By Lucas Owens
This week in American Athletic Conference football was surprisingly exciting. While the Thursday night game was low scoring, it had its moments, the Friday night game produced a fantastic upset and one of the two games on Saturday was surprisingly competitive.
Temple 17, South Florida 7
Temple reached bowl eligibility with a massive defensive performance, holding the USF Bulls to just 286 yards and one touchdown, while picking up a touchdown themselves on a scope and score. While the Owls’ defense was very impressive, quarterback Anthony Russo struggled all night in probably his worst game this year, with just 164 yards and one touchdown passing. Running back Jager Gardner picked up the slack for Temple though, as he rushed for 133 yards by himself. Overall, it was a good effort by the Owls ahead of two tough games and Connecticut to end the season.
This game, in some ways, was both disappointing and good for USF. Quarterback Jordan McCloud had an okay game, with 225 yards and one touchdown passing, but the real star for the Bulls was their defense. They held Temple to 320 yards, and as said before they held quarterback Anthony Russo to just 164 yards. The Bulls are going to have a very difficult time getting bowl eligible, as they have to win two out of three against Cincinnati, Memphis, and UCF.
Tulsa 34, Central Florida 31
The “Tulsa murder gauntlet has ended,” and, fortunately for the Golden Hurricane, they finally got their win. Well deserved too, as if their kicker Jacob Rainey had not missed a few key field goals, they would have a few and maybe even be .500 right now. Anyways, the Golden Hurricane had a fantastic performance on defense, forcing three turnovers, two of which being interceptions. While they did allow 457 yards to Knights, they had a few key red zone stops and never allowed UCF to get out to a big lead. While Tulsa may not be able to go to a bowl this season, this win was a key victory for them in building their program.
UCF’s performance, on the other hand, was a complete letdown. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel did not have a good performance, going for only 290 yards and one touchdown, while giving up two interceptions. The defense did not fare much better, as even with a backup quarterback in Tulsa was able to seemingly get yards at will up to their red zone, then it just depended on how their kicker did. Ultimately, UCF was probably not going to a big bowl or the conference championship anyway this year, but this certainly cements that fact.
No. 20 Cincinnati 48, Connecticut 3
Unsurprisingly, the Bearcats stayed undefeated in AAC play and took down the Huskies at home by a huge margin. Connecticut just could not control the Bearcats offense, which went for 507 yards as a complete unit, mostly spread out throughout with nobody excelling too much. The Cincinnati defense held the Huskie to just a single field goal and 218 yards, but most of those yards came in garbage time. Overall with this one there is not much to say, except that Connecitcut is really not good at football.
No. 25 Southern Methodist 59, East Carolina 51
Well, this was certainly an unexpectedly close game in Dallas. ECU was just coming off a tough loss at home to Cincinnati, while SMU went blow for blow with Memphis. I expected the Mustangs to blow out the Pirates, to be honest, but they hung in with SMU all game. Quarterback Holton Ahlers had another fantastic game with 498 yards and six touchdowns passing, while Shane Buchele also had a great game, passing for 414 yards and five touchdowns. This offensive show did not have much in terms of defensive expertise, but both teams were able to force one turnover. While this loss does eliminate ECU from bowl eligibility, the Pirates are putting together something good in Greenville behind Ahlers, and should be very excited about their offensive future if he keeps performing this good.
Americ6n Team of the Week: Tulsa
The Golden Hurricane one hundred percent deserve the title of team of the week, as their upset of the UCF Knights was a statement win for the program and should signal a good change to come in the future.
Thank you for checking out this recap, and make sure to check out the preview this Thursday.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org