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Around the AAC: Cincinnati wins nail-biter, East Carolina remains winless

The Cougars moved to 2-0 after defeating the Rice Owls on Saturday. AAC teams Cincinnati and Memphis also had reasons to smile after winning big last weekend. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

The Houston Cougars aren’t the only team in the American Athletic Conference that fared well  on Saturday. Teams from around the AAC had resounding victories on game day, but others had crushing losses.

Houston’s record improved to 2-0 when all was said and done against the Rice Owls on Saturday, moving them to second place in the AAC standings. It will be an odd trip to the end of the season because the Cougars had to cancel one of their games due to Hurricane Harvey, but the only thing that matters is conference play to determine who goes to the AAC championship game.

Here is a look at how some of the AAC teams did this weekend:

Cincinnati (2-1)

It came down to the last minute, but Cincinnati pulled off a spectacular finish with a pick six to seal the game against Miami (Ohio). Malik Clements managed to pull in the interception with Cincinnati down by three points and a little over a minute left in the fourth quarter. The game was all but sealed for Cincinnati, but third and long pressured the Miami (Ohio) quarterback to throw an errant ball right into the waiting hands of Clement.

“It was a crazy, wild finish for us, and I think the ability for us to stay together and continue to battle through and not panic,” said Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell. “Whether you say offense or defense, we didn’t panic. We were down there in the fourth quarter with our backs against the walls and a lot of different things. You saw our guys keep believing, keep plugging away.”

Cincinnati will see its first conference opponent Saturday when they face Navy, who is 2-0 this season.

Memphis (2-0)

Memphis narrowly defeated the UCLA Bruins, who came into Saturday ranked 25th before losing by three points. Sophomore Riley Ferguson threw for 398 yards and six touchdowns in the upset victory.

Memphis looked good on offense with running back Darrell Henderson recording 105 yards on the ground and wide receiver Anthony Miller dominating the UCLA secondary with 185 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

“Obviously, we’re excited to be 2-0. It was a great game, a great atmosphere,” said Memphis head coach Mike Norvel. “It was a wonderful showcase for our program, our city. Everything we have going on here in Memphis on Saturday, I was proud of the team effort.”

Memphis looks to continue their hot streak Saturday night as they face the Southern Illinois Salukis at home.

East Carolina (0-3)

It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses for the AAC this week. East Carolina is winless after getting dominated by the 16th ranked team in the country Saturday.

The Virginia Tech Hokies gutted the East Carolina defense on the arm of redshirt freshman Josh Jackson, who threw for 372 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver Cam Phillips continues his stellar season with 189 yards and three touchdowns for the Hokies, meaning he has 472 yards and five touchdowns in just three games.

East Carolina mustered only 281 total yards on offense and had three turnovers in their crushing defeat. The defense did even worse by allowing a total of 675 yards and 64 points in a lopsided loss against Virginia Tech.

“We were excited about the way we started the game, but unfortunately we couldn’t maintain it through the second half against a really good football team,” said East Carolina head coach Scottie Montgomery. “I thought their interior defensive front is the best I have ever gone against in college ball.”

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