Greg Ward Jr. threw an interception in the end zone. Cincinnati responded by going down the field, getting a touchdown and grabbing the lead and the momentum.
For the first time this season, No. 6 Houston was on the road and feeling the pressure. How would the Cougars respond?
Ward ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns, and the Cougars' fabulous defense returned a couple of interceptions for touchdowns as they pulled away to a 40-16 victory over Cincinnati on Thursday night.
"The fourth quarter exemplified a veteran team that's played in big games," coach Tom Herman said. "They go down and score and we come back and take the lead."
Nobody was under the spotlight more than Ward, who sat out a 42-0 victory over Lamar on Saturday because of a sore shoulder. He came through pregame warmups without an issue, and got treatment on the sideline between series.
"They were keeping my shoulder warm on the sideline," Ward said. "It tends to get tight. I was thankful to be out there."
The Cougars (3-0, 1-0 American Athletic) trailed 16-12 early in the fourth quarter before Ward and the defense took over.
Ward dispelled any worries about his arm with a 39-yard touchdown pass on the Cougars' second series. He was 24 of 36 for 326 yards with two interceptions, and he ran 26 times for 73 yards.
"We put in a defense just for him, some guys that were faster," Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We did a good job in pass coverage and he'd just pull it down and run. That's hard to defend."
Houston's defense took away any semblance of a running game from Cincinnati (2-1, 0-1) and accounted for 16 points on its own - a safety and the two interception returns by Steven Taylor and Howard Wilson.
The Cougars haven't allowed any of their last five opponents to rush for 100 yards. Cincinnati managed only 30 yards rushing, putting too much pressure on redshirt sophomore Hayden Moore, whose two fourth-quarter interceptions allowed the Cougars to pull away.
Moore had never faced a defense so good. He made an impact early with a 61-yard touchdown pass , but the lack of a running game was tough to overcome. Moore finished 21 of 37 for 275 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and three sacks.
"You can't beat any good team if you can't run the football," Tuberville said. "They put all the pressure on our quarterback and receivers and they dictated the game to us."
HOUSTON: Oh that defense. The Cougars didn't need to get a lot out of their offense - and Ward wasn't at his best - in order to win a tough league game on the road. That's another good sign in a season that opened with a 33-23 win over Oklahoma.
"It was ugly for a long time," Herman said. "I think we'll be OK if we can take care of the self-inflicted wounds."
CINCINNATI: The Bearcats have been overly reliant on a pass-heavy offense the last two years. The defense's showing on Thursday was encouraging - it simply wore down. The defense also looked solid during a 38-20 win at Purdue on Saturday, coming up with five interceptions.
"We got a little tired at the end," Tuberville said. "The defense was out there forever."
HOUSTON: The Cougars have their highest ranking since they were No. 3 in 1990. Any chance to move up? The top three teams in the poll - Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State - all play road games against ranked teams this week, while Michigan and Clemson are at home.
CINCINNATI: The Bearcats got one vote in this week's poll, and did nothing to suggest they deserve more.
HOUSTON: The Cougars will be looking for another easy time at Texas State on Sept. 24. Last year, Ward led them to a 59-14 win by throwing for four touchdowns and running for two more as Houston piled up 689 yards.
CINCINNATI: The Bearcats host Miami of Ohio on Sept. 24 for the Victory Bell. They've won 10 in a row over their local rival, although Moore had to overcome four fourth-quarter turnovers last year to pull out a 37-33 win in Oxford.
The San Francisco 49ers opened the Chip Kelly era with a dominating win while the Rams are still seeking their first points since moving back to Los Angeles.
Carlos Hyde ran for 88 yards and two touchdowns and the San Francisco 49ers posted their first season-opening shutout in franchise history to spoil the return of the Los Angeles Rams with a 28-0 victory Monday night.
"It's huge any time you can get a conference win, opening night win," quarterback Blaine Gabbert said. "It's a big momentum driver for the team."
Shaun Draughn also ran for a score and Gabbert threw a touchdown pass toVance McDonald to help the 49ers win their first game under coach Chip Kelly in convincing fashion.
After Los Angeles football fans waited more than 21 years to once again be able to call a team their own, they need to wait at least another week to see that team score.
"That wasn't what we expected, certainly not what I expected for the first game back in L.A.," coach Jeff Fisher said. "We have some work to do obviously."
Case Keenum threw for just 130 yards with two interceptions, star running back Todd Gurley was held to 47 yards on 17 carries and the Rams barely even threatened the Niners as they were held to 185 yards and 10 first downs all game.
"This team deserved better play from its quarterback and I intend on doing that," Keenum said.
San Francisco wasn't much better offensively but managed to run the ball fairly effectively early, leading to the two first-half touchdowns by Hyde and Draughn.
"People counted us out before the season even started," Hyde said. "We just stayed together as a group and worked together. It's us against the world. We just keep that mindset."
STAR EJECTION: Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald was ejected in the fourth quarter when he made contact with an official. The infraction came after Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree gave an extra push to Gabbert following a scramble. As players on both teams started jawing, Donald pushed a 49ers player and then made contact with an official. Donald was called for two personal fouls on the play and ejected.
"I let my emotions get the best of me," Donald said. "No excuses."
