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Monday, October 25, 2021

Football

State of the AAC: ECU upsets SMU, UCF rides its offense


A shot of ECU's Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium during a game in 2009. SMU will enter Saturday's AAC battle against Houston reeling of its worst loss of the season. | Courtesy of Rae Perry/Wikimedia Commons

A shot of ECU’s Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium during a game in 2009. SMU will enter Saturday’s AAC battle against Houston reeling off its worst loss of the season. | Courtesy of Rae Perry/Wikimedia Commons

The American Athletic Conference faces yet another week where games were affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic as only three games were played this week compared to the four last week, but there was still no shortage of intensity throughout the games played.

Matchups affected were No. 25 Tulsa and Houston, which was postponed, and No. 7 Cincinnati and Temple, which was canceled completely.

Here is a look at the matchups that were able to take place:

East Carolina 52, SMU 38

In what was by far the biggest surprise of the week in the AAC, East Carolina (3-6, 3-5 AAC) defeated SMU with an explosive 52-point performance against the SMU Mustangs (7-3, 4-3 AAC), handing SMU its third loss in the last six games.

ECU jumped to a massive 45-7 halftime lead led by junior quarterback Holton Ahlers, who threw for 158 yards and four touchdowns in the first half alone. Ahlers finished with 298 yards passing total and four touchdowns.

The second half was all SMU after being blown out in the first half, outscoring ECU 31-7 and included big scores from senior quarterback Shane Buechele and sophomore running back Tyler Lavine, who were both responsible for all four touchdowns in the second half.

Buechele finished with 314 yards passing, two touchdowns and a quarterback sneak for three total touchdowns, but threw two fourth-quarter interceptions which prevented any chance at a last-minute comeback.

SMU will look to bounce back next week against Houston, while the Pirates are off for next week.

UCF 58, South Florida 46

UCF (6-3, 5-3 AAC) and USF (1-8, 0-7 AAC) both entered this game coming off losses and looked to get a win on Saturday. This was yet another high scoring matchup with UCF scoring 58 points in the win.

UCF dominated offensively from start to finish, scoring 13 or more in all four quarters and held a 31-14 lead at the half, led by sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who threw for 336 yards and had five total touchdowns.

The Knights also rushed for 241 yards for a total of 577 yards of offense, with both backs having rushing over 100 yards.

USF had plenty to bring on the offense as well, surpassing the Knights’ offensive totals with 646 yards, led by sophomore quarterback Jordan McCloud who threw for 404 yards, four passing and a rushing touchdown to bring Southern Florida back in the game.

Despite the Bulls’ offensive outburst, the Knights were able to hold off and win the game. The 31-14 halftime lead was eventually brought within a one-score game at 45-38 in the fourth, but they were able to close out late for the win.

USF remains winless in games against AAC opponents and does not have a matchup set for next week. UCF gets win number six overall and won’t play next week as well.

Memphis 10, Navy 7

Memphis (6-2, 4-2 AAC) travels to face the Navy Midshipmen (3-5, 3-3 AAC) in a game that would be a low scoring affair. A game with 10 punts between the two teams ended with the Tigers on top due to a missed field goal late by Navy.

Navy struck first following its own punt by forcing Memphis to punt, but the Tigers answered on the next drive to tie the game at seven apiece in the first quarter.

The game was tied until early in the fourth when the Tigers kicked the game-winning field goal to go up 10-7 with 14:54 left in the game.

Navy was held scoreless in the final three quarters but showed out in the running game, totaling 233 yards rushing led by senior running back Nelson Smith, who had 142 yards rushing and the only score Navy had.

The Tigers had a quiet offensive showing with only 75 yards rushing, 205 yards through the air and 280 yards overall on offense. The defense was the winning side for Memphis forcing four punts, a turnover on downs and coming up with an interception in the win.

Navy will look to bounce back while facing a challenging opponent in No. 25 Tulsa on Saturday, while Memphis will look to get win number seven on the year against Tulane.

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