By Lucas Owens
For an almost full slate of five American Athletic Conference games this week (USF and Temple had the week off), this week sure did not underwhelm. Not only was the headliner game between No. 15 SMU and No. 24 Memphis amazing to the last second, but Cincinnati at about the same time was losing to ECU for most of the game. Besides that, the rest of the games were fun, even if they were not very close.
Navy (56) – (10) UCONN
Navy’s prize for beating the Huskies by 46 in East Hartford on a chilly November night: they now have officially become ranked as the fourth team in the poll from the AAC at No. 25. This game, as you can probably tell from the score, this game was never close. UCONN’s rush defense was just never going to be good enough to hold a powerful triple option team back, and it sure showed Friday. The Navy rushing attack combined for a monstrous 408 yards, led by quarterback Malcolm Perry’s 108. The Midshipmen ran the field all night long, and again showed the country just how good they are this year.
UCONN, however, has reverted back to their losing ways after getting their second win of the season last week, and sadly became the first team in the AAC to officially not be bowl eligible. Quarterback Jack Zergiotis just did not have his usual stuff Friday night, and the rushing attack was primarily without the strength to help him out against such a powerful front in Navy. Well, UCONN can always win the AAC next year … wait.
Houston (29) – (44) UCF
For a hot second I thought Houston was legitimately going to take down UCF to hand them their first loss at Spectrum Stadium in two and a half years. And by a hot second, I mean the entire first half. Houston was grinding the UCF defense for the first few possessions and showed no real signs of slowing down through the second quarter with two long drives. However, fortunes shifted drastically for Houston in the second half, as UCF went on a run of three straight drives with quick touchdowns. When I say quick, I mean very quick. The drives were 33 seconds, one minute and 55 seconds, and two minutes and 11 seconds respectively. UCF pulled off what they seem to do often, and shifted the game drastically just in a few minutes and destroyed their opponent’s will to win. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel continues to improve, as he posted 293 yards and three touchdowns passing, with another coming on the ground in a fantastic performance.
It is not all bad for Houston though, as they continue to improve in what many would consider a bum year. Quarterback Clayton Tune looks like he has been under center for far longer than he has and is thus becoming increasingly confident in his passing abilities. While that did not lead the Cougars to victory Saturday, it will in the future.
Tulsa (26) – (38) Tulane
Well, it is now also official for Tulsa, as they have joined UCONN in not being bowl eligible. However, it is good news for Tulane as they are now bowl eligible again. The Green Wave played a dominating physical game and their spread option took care of Tulsa’s huge defensive line. Quarterback Justin McMillan had a fantastic game with 184 yards and one touchdown passing off of just 12 completions, but his two interceptions hurt the Green Wave in making the margin of victory even greater. However, he more than made it up on the ground, as he rushed for 73 yards and three touchdowns as a part of their unit’s 290 total rushing yards. Overall, Tulane had a great game and should be very happy where they are going bowling this early in the season, even if it did take a few more weeks than expected to get there.
For Tulsa, this game was just another mark in the absolute murderous gauntlet they have gone through this year so far in the AAC west. The Golden Hurricane went through four weeks facing SMU, Navy, Cincinnati, and Memphis all in a row. That is also the list of the AAC teams ranked currently. Tulsa is a lot better than their record shows, and it is sad that a team this good will not be able to play in a bowl this year. However, next week the gauntlet does not get any better: UCF comes to visit Tulsa for a Friday night game.
No. 17 Cincinnati (46) – (43) ECU
This game was a huge shock to just about everybody watching at some point. ECU not only kept up with Cincinnati in the first quarter but surged ahead in a big way through the second. That continued in the third, all until it unraveled in the fourth quarter. Due to an untimely pick six and a last second field goal, the Bearcats ended up winning the game, but ECU still put up a mighty effort. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder did not have a good performance, with just 161 yards to his name, but the rushing attack made up for it, as Michael Warren II led the charge with an insane 141 yards and three touchdowns. On the other hand, ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers powered the entire Pirates offense, as he had his best performance of the season with 535 yards and four touchdowns. The Pirates put up a great performance in this one and the loss has to sting a lot, but putting up that big of a fight against a team as good as Cincinnati is an achievement in itself.
No. 15 SMU (48) – (54) No. 24 Memphis
SMU’s first loss of the season came in a heartbreaker, as the Mustangs’ comeback attempt was spoiled by Memphis falling on an onside kick. Both teams put forth an amazing effort though, and it was by far one of the best games in the American so far this season, if not the best. SMU quarterback Shane Buchele had a rough go of things for a little bit, but he got his footing soon after and dominated the air with 456 yards and three touchdowns, although that did come on 54 attempts. Memphis’ Brady White had an even better performance, as he threw for 350 yards and three touchdowns off of an absurd 19 completions. While Memphis now very much controls their own destiny, the west is still a three horse race between SMU, Memphis, and Navy that should be fun to watch until the end of the season, as just one Memphis loss could blow the west wide open for whoever wins between Navy and SMU later this year.
Americ6n Team of the Week: Memphis
The Tigers pick up team of the week this week, as their huge win on gameday is sure to make waves all throughout the college football world.
Thank you for checking out this recap, and make sure to check out my preview this Thursday.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org