HOUSTON (AP) — Houston's defense slowed Navy in the second half, and the offense carried the momentum from there.

D'Eriq King threw for 277 yards and a touchdown and ran for two more scores to lead Houston to a 24-14 win over Navy on Friday.

King completed 21 of 27 passes and found Steven Dunbar for a 61-yard touchdown pass to give the Cougars (7-4, 5-3 American) a 21-14 lead with 14 minutes left in the game. King hit Dunbar in stride along the right sideline, and Dunbar broke one tackle at the Navy 40 and went untouched from there for the score.

"The defense played great all day," King said. "We got momentum off the defense. We saw those guys make plays, and we wanted to help them by making plays ourselves."

Houston's defense shut Navy out in the second half and held the Midshipmen to 79 yards and six first downs.

"It was tackle or dive there to get what you can get," Ed Oliver, who finished with a career-high 14 tackles and 3 ½ tackles for a loss, said. "We stopped the dive. We were really locked in on our assignments, and we shut it down."

The 14 points was a season low for Navy.

"Consistent four quarters, consistent play," Houston coach Major Applewhite said. "For us to be able to create that many stops and punt opportunities is tremendous."

Dunbar finished with 142 yards receiving on eight catches.

King, who started his third straight game, rushed for 57 yards and scored on runs of 9 and 2 yards, with the second tying it at 14 with 3:27 left in the third and capping a 14-play, 90-yard drive. Caden Novikoff tacked on a 35-yard field goal with 7:57 remaining to up the lead to 24-14.

"We made plays in the passing game," Applewhite said. "Quarterback made some runs. Duke (Catalon) ran the ball well. We played like we could play."

Malcolm Perry rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, and Anthony Gargiulo added 71 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries to lead Navy (6-5, 4-4), which lost its fifth in the last six games. The Midshipmen outrushed Houston 217-103, but had 167 yards rushing at the half.

"Obviously, a disappointing loss," Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "We left some points out there in the first half that came back to bite us."

Perry tied it 7-7 with a 12-yard touchdown run with 13:42 left in the second, and Gargiulo gave the Midshipmen a 14-7 lead with six minutes remaining in the first half.

"Houston played well defensively," Niumatalolo said. "We just can't sustain ourselves. It's kind of the story of our season. We can't put stuff together consistently. Obviously, Houston knew that. They kept their safeties back to see if we could grind it out and we couldn't. We couldn't execute the whole way downfield."

Linell Bonner finished with eight catches for 98 yards for Houston, which won its third out of the last four games. Houston outgained Navy 380-291.

THE TAKEAWAY

Navy: The Midshipmen were able to run the triple option with success in the first half, finishing two drives with touchdowns, but Navy couldn't keep it going, rushing for 50 yards in the second half. Zach Abey started and ran the option well, rushing for 33 yards, but trailing in the fourth quarter, Navy used Perry and Garret Lewis under center. Navy won the turnover battle, recovering two fumbles, but were unable to convert either turnover into points.

Houston: The Cougars' defense stopped Navy's triple option in the second half and kept the Midshipmen off the field. Houston limited Navy to six of 16 on third downs and sacked Navy's quarterbacks three times, with Oliver getting two of them. Houston's offense woke up in the second half, putting up 261 yards and scoring 17 points.

SPECIAL GUEST

George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, did the coin toss before the game.

HEFLIN CALLED FOR TARGETING

Navy linebacker Taylor Heflin was ejected with four minutes left in the third quarter for targeting on Dunbar. After Bonner caught a 6-yard pass from King on third-and-15 from the Navy 20, Micah Thomas was tackling Bonner when Heflin came in, leading with his helmet. Following the review, the play was confirmed. Bonner was slow to get up and went to the locker room shortly thereafter.

UP NEXT

Navy: The Midshipmen will have two weeks off before facing Army in Philadelphia.

Houston: The Cougars will await their opponent and bowl game.