THIRD DOWN WOES: After converting their first third-down try on the opening drive, the Rams came up empty the next 10 times they faced a third down. They finally broke that drought when Keenum completed a 5-yard pass toTavon Austin on third-and-4 late in the third quarter to get to the San Francisco 27. Two plays later, Keenum negated that good play by throwing his second interception of the game .
REPEAT PERFORMANCE: The 49ers opened the Kelly era in a similar fashion to the way they opened last year under first-year coach Jim Tomsula. San Francisco dominated Minnesota 20-3 in the late Monday night opener but won only four other games all season, leading to Tomsula's firing. This win was San Francisco's first shutout since beating the Jets 34-0 in 2012.
"The credit doesn't go to me, it goes to our defense and defensive staff," Kelly said. "We felt good about our defense going into the game, but you never really know until you get in the game. It's something for us to build on."
ANTHEM PROTEST: San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid once again kneeled during the national anthem , while a few other players protested by raising their fists. Rams defensive lineman Robert Quinn and receiver Kenny Britt and Niners linebacker Eli Harold and safety Antoine Bethea all held up their fists in protest. Kaepernick came on late with the game out of hand.
DOWN DRAFT PICKS: Both the Rams and Niners traded up for first-round picks in April with Los Angeles mortgaging the future to take quarterback Jared Goff first overall and San Francisco trading back into the first round to select guard Joshua Garnett 28th. Neither player even dressed for the opener. Goff was inactive as the third QB for the Rams and Garnett is buried on the depth chart in San Francisco.
BACKWARD PASS: On the opening drive of the second half, Gabbert completed a pass to himself when his throw was deflected by T.J. McDonald and he caught it. Unfortunately for the Niners, he was quickly tackled by McDonald for a loss of 16 yards.
Roethlisberger threw for three touchdowns to lead the Steelers to a 38-16 rout of the Washington Redskins on Monday night. After telling his teammates he believed in not just All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown butEli Rogers, Sammie Coates and others, Roethlisberger recovered a fumble at a pivotal moment and completed 27 of 37 passes for 300 yards in the season-opening victory.
He threw two touchdowns to Brown and another to Rogers. Often playing on the opposite side from Josh Norman and tormenting cornerback Bashaud Breeland, Brown made eight catches for 126 yards.
Starting in place of Bell, DeAngelo Williams ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
"We're confident in that group," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "I know we were missing some pieces tonight, but we had `7.' And when you got `7' you got the chance to put together performances like that."
Washington led 6-0 and appeared to have another scoring opportunity late in the first quarter when linebacker Ryan Kerrigan sacked and stripped Roethlisberger deep in Pittsburgh territory. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey knocked the ball out of Kerrigan's hands, and Roethlisberger dived on it at his own 13-yard line.
"The ball was on the ground and Pounce was kind of laying on it and I was trying to tell Pouncey it was right under his leg," Roethlisberger said. "Any time you can get those balls back, it's huge."
Roethlisberger then guided Pittsburgh 87 yards down the field, finishing the drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Brown on a gutsy fourth-and-1 call from the Washington 29.
"We knew it was coming; I knew it was coming," Breeland said. "That's why I played it the way I played it. It was just a freak play, and he made the play. That's all I can say."
The next time he got the ball, Big Ben took the Steelers 67 yards on 14 plays to make it 14-6.
Pittsburgh's passing attack got clicking, but Kirk Cousins and the Redskins couldn't keep up. With Matt Jones and the running game grounded and tight end Jordan Reed taken out of the picture, Cousins finished 30 of 43 for 329 yards and two interceptions.
Washington got it as close as 24-16 on Chris Thompson's fourth-quarter touchdown. Then Roethlisberger was at it again, taking the Steelers 77 yards as Williams put the game away with a 15-yard touchdown run to break the 30-point mark.
PRIME TIME READY: Tomlin improved to 11-2 on Monday night, including 6-2 on the road and 2-0 at Washington. Pittsburgh is 4-1 when opening the season on Monday night, and the Steelers' 44-24 record on MNF is third-best in the NFL behind Seattle (23-6) and San Francisco (47-25).
The Redskins have lost 15 of their past 16 Monday Night home games.
HOPPING HOPKINS: Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins made all three of his field-goal attempts, connecting from 31, 40 and 34 yards. Hopkins was the Redskins' entire offensive production until Thompson's touchdown.
PINBALL ROGERS: Rogers' first career touchdown catch in his NFL debut was a pinball special. Roethlisberger's pass from the 3-yard line hit receiver Sammie Coates and then Rogers' facemask before he finished the grab.
SHAZIER, PLAYMAKER: The play after forcing a fumble that the Redskins recovered, Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazierpicked off Cousins to set up Brown's 26-yard TD catch in the third quarter. Shazier left the game with a right knee injury and was being evaluated after the game. Tomlin said he'd have more information Tuesday.
RUNNING ON EMPTY: Jones was in the starting lineup after separating his left shoulder on Aug. 19, but he lost 4 yards on his first two carries and finished with 24 yards on seven carries. Washington totaled 55 yards rushing, including just 28 in the first half.
REED OPTION: Reed caught three passes for 39 yards on the Redskins' opening drive and was a nonfactor with four catches for 25 yards the rest of the way.
Tomlin on why he called a pass to the end zone on fourth-and-1: "We play to win."
Norman: "They took us behind the woodshed today and wore our tail out. It was a good, old-fashioned butt whooping."