HOUSTON — Houston has become a 3-4 defense kind of town.

The NFL's Texans have gone from nearly-the-worst to first in one season with new coordinator Wade Phillips installing the scheme. Across town at Houston, one of his protÉgÉs, Brian Stewart, has guided a similarly remarkable turnaround, teaching the 3-4 scheme to the seventh-ranked Cougars (12-0, 8-0 Conference USA).

Stewart worked as Phillips' defensive coordinator in Dallas from 2007-08, and Stewart says his defense is a mirror image of the one his mentor is employing with the Texans.

Houston plays No. 24 Southern Miss (10-2, 6-2) for the Conference USA championship on Saturday. The Cougars have gone from 96th in scoring defense in 2010 (32.2 points per game) to 30th in 2011 (20.9 points per game), the third-best improvement in the country.