By Lucas Owens
This week exceeded all my possible expectations for just how insane the American Athletic Conference can be. The AAC slate got started in a Temple-ECU game with the lights blacking out in the late fourth quarter, Friday brought us UCF falling to Cincinnati in a great, close game and SMU completed an amazing comeback over Tulsa in what goes down, to me, as the best game so far this year in college football.
Temple (27) @ ECU (17)
Temple continued their great season Thursday night with a strong second half performance and win over ECU who, after jumping out to an early lead, gave it up in the second quarter and never recovered. QB Anthony Russo struggled for Temple most of the game, but his play was just strong enough to will the Owls to victory, especially with their strong defensive play and rushing from Remahn Davis and Jager Gardner. Another strong aspect to the Owls’ win was backup QB Todd Centeio, whose performance on some key drives in the middle of the game did a great job of exploiting different parts of the Pirates’ defense. ECU played strong all game but were just simply outclassed by a strong Temple team. QB Holton Ahlers showed strong play in a couple of drives, but overall just could not work through the Temple defense.
#18 UCF (24) @ Cincinnati (27)
UCF’s high-scoring offense just could not work through the Cincy defense enough all night, and they ended the game by breaking their streak of AAC wins at 19. Freshman QB Dillon Gabriel had a tough performance, struggling all night with the Cincy secondary. On the other hand, QB Desmond Ridder also did not have the best game, but his 149 yards and two touchdowns were just enough to propel the Bearcats to victory. The main offensive force for Cincy ended up being RB Michael Warren II with 133 yards rushing, and Ahmad Garner, whose pick six was a huge shift of momentum in their victory. This game will have huge implications for the AAC East, as UCF now needs to hope Cincy drops two through the rest of AAC play to have hope for the title.
USF (48) @ UCONN (22)
USF triumphed against fellow struggling AAC east team UCONN, with a dominating win over the Huskies. UCONN, on the other hand, looked rough and left some doubt on the possibility of them winning another game this season. USF was sent to victory by their rushing attack overall, with three different rushers having a touchdown and combining for 313 yards overall. Jordan McCloud had a strong passing game for someone who is normally a running QB, with his three touchdowns and 157 yards on just 11 completions. The Bulls’ season from this point forward is very much up in the air, but this victory was a much-needed win for USF and Charlie Strong
Tulane (42) @ Army (33)
In the battle of two very good, option-based teams, Tulane came out on top and snapped Army’s 15-game home winning streak. QB Justin McMillan again had a strong passing game for Tulane, passing for 201 yards and coming out with an 82.2 QBR. However, the real strength for the Green Wave was their rushing attack, which included five touchdowns from five different rushers, including McMillan, and 324 yards overall. The Green Waves’ defense did a great job of standing their ground against the Army rushing attack and kept them to 33 points. For Tulane, this victory is another one in a long line of impressive wins that prove that the Green Wave is not a force to be reckoned with in a great AAC West this year.
Navy (34) v Air Force (25)
Navy continued their strong season with a good upset over the Air Force Falcons. QB Malcolm Perry had a great day passing, relatively for Navy of course, going 5-7 with 144 yards. Perry also led the Midshipmen rushing, as his 111 yards and two touchdowns were another key factor to their victory. Nelson Smith also excelled rushing, with 82 yards and two touchdowns. The Midshipmen defense struggled at times, but had a great performance stopping Air Force’s run game and ultimately came out with a great and unexpected victory.
Memphis (52) @ UL Monroe (33)
QB Brady White continued his strong season passing for Memphis, as they absolutely rolled to a dominant win over the Warhawks. His three touchdowns and 249 yards were not the best performance he has ever had but was a solid performance in a great season. Kenneth Gainwell was the true star for the Tigers, with 209 yards rushing and two touchdowns, his longest rush being a lethal 68 yards. The defense for Memphis again left a lot to be desired, as they had to rely especially on their offense, though that can be mostly attributed to letting their foot off the pedal as the game wore on. However, as they get further into their AAC schedule, they will need to know how to play in some high-pressure, crunch time situations.
Tulsa (37) @ #24 SMU (43) 3OT
SMU made their mark by being ranked for the first time since the death penalty, then immediately following up that high by finding themselves in 21-point rut coming into the fourth quarter. Tulsa’s defense handled SMU’s passing and rushing attack on the front edge all game until the fourth quarter. However, in the fourth quarter SMU turned on the jets and mounted a great comeback. Leader of that comeback was RB Xavier Jones, who had a few momentous runs and ended up with the tying score in regulation. Overtime was a cycle of emotions on both sides of the field, as both teams had opportunities to come out with the victory, including Tulsa recovering an SMU fumble and just needing a field goal to win. But alas, Jacob Rainey was not having the best night kicking and failed to put the ball through the uprights. After he missed in the third overtime, SMU just needed a score to win, and they got that when James Proche made an amazing catch to come down with it and preserve SMU’s undefeated season. Both teams played incredibly well in this one, and it was a very fun nightcap to a great day in American Athletic Conference football.
Americ6n Team(s) of the Week: Cincinnati and SMU
As you can see, I just could not choose between these two great teams this week, as both had strong performances and momentum-setting wins. I even thought of putting Tulsa in there, as many have not been taking their defense as seriously as they need to be taken, but overall both teams’ 100% deserve the title this week.
Thank you for checking out this recap, and make sure to check out The Most Americ6n Preview this Thursday.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org