By Lucas Owens
The college football season has gone into full swing in week 1 with barnburners, upsets and blowouts galore. However, this semiweekly column will not focus on all of college football, but rather on everybody’s favorite Power 6 conference, the American Athletic Conference (also known as the AAC and just The American). The AAC got off to a strong start in week 1, with only four losses in 12 non-conference games. With that said, let’s go through this first wild week of AAC football.
Florida A&M (0) @ #17 UCF (62)
As a complete shock, UCF ran away with this one over in-state FCS school Florida A&M. The offense looked stellar as usual, and the defense looked particularly strong compared to FAMU’s defense. Particularly on display was UCF’s rush defense, which held FAMU to just four yards on 25 rush attempts. Another standout was true freshman Dillon Gabriel from Hawaii, who threw for three touchdowns and 127 yards, going 9 of 13. Brandon Wimbush struggled a little bit under center, completing just over half of his passes and going 12 of 23 for 168 yards with two touchdowns. UCF looks forward to visiting in-state rival FAU next week.
UCLA (14) @ Cincinnati (24)
Cincinnati started their multitude of AAC games against fellow Power 6 teams right with this one, controlling the game at Nippert Stadium against UCLA. Sophomore Desmond Ridder picked up right where he left off from his freshman campaign with an impressive two touchdowns, going 18 of 26 and throwing for 242 yards with one interception. The Cincy defense held stout against UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who threw two interceptions and just 156 yards in his first start for UCLA. Cincy, however, had problems with WR Demetric Felton, who had 91 receiving yards and a touchdown on just two receptions with 71 rushing yards on 23 attempts. Cincinnati hopes to continue their success next week as they travel north to face #5 Ohio State in Columbus.
Wagner (21) @ UCONN (24)
The final season of UCONN’s tenure in the AAC got started with a mild bang, as the Huskies held off a comeback attempt by the Wagner Seahawks in the fourth quarter. The Huskies threw for just 158 yards against the Seahawks, going 14-21. Also included in their rough start to 2019 were two turnovers, one fumble and one interception returned for a touchdown. The Huskies’ rushing attack was stronger than their passing, as they went for 234 yards and three touchdowns behind Kevin Mensah, who himself ran for 144 yards and a touchdown. The Huskies look to continue their 2019 campaign when they host Illinois in East Hartford in week 2.
FIU (14) @ Tulane (41)
Tulane started the season strong at home after a resurgent 2018 in a dominating win over visiting FIU. Senior QB Justin McMillan started the year off strong with an absolute gem of a performance, going 14 of 18 for 199 yards with two touchdowns. The Green Wave rushing attack, led by Darius Bradwell, was especially strong against the FIU defense, with 350 total yards. Tulane’s defense had a strong performance, allowing just two touchdowns and 267 yards to the Panther offense. Tulane has a tough test in week 2, as they look to visit #16 Auburn, who is coming off a comeback win against Oregon in Dallas
Tulsa (7) @ #18 Michigan State (28)
The Spartans handed the Golden Hurricane their first loss of the season in East Lansing, suffocating their offensive attack to 80 total yards and a disgusting -73 yards rushing. Not helping matters was the Golden Hurricane’s turnover issue, as they fumbled the ball five times and QB Zach Smith threw one interception. Tulsa looks to improve next week, as they host San Jose State in Oklahoma.
#19 Wisconsin (49) @ USF (0)
The Charlie Strong-led Bulls had a tough start to their season as they got blown out in Tampa by the visiting Wisconsin Badgers. Paramount to their struggles was their woeful rushing attack, which ran for just 26 yards. Also struggling was QB Blake Barnett, who went 13 of 30 for just 109 yards and two interceptions, with a QBR of only 4.7. Overall, the USF Bulls had a difficult start to 2019 with six total turnovers. On the other side of the line, Wisconsin’s rushing attack dominated for 234 yards and four touchdowns, and junior QB Jack Coan did well in his first start of the year with 199 yards and two touchdowns. The USF Bulls travel up north to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech in week 2.
