By Lucas Owens
Another fun week of American Athletic Conference football wound up producing a very rare occasion: a UCONN win. Yes, UCONN did power themselves to a win, but that’s for later. Columnist
No. 16 SMU 34, Houston 31
SMU continued their perfect season in a too-close-for-comfort game at Houston on Thursday night. It was not the best win for the Mustangs, but it got the job done and they enter a tough week 9 matchup with Memphis ranked. SMU quarterback Shane Buechele had just 133 yards and two touchdowns, while also throwing an interception which cost the Mustangs. Running back Xavier Jones picked up the slack, rushing for 133 yards and two touchdowns himself, while the SMU defense did a great job of stopping Houston’s surging offense with quarterback Clayton Tune having one of the best games of his career with 407 yards and two touchdowns himself.
Houston continued their progress without a lot of their seniors, as they keep playing good close games against teams, although they have yet to really break through. This week’s loss at SMU may hurt, but ultimately this season is less about success now and more about success for the future of the Houston Cougars program.
Navy 41, Tulane 38
Tulane again had a rough go of things this week, as they successfully went back and forth with Navy before ultimately losing on a last second field goal. To be fair to them, Navy had another amazing day running the ball, going for an insane 385 yards as a unit. Their rushing attack this week was even crazier than normal, as instead of quarterback Malcolm Perry leading the Midshipmen in rushing by a large margin, it was Jamale Carothers with 154 yards and three touchdowns leading the Midshipmen. However, the real difference maker for Navy was Diego Fagot, who’s pick six edged them over the Green Wave. Navy freshman kicker Bijan Nichols nailed a 48-yard field goal at the horn to seal another win.
The Green Wave improved on last week’s performance in Annapolis, but that still was not enough to take down a very good Navy squad. Quarterback Justin McMillan had one of the best games of his career with 290 yards and three touchdowns, but the interception returned by Navy has to sting. Tulane has had a rough few opponents the last two weeks, but that looks to be changing for the slightly better as they go to face a Tulsa team fresh off losing a bunch of games they really should not have.
Connecticut 56, Massachusetts 45
Finally, the moment you’ve all assuredly been waiting for. Yes, UConn did in fact win a game this past Saturday. Yes, it was against an FBS opponent. And most surprisingly of all, it came by a margin of 21.
The Huskies did so through a team effort, but no member of the team put in more to this victory than running back Kevin Mensah, who rushed for 164 yards and an insane five touchdowns. Of course, the defense also played well in not allowing UMass too much leash, but it was mainly the offense who willed Connecticut to victory here. As a unit, they rushed for 326 yards, and quarterback Jack Zergiotis did his part by passing for 198 yards and one touchdown. In the end no matter what happened, the Huskies have finally achieved their second victory of the season. Now, getting the third, that might be a little trickier.
South Florida 45, East Carolina 20
It’s official- USF is back to .500 in the ninth week of the season. To say I’m surprised after their rough start is a huge understatement. I am utterly shocked by this development that is the Bulls again winning games. As a whole, I think they play as an emotionally charged team, so getting out to early leads always helps them. Let’s just say that ECU’s Tyler Snead’s 100-yard kick return for a touchdown on the opening kick was the opposite of that, but USF still managed and found a path to victory. That was largely due to quarterback Jordan McCloud having a solid game with 102 yards and two touchdowns, but Jordan Cronkrite’s 129 yards and two touchdowns could not hurt.
For ECU, this loss has to be painful, as it was needed to have any real chance at postseason play, but the Pirates still have plenty to play for. Quarterback Holton Ahlers’ 217 yards and one interception was not the best performance he has ever had, but he is still early in his career at quarterback and developing. However, when that performance is combined with 102 yards rushing, it is usually a recipe for disaster. And that disaster means that ECU ended up with a devastating loss.
Memphis 42, Tulsa 41
This week, on “almost getting upset by Tulsa”, Memphis was a few blown field goals away from taking their second loss of the season in Oklahoma. Ultimately though, the Tigers combined good play with luck and came out with an incredibly close victory over the Golden Hurricane. Running back Kenneth Gainwell’s 149 yards and three touchdowns, combined with quarterback Brady White getting 277 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 completions, propelled Memphis to the victory, but in all honesty, the only reason they do not have a 2 in the loss column is because Tulsa kicker Jacob Rainey missed three of his five field goal attempts.
That’s all Tulsa’s loss can be boiled down to really: a kicker who is normally consistent just not having the best game. Of course, resting everything on your kicker is never the best situation to be in, but there is not much else to fault Tulsa with. Everybody else on the Golden Hurricane had a spectacular game, and Rainey honestly did not do too bad, but sometimes that is all a game comes down to: a few kicks.
Central Florida 63, Temple 21
Ah, there’s the UCF we all know and love. The Knights that always somehow run up the score against good opponents. Outside of the two close losses the Knights have, I am not that sure that they even went anywhere. Running back Otis Anderson took over the mantle of the UCF running back who propels the team to victory, as he rushed for a great 205 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel also had a great day for the Knights, as his 218 yards and three touchdowns was enough to help UCF get this huge victory.
For Temple, this loss is the second in a row that feels like a huge setback for them. Quarterback Anthony Russo was again held to just an okay performance, and to make matters worse the rushing attack combined for only 45 yards. You don’t win very many games with that kind of stat line. Temple has a lot of work to do from here forward, but this game has even greater consequences in that no team in the AAC East controls their own destiny.
Americ6n Team of the Week: Connecticut.
I had to take this opportunity to give the Huskies the crown, as I have a feeling they will not do much to get it back further in the year.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org