Another one bites the dust… As we get towards the end of the conference play, there are better match-ups and teams have to show what they are really made of. In Week 10 another undefeated team, Memphis fell prey to the powerful triple-option offense of Navy — who now may be in the drivers seat for the division crown — and must now refocus their goal to win the West Division. Temple and Houston escaped with victories that were closer than many expected and we have a new team, USF, emerge out of the sea of average teams trying to catch Temple for the East crown.
Cincinnati Bearcats 5-4 (2-3)
Crucial penalties and an unfortunate stretch where Houston scored 16 consecutive points proved to be the biggest undoing for Cincinnati in the 33-30 loss to the Cougars. 11 penalties, three turnovers, and allowing a safety are hard to overcome when you are playing one of the best teams in the conference. But even with that hole to dig out of quarterback Gunner Kiel (523 yards passing and four touchdowns) had one last opportunity to pull off the upset with two minutes remaining. Unfortunately, Kiel couldn’t connect with receiver Shaq Washington on fourth down and the comeback attempt stalled out.
East Carolina Pirates 4-6 (2-4)
Well the Pirates decided to stick with one quarterback, James Summers, but the offense still seemed to struggle in the 22-17 loss to USF. The offense only mustered 220 total yards and seemed out of sorts all evening. The running game was non-existent again as the team ran for only 62 yards — 42 of which came from Summers… where’s Chris Hairston???. Receiver Bryce Williams did have a nice game with six catches for 85 yards, but it seemed as if he was the only one who came to play offensively.
Temple Owls 8-1 (5-0)
Maybe it was a hangover from the tough loss against Notre Dame, or maybe the Owls just overlooked SMU, but whatever it was Temple was pushed to the limits in the 60-40 victory — the score was a lot closer than that. Not known for being a scrambling QB PJ Walker (268 yards and four touchdowns) sealed the victory with a 36-yard run to extend the Owls lead to 13 late in the fourth quarter. Not sure why, but star back Jahad Thomas did not start the game and only finished with 66 yards on 15 carries. Luckily for Temple fans his backup, Jager Gardner, had a career day as he rushed for 110 yards on only six carries — including a 94-yard run to give Temple the early 7-0 lead. This was a nice wake-up call win for a Temple team that is still in position to win the conference.
UConn Huskies 5-5 (3-3)
An ugly win is the perhaps the best way to describe the 7-3 victory over Tulane. The game was played through a constant dounpour in New Orleans that limited the ability for either offense to going. In fact the only touchdown came on Jamar Summers 67-yard interception return in the first quarter. Quarterback Bryant Shirreffs passed for only 81 yards, but he did have 79 yards rushing. For a team that is looking to be bowl eligible for the first time since 2010, the Huskies will take the wins in any form, shape, or fashion.
USF Bulls 5-4 (3-2)
Another efficient game for the Bulls as they defeated ECU 22-17. Both sides of the ball did some good things and it looks as if things are finally coming together for head coach Willie Taggart. Quinton Flowers had an efficient game with 200 yards passing and two touchdowns, to go along with 79 yards. It looks as if lead running back Marlon Mack is back to form as he ran for 117 yards as well. The “Bull shark” defense limited ECU 220 yards, had 13 tackles for loss, and also forced a safety to start the scoring in the game. Linebacker Auggie Sanchez led the way with 11 tackles and three tackles for loss.
UCF Golden Knights 0-9 (0-5)
Just when I thought they had mailed in the season, UCF comes out against Tulsa and shows some fight, and despite the 45-30 final score the Knights proved they won’t go down without a fight. The Justin Holman (293 yards passing two touchdowns) we saw Saturday is the one many fans expected throughout the season so you have to think that even after he returned from injury that he wasn’t fully healed. One person that has benefitted from Holeman’s return is freshman receiver Tre’Quan Smith. Including the 131-yard performance against Tulsa, Smith has 23 catches for 324 yards since the return of Holman. If the offense could limit the turnovers (2) and the penalties (eight for 60 yards) maybe they can get its first win of the season.
