Chris Johnson rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns to lead East Carolina to a 37-35 win over Houston on Saturday night.
East Carolina (2-3, 1-1 Conference USA) led 34-21 in the third quarter and held on late as Houston (2-2, 1-1) missed two field goals in the game's final two minutes.
Houston's Donnie Avery returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to cut East Carolina's lead to 37-35 on the final play of the third quarter.
Avery also caught nine passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
But Houston's comeback fell just short as T.J. Lawrence missed a 37-yard field goal with 1:55 left. His 38-yard attempt with three seconds remaining went wide right.
East Carolina trailed 21-20 at halftime, but took the lead for the good on its first possession of the third quarter.
Rob Kass threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Lee to put East Carolina ahead 27-21 with 13:24 left in the third.
Johnson scored his second touchdown of the game on a 43-yard run that gave the Pirates a 34-21 cushion.
Houston cut into the lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by Anthony Alridge with 4:26 left in the third.
Alridge rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Houston's Case Keenum threw two interceptions in the first half that set up East Carolina's first two touchdowns.
Keenum, who threw a 64-yard TD to Avery in the first quarter, was replaced by Blake Joseph in the second quarter.
Keenum's second interception set up Patrick Pinkney's 20-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris that gave the Pirates a 13-7 lead early in the second quarter.
Joseph, who was 24-of-29 for 250 yards, threw a 36-yard TD pass to Avery to put Houston ahead 14-13.
East Carolina took a 20-14 when C.J. Wilson blocked a 49-yard field attempt, and Zack Slate returned it to the Houston 11.
Two plays later, Brandon Simmons scored on a 1-yard run.
Joseph threw a 5-yard TD pass to Alridge to give the Cougars a 21-20 halftime lead.