ECU (6) @ NC State (34)
The ECU Pirates’ quest to improve on their 3-9 2018 season did not get off to a strong start in week 1, as the Pirate offense struggled to keep up with NC State’s powerful defense. The passing attack for ECU did alright, with Holton Ahlers and Reid Herring passing for a combined 228 yards, but their running backs struggled, rushing for only 41 yards. The standout for the Pirates was kicker Jake Verity, who scored all six points with two field goals, the longest of which was an impressive 47 yards. The Pirates look to get back on their feet next week at home as they host Gardner Webb.
Ole Miss (10) @ Memphis (15)
The two-time defending west division champions Memphis Tigers started off the season by hosting SEC school Ole Miss, defeating them 15-10 behind a very strong defensive performance. The Tigers held Ole Miss to just 173 yards of offense, including a safety in the fourth quarter by DE Bryce Huff which led to the Tigers running out the clock on the ensuing drive. Ole Miss’ QB Matt Corral was held to just 93 yards, while returning Tigers’ QB Brady White went 23 of 31 for 172 yards. Memphis was helped mostly by their rushing attack, led by Patrick Taylor Jr.’s 128 yards and one touchdown. Memphis hopes to continue the season strong by staying in the Liberty Bowl for their week 2 matchup against the Jaguars of Southern University.
Bucknell (12) @ Temple (56)
Anthony Russo and the Temple Owls went off on the Bison of Bucknell, as Russo continued his success from last year by passing for 409 yards and four touchdowns. Helping Russo out was WR Branden Mack, who caught nine of Russo’s 41 passes for 130 yards. Temple’s strong rush defense from last year returned in week 1, as they held the Bison to just 21 yards on 26 attempts. The Owls only allowed two field goals from the Bison, as Bucknell’s one touchdown was off an interception return by Gavin Pringle. Temple will eye to start the season 2-0 as they host Maryland in Philadelphia in week 2.
Holy Cross (7) @ Navy (45)
Navy cruised (I promise that will not be the last water pun I make) past Holy Cross in week 1, dominating both sides of the ball in Annapolis. In typical Navy fashion, QB Malcolm Perry threw for just 6 of 9 and 103 yards, but the Midshipmen rushing attack combined for 428 yards and six touchdowns on 67 attempts. The highlights of the rushing core were Nelson Smith and CJ Williams, who rushed for 96 yards and three touchdowns, and 91 yards and one touchdown, respectively. The Crusaders, however, were held to just 64 rushing yards on 27 attempts. Navy has week 2 off but will host AAC opponent ECU in week 3 in their conference opener.
SMU (37) @ Arkansas State (30)
SMU was able to hold off a late drive by Arkansas State to secure their first victory of the year, thanks to a sack leading to a fumble by Delontae Scott on QB Logan Bonner. The Mustangs surged for 508 yards, largely due to Shane Buchele’s 360 passing yards. The highlight for SMU, however, was definitely CJ Sander’s 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which put SMU back into the game early in the second half. SMU hosts in-state foe North Texas in Dallas next week and hope to continue a comeback from a very tough 2018 season.
Houston (31) @ #4 Oklahoma (49)
Houston battled valiantly in their rematch against Oklahoma but came up short in the end. 31 against a tough Oklahoma defense is nothing to scoff at, and the Cougars should stick around the top of the AAC West in 2019. QB D’Eriq King struggled in the first half but came on in the second half to end with 167 yards passing and two touchdowns. However, Houston’s defense just could not contain the strong Oklahoma offense, as new graduate transfer QB Jalen Hurts went for a strong 332 yards and three touchdowns passing while also rushing 176 yards for three touchdowns. Houston will hope to rebound next week when they go back to Texas to host Prairie View A&M.
Americ6n Team of the Week: Cincinnati
Cincinnati started the season on a strong note and controlled the game against UCLA for the second year in a row. Desmond Ridder looks to again be at the forefront of the Bearcats offense, and they will most likely go deep into the season in a fun race for the east division with UCF and Temple.
Thank you for checking out this article and look forward to a lot of American Athletic Conference from this space in the future.
Edited by Emma Moloney | email@example.com