Houston Cougars 9-0 (5-0)
Despite being tested for the first time in-conference, the Cougars continued to show that they are one of the best teams in the nation with the 33-30 victory over Cincinnati. The fact that they were able to get the victory despite a pedestrian-like performance from Greg Ward Jr. (161 yards passing two touchdowns and two interceptions) the team was able to get the win. The defense came through with two scores as Brandon Wilson returned an interception 51-yards for a touchdown and Treyvon Stewart sacked Gunner Kiel in the endzone for a safety.
Memphis Tigers 8-1 (4-1)
The hopes of an undefeated season and a college football playoff berth were dashed in the 45-20 blowout loss to Navy. It seemed as if nothing went right for the Tigers; the offense was outgained 459-438, had three turnovers, and lost the time of possession battle by over 16 minutes — indivdually each could be hard to overcome but when combined it serves as a recipe for an upset. Paxton Lynch had an ok game with 305 yards but because the triple-option of Navy dominated the ball, he could never get the Tigers offense on track.
Navy Midshipmen 7-1 (5-0)
Ball control wins again as Navy dominated time of possession in the 45-20 blowout of once undefeated Memphis. The focus on running the ball is expected from the triple option team, but Keenan Reynolds also showed off his passing skills as he connected with DeBrandon Summers on a 75-yard touchdown throw. As a team, Navy rushed for 373 yards and five touchdowns — and this is with Reynolds being limited to only 38 yards on 17 carries. Chris Swain (18 carries for 108 yards) and Summers (8 carries 82 yards) did most of the heavy lifting for the Midshipmen team that now is in position to not only win the West Division but maybe even the conference.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane 5-4 (2-3)
Another win against a bad team helps get the Golden Hurricane back over .500 as they defeated UCF 45-30. Despite turning the ball over four times, the Tulsa offense was able to put up a lot of points thanks to four turnovers forced by its own defense. Ramadi Warren, 168 yards and three touchdowns, and Connor Floyd, three catches for 75 yards, led a Tulsa offense that is trying to get back on track after having lost four of the last five game.
SMU Mustangs 1-8 (0-5)
It has to be hard to handle losing, especially when you show glimpses of competitiveness. But that’s what SMU is dealing with after losing to Temple 60-40. After getting down 14, the Mustangs fought back with 17 consecutive points to take the lead and give the Owls a real scare. Matt Davis had 269 total yards but also had two key turnovers — including a fumble that killed momentum for the offense. The freshmen on the team continue to give SMU hope for the future as true-freshman Braeden West had an 80-yard punt return and redshirt freshman receiver Cortland Sutton had a 45-yard pass that set up an SMU score.
Tulane Green Wave 2-7 (1-5)
Playing in the rainy elements as Tulane was against UConn, you would have thought that the team would lean more on its run game rather than rely on Tanner Lee to sling it in the slop. Unfortunately, they didn’t in the 7-3 loss, and it cost them. For some reason Lee finished the game with 40 pass attempts — only 13 were completed — and 106 yards and a costly interception that led to the only touchdown in the game. Dontrell Hilliard and Sherman Badie combined for only 19 rushes which goes against most coach-think when it comes to playing in bad weather. The loss is a microcosm of a season full of missed opportunities for the Green Wave.
Sports Q&A AAC Player of the Week:
Jamar Summers cornerback UConn: When you score your team’s only touchdown in a low-scoring game, it stands out. The junior from East Orange, NJ has shown the propensity to be around the ball all season as he leads the team in interceptions with six.
Game of Week 10:
Memphis vs. Houston
The round-robin of games between the top teams in the conference continues as Houston hosts Memphis and looks to continue its journey to an undefeated season. Greg Ward Jr is the key as he brings an element of run and pass that few guys have been able to in the nation. Memphis is reeling after being manhandled against Navy and look to ruin the Cougars season but I think something is off with their defense and it will struggle to stop the Ward Jr. and Farrow in the backfield. Houston 45 Memphis 30