TUCSON - Ex-Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen threw for 225 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted twice in his first game for Houston and the Cougars had to hold on to beat Arizona 19-16 in their week-delayed season opener on Saturday night.
Houston (1-0) gave Major Applewhite a victory in his head coaching debut a week after the scheduled opener at UTSA was canceled due to Hurricane Harvey.
John Leday's 81-yard kickoff return set up Houston's go-ahead touchdown with 45 seconds left in the first half.
Josh Pollack kicked three field goals for Arizona (1-1), the last, from 42, yards cut the lead to 19-16 with 8:32 to play.
Khalil Tate replaced Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins early in the fourth quarter and the Wildcats were at the Houston 32 when Garrett Davis' interception with 3:49 remaining preserved the win.
Dawkins, who returned for the final three minutes, fumbled the ball away twice, one for a safety, in the second half.
Allen, one of the nation's top recruits from suburban Phoenix in 2013, started 14 games and played in 20 for Texas A&M before transferring to Houston. He sat out last season as a redshirt.
Allen, who completed 25 of 32 passes, threw 49 yards to Keith Corbin to set up his first TD pass as a Cougar, five yards to Linell Bonner to put Houston up 10-3 with five minutes left in the half.
Arizona, helped by a pass interference penalty in the end zone, tied it 10-10 on Zach Green's 1-yard run 2:22 before halftime.
Leday took the subsequent kickoff and the last man who had a chance to stop him, Kwesi Mashack, tackled him at the Wildcats 16. Dillon Birden's 3-yard touchdown run with 45 seconds gave Houston its 17-10 halftime lead.
Houston: Allen showed he has the talent to take over the Cougars' offense but he made some poor decisions and this Houston team looks a long way from the high-scoring squads of the recent past.
Arizona: The young Wildcats went toe-to-toe with the Cougars all night, especially on defense, but mistakes and a few big Houston plays doomed them.
Houston: The Cougars play their home opener next Saturday against Rice.
Arizona: The Wildcats play their first road game at UTEP next Saturday.