Houston clinches home-field advantage in C-USA

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Ben Bell's 17-yard field goal in overtime Saturday gave Houston a 23-20 victory over Memphis, assuring the Cougars of playing at home in the Conference USA championship game.

Memphis had tied the game 20-20 on Greg Jackson's 80-yard return of a blocked field goal attempt by Houston with just over two minutes left. Memphis had another chance in regulation, when the Tigers recovered a Houston fumble at the Cougar 32 with 43 seconds left. But Memphis could not get in position for the winning score.

Memphis had possession first in overtime, but Matt Reagan missed a 40-yard field goal.

That set the stage for Houston's winning score as Jeff Battle, who finished with 137 yards, carried five straight times to the Memphis 1, and Bell kicked the game winner on fourth-and-goal.

Kevin Kolb threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns for the Cougars (9-3, 7-1).

Meanwhile, Memphis (1-10, 0-7) continued its season-long tailspin as the Tigers lost their ninth straight. Joseph Doss had career-high 133 yards rushing for the Tigers, and his 1-yard touchdown with just under 7 minutes left got Memphis within a touchdown.

With Houston looking for an insurance score, Bell set up for the 24-yard field goal with just over two minutes left. The kick was blocked by Memphis defensive back Brandon McDonald, and Jackson picked up the ball and ran untouched for the tying score.

While it wasn't the most impressive of wins, Houston claims the West Division outright and assures itself of the best conference record.

Kolb threw touchdown passes of 21 and 13 yards as Houston won its fifth straight. Bell added field goals of 38 and 22 yards before the game-winner.

Houston led 17-6 at the half thanks to Kolb's touchdown passes and Memphis giving the Cougars good field possession on turnovers.

Memphis took an early 6-0 lead on a pair of field goals by Reagan, from 22 and a season-long 41 yards, but the Tigers couldn't get in Houston territory again in the half after the early stages of the second period.

Kolb's first touchdown pass came on a 21-yard strike to Vincent Marshall to erase the Memphis lead. Then the turnovers bit the Tigers.

An interception and return by Houston free safety Will Gulley, his second pick of the half, gave Houston the ball at the Memphis 18. Houston capitalized when Kolb completed his second touchdown pass for 13 yards to Donnie Avery.

On the ensuing kickoff, Tiger returner Michael Grandberry muffed the short, high kick, giving Houston possession at the Memphis 17. Despite a drive that equaled -4 yards, the Cougars converted the turnover on a 38-yard Ben Bell field goal for a 17-6 lead at the break.

Kolb was 10-of-12 in the half for 104 yards, but neither team moved the ball particularly well -- Houston totaling 168 yards in the half, while Memphis had only 121 yards of offense.

Houston finished with 371 yards of offense, while Memphis had 249.