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Friday, January 15, 2021

Football

State of the AAC: Cincinnati remains perfect, Houston hands Navy their first conference loss


Senior kicker Dalton Witherspoon was named AAC Special Teams Player of the Week as he made three field goals, including a career-long 53-yarder, against Navy | Courtesy of UH Athletics

Senior kicker Dalton Witherspoon was named AAC Special Teams Player of the Week as he made three field goals, including a career-long 53-yarder, against Navy. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

With the 2020 college football season in full swing nationwide, the American Athletic Conference is in full ascend with all its programs having played at least two conference games this season.

With all AAC teams but East Carolina in action this past weekend, here is a look at how this past weekend’s conference matchups played out:

No. 7 Cincinnati (4-0, 2-0 AAC) vs. No. 22 SMU (5-1, 2-1)

In this battle between two ranked and undefeated conference opponents, Cincinnati, which entered No. 9 ranked in the AP Poll, traveled to Dallas and took care of business, defeating SMU, which entered No. 16, 42-13 Saturday night to hand the Mustangs their first loss of the season.

After the Bearcats jumped to an early lead with two first-quarter touchdowns, a 10-point second quarter kept the Mustangs within striking distance heading into halftime down 14-10.

The second half was all Cincinnati as the Bearcats outscored SMU 28-3 to cruise to a 42-13 victory.

Cincinnati’s junior quarterback Desmond Ridder dominated the game on the ground with eight carries for 179 yards and three touchdowns, including a 91-yard dagger in the fourth quarter to put away the Mustangs. 

Ridder also recorded 126 passing yards and a passing touchdown, while SMU senior quarterback Shane Buechele threw for 216 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Cincinnati will look to remain undefeated next Saturday when it hosts Memphis in a rematch of last season’s conference championship game while SMU looks to get back into the win column when it faces Navy at home.

Houston (2-1, 2-0) vs. Navy (3-3, 3-1)

The Cougars bounced back from their first loss of the season last week with a 37-21 win to hand Navy its first conference loss of the season.

Junior quarterback Clayton Tune led the Cougars with 316 passing yards and three touchdowns, while senior wide receiver Marquez Stevenson had a bounce-back game, tallying nine receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns, including a 51-yard score with under two minutes left in the second quarter to give Houston a 16-13 lead heading into halftime.

Navy’s senior quarterback Dalen Morris kept the Midshipmen in the game with 206 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception, but the Cougars defense kept Navy scoreless for all but the last minute of the second half to secure a 37-21 win.

The Cougars now look to remain undefeated in conference play when it hosts UCF at TDECU Stadium on Saturday while Navy travels up to Dallas to face No. 22 SMU.

Temple (1-2, 1-2) vs. Memphis (3-1, 2-1)

A tough battle headlined by seven combined turnovers ended as Memphis escaped with a 41-29 victory against Temple.

Tigers senior quarterback Brady White led the way for Memphis with 313 passing yards, four touchdowns and one interception.  

White’s production helped the Tigers’ offense score with 17 unanswered points to start the third quarter and give Memphis a 27-15 lead. 

Temple senior quarterback Anthony Russo, who threw for 387 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions, kept the Owls alive and got them within five points of the lead early in the fourth quarter.

But with 2:15 left in regulation, junior running back Kylan Watkins clinched the game for the Tigers with a 15-yard touchdown run.

Memphis will now try to hand No. 7 Cincinnati its first loss of the season when they face off on Saturday while Temple heads down to New Orleans to take on the Tulane Green Wave.

Tulane (2-4, 0-4) vs. UCF (3-2, 2-2)

After a slow start to the game, UCF took control of the game en route to a 51-34 victory over Tulane at home.

Down at the start of the second quarter, the Knights came back with 27 unanswered points to lead 37-14 at the half.

Sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel put on a show for the Knights, throwing for 422 yards and five touchdowns, three of which came from 35 yards or longer.

Freshman quarterback Michael Pratt recorded 215 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception for the Green Wave as Tulane struggled to keep UCF’s offense off the field and out of the endzone in hopes of a comeback.

The Knights now look to keep their momentum alive when they travel to face Houston on Saturday while Tulane continues to look for its first conference win on Saturday when it hosts Temple.

Tulsa (2-1, 2-0) vs. USF (1-5, 0-4)

Tulsa’s offense was too much for USF to handle as the Hurricanes cruised to a 42-13 win on the road against USF.

A strong run game made the difference for the Hurricanes in this matchup as senior and sophomore running backs Corey Taylor II and Deneric Prince combined for 27 carries, 176 yards and four touchdowns that night.

Senior quarterback Noah Johnson threw for 150 yards, and the Bulls’ only touchdown of the game made it a one-possession game at 21-13 before Tulsa pulled away with three touchdowns in the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter, including a 38-yard interception return by junior linebacker Zaven Collins.

Tulsa will now try to stay unbeaten in conference play when it faces East Carolina at home on Saturday while USF looks for its first conference victory when it travels to Memphis on Nov. 7.

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