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State of the AAC: Teams begin final push

The American Athletic Conference is down to its final three games and teams look for a late-season push. | Jhair Romero/The Cougar

With the American Athletic Conference having only three weeks left in conference play, AAC title contenders look to make their final push of the season as No.17 Houston punched their ticket to the Championship game.

Let’s take a look at how each team fared this past weekend:

No. 5 Cincinnati (10-0, 6-0 AAC) at South Florida (2-8, 1-5 AAC)

After several weeks of contested matchups for Cincinnati, the team came back into top 10 form after routing USF 45-28 on the road.

Despite the Bulls getting on the board first with a touchdown midway through the first quarter, the Bearcats responded in dominant fashion with 24 unanswered points to go up 24-7 at half time.

The second half was more of a back and forth affair, but the Bearcats were too far ahead and closed out the Bulls to pick up their 10th victory of the season.

Senior quarterback Desmond Ridder finished the game with 31 completions for 304 yards and two touchdowns and one interception for the Bearcats, while junior running back Ryan Montgomery talled six carries for 72 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Houston (9-1, 7-0 AAC) at Temple (3-7, 1-5 AAC)

With a chance to clinch a spot in the conference title game with a victory, the Cougars  dominated from start to finish with a 37-8 win over Temple.

The first half was all UH with freshman running back Alton McCaskill leading the way with two touchdowns, he also racked up 129 yards on 21 carries for the day.

A fourth quarter score for the Owls’ brought the game within two possessions, but the Cougars’ response on the next drive kept the game well out of reach for Temple.

The big day for the Cougars on the ground was complemented with a solid air attack as junior quarterback Clayton Tune finished the day completing 21 of his 34 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns.

UCF (6-4, 4-3 AAC) at SMU (8-2, 4-2 AAC)

An early high scoring game between two of the conference’s top teams saw SMU rout UCF 55-28 at home to snap a two-game conference losing streak.

The first quarter included five total touchdowns between the two teams and was followed by a dominant second quarter from the Mustangs that put them up 38-14 at halftime.

A hard fought second half was not enough to spark a comeback for the Knights, who allowed 631 total yards on the day.

Junior quarterback Tanner Mordecai had himself a big day for the Mustangs, completing 37 of his 54 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception.

Despite the loss, sophomore running back Mark-Antony Richards was a bright spot for UCF with 104 rushing yards on just eight carries and added two touchdowns on the ground.

East Carolina (6-4, 4-2 AAC) at Memphis (5-5, 2-4 AAC)

Riding on two-straight conference wins, East Carolina stomped into Memphis and came out with a 30-29 overtime road victory.

Coming off an upset victory over SMU last week, Memphis struggled to string possessions together, yet managed to only go into halftime down 16-13.

A third quarter touchdown put the Tigers in front before the Pirates scored a 1-yard touchdown rush by freshman running back Rahjai Harris to lead 23-20 with 1:29 left in the fourth quarter.

A 24-yard field goal by freshman kicker David Kemp sent the game to overtime tied up 23-23.

East Carolina struck first in overtime with a rushing touchdown by the third different player on the day, this time coming from freshman running back Keaton Mitchell.

The Pirates victory was sealed after the Tigers scored a touchdown and had an unsuccessful two-point conversion.

Tulsa (4-6, 3-3 AAC) at Tulane (1-9, 0-6 AAC)

Another conference game made its way into overtime as Tulsa defeated Tulane 20-13 on the road as the Green Wave remain winless in conference play.

A 10-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Davis Brin to senior wide receiver Ezra Naylor II sparked a 10-0 lead at the end of the first quarter as Tulsa ended the half up 13-3.

After a scoreless third quarter, Tulane scored 10 points in the final 2:52 of the game to force overtime.

Senior running back Shamari Brooks won the game in overtime with a 15-yard rushing touchdown, he finished the game with 19 carries for 71 yards and the touchdown for the Hurricane.

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