and one play later Laraimie Lee returned an interception 20 yards as the Mean Green scored twice in just 15 seconds. Brelan Chancellor's 55-yard punt return set up a 21-yard Zach Paul field goal for a 24-7 halftime lead.
Middle Tennessee (3-4, 1-2) amassed only 66 yards passing and 139 on the ground.
Byrd matched that with 139 yards for North Texas. Pegram added 88. Mean Green's season-high 303 yards rushing ended a drought of 41 yards over the previous two games.
• Rhodes 50, Sewanee 23
At Sewanee, Tenn., Rhodes College erupted for the first 21 points of the second half, turning a five-point lead into a 42-16 advantage on the way to retaining the Orgill Trophy in the Southern Athletic Association's annual clash of Tennessee schools.
Blake Box was 10-of-13 passing for 239 yards and four touchdowns for the Memphis team, three of the TD throws going to Charles Schneider and Jonathan Wiener adding a 73-yard score and 143 total yards on three receptions. Kevin Vieira ran 18 times for 141 yards and two TDs and Dane Wilson gave the Lynx (5-1) a 7-3 lead on a 74-yard run.
Callum Wishart from Ooltewah kicked field goals of 43, 46 and 44 yards for Sewanee (2-4), and Tigers quarterback Curtis Johnson ran 19 times for 63 yards and threw TD passes of 59 and 15 yards to Charlie Powell. Powell totaled 83 yards on three receptions.
• Carson-Newman 45, Shorter 28
At Rome, Ga., Anthony Eubanks had the first eight-reception game for the run-first Eagles since 1972, getting 95 yards from his eight, and quarterback De'Andre Thomas was 12-of-19 for 140 yards and ran 22 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns as they improved to 5-1.
Brandon Baker also ran for two TDs, gaining 145 yards on 16 carries with a 63-yard score. For Shorter (0-6), Eric Dodson was 8-of-18 for 109 yards and a TD pass, with an interception, and ran 21 times for 136 yards and two TDs. One of his scores was a 73-yarder, and Roderick Jones burst 83 yards for another Hawks touchdown.
• Newberry 44, Tusculum 9
At Newberry, S.C., Chattanoogan Logan Cornelius kicked a 26-yard field but had an extra-point try blocked after a late touchdown as the visiting Pioneers were rocked in the South Atlantic Conference contest. Justin Houston from Bradley Central led Tusculum (3-3, 1-2) with seven catches but they totaled only 42 yards. Newberry is 6-0, 4-0.
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