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Strong defense powers Houston past Navy

Senior receiver Marquez Stevenson led the way for UH offensively with nine catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns versus Navy | Courtesy of UH athletics

Senior receiver Marquez Stevenson led the way for UH offensively with nine catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns versus Navy. | Courtesy of UH athletics

Led by a strong defensive performance in which the UH kept the high-octane Navy rushing attack, Houston cruised to a 37-21 win Saturday afternoon in Annapolis, Maryland.

Although the Cougars won by double digits, Houston struggled to get things going offensively early in the game, and the defense gave up a few big plays through the air.

As a result, Houston trailed after the first quarter for the third consecutive week.

Despite struggling to put the ball in the end zone early, senior kicker Dalton Witherspoon kept the Cougars in the game with three field goals, including a career-long 53-yard field goal, in the first half.

After Witherspoon connected on his third field goal of the first half to put Houston up 9-7 midway through the second quarter, Navy answered back as quarterback Dalen Morris connected with receiver Ryan Mitchell for a 60-yard touchdown to put the Midshipmen back on top.

But the Cougar offense immediately responded with a three-play, 79-yard drive that was capped off with junior quarterback Clayton Tune throwing a 51-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Marquez Stevenson to give Houston a 16-13 lead that it took into halftime.

In the third quarter, it was Houston’s defense that got things going for the Cougars.

After going over more than two games without forcing a turnover, junior safety Thabo Mwaniki picked off Morris at the Navy 20-yard line, giving Houston’s defense its first forced turnover of 2020.

The Cougars offense capitalized off the turnover five plays later as senior running back Kyle Porter walked into the end zone untouched for a 1-yard touchdown run.

The Cougars piled onto their lead on their next possession, putting together a 77-yard drive highlighted by a 33-yard touchdown pass from Tune to Porter on a designed screen play.

Houston’s offense tacked on another touchdown midway through the fourth quarter and the defense held strong the rest of the game, just allowing Navy to score a late-game touchdown, and to capture a 37-21 victory.

With this victory, the Cougars improve to 2-1 on the season and 2-0 in American Athletic Conference play.

Tune threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns. Stevenson hauled in nine catches for 129 yards and two scores and Porter rushed for 52 yards and a touchdown while also catching five passes for 79 yards and a score.

Junior linebacker Donavan Mutin and senior defensive lineman Payton Turner led the defense with eight tackles each.

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