With its backup quarterback engineering a stunning comeback, Houston cleared a major hurdle in its attempt to reach a New Year's Six bowl.
The 13th-ranked Cougars could set themselves up for another pivotal game next week if they can get through Saturday's visit to Connecticut with their perfect record intact.
Houston (10-0, 6-0 AAC) kept its hopes of playing Jan. 1 alive by scoring 21 points in the final 13 minutes of a 35-34 victory over then-No. 25 Memphis last Saturday.
Kyle Postma, who delivered the go-ahead 7-yard run with 1:27 remaining, went 21 of 33 for 236 yards and another score in place of Greg Ward Jr. The Cougars' starting quarterback rolled his ankle late in the first half but coach Tom Herman indicated he could have played if required.
"(Ward) was out there jogging around in the second half. He would have been ready if something happened to Kyle (Postma)," Herman said. "We figured that Greg's game is he relies on his feet a lot. That's his style of play. If his feet are not there, I'm not sure if he's the best option. So we decided to stick with Kyle, and he came through."
Ward reportedly did some jogging in practice Sunday, and Herman said he would start this week if healthy. Standout defensive back William Jackson III might also return from a knee injury that kept him out last Saturday.
After facing UConn, Houston's regular-season finale is the potential deciding contest for the AAC West Division against No. 19 Navy on Nov. 27. If they win both, the Cougars would host the conference's inaugural championship game Dec. 5.
First up are the Huskies (5-5, 3-3), who are looking to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
"We've got a UConn team that's fresh, that's coming off a bye week, and we have to make sure we're prepared to go 1-0 next week," Herman said. "We don't care (about the rankings). We don't talk about them.
"They matter none to us, because we know that if we win our conference championship, then we're going to play in a New Year's Day bowl game."
Heading into its first meeting with Houston, Connecticut has won two in a row for the first time since its 2-0 start. The Huskies, though, were hardly impressive at Tulane on Nov. 7, winning 7-3 thanks to Jamar Summers' 67-yard interception return in the opening quarter.
They managed a season-low 227 yards and 81 through the air against the lowly Green Wave, with leading rusher Arkeel Newsome getting held to 54 yards.
"The team fought and persevered. They busted their butts," coach Bob Diaco said. "They played hard for four quarters and they believed. They prepared well, and in all three phases, there were positive things to talk about."
Connecticut performed better in its latest home game, a 31-13 win over East Carolina on Oct. 30, racking up 404 yards and a season-high 220 on the ground.
The Huskies are 2-23 against Top 25 opponents since joining the FBS in 2000 and have lost five straight matchups since a 23-20 win at No. 19 Louisville on Nov. 24, 2012. They're 1-7 against ranked teams at home.