The American’s last best hope of holding off Boise State or Western Michigan for the Group of Five bid to the big bowl games may already be finished, and we haven’t even hit November yet. Let’s take a look at this week’s carnage in conference play.
SMU 38, Houston 16
That score is not a misprint. The Mustangs routed Houston through a combination of SMU turning up big and Houston’s depth being exposed by injuries. Ben Hicks threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns, Braeden West ran for 115 yards and a score, and SMU’s extremely maligned defense took advantage of Houston’s makeshift offensive line (missing four starters) to sack Greg Ward, Jr. seven times. SMU never trailed and Houston never got closer than 14 points in the second half.
There was also some #DISRESPEKT motivating the SMU team. Before the season, Houston coach Tom Herman took an unprovoked shot at SMU while trying to explain the ambitions of his own team:
And if you're satisfied with going 7-5 and going to the Poulan Weedeater Bowl, then great. Then you're in the wrong program and we'll find a place for you to go. I hear there's a private school up in Dallas that's really looking to try to get to seven wins. We can certainly find you a home.
I think that SMU might have been aware of those comments!
As for Houston, they have virtually no chance to win their division and their bowl prospects look even more dim than a Weedeater Bowl. Now they’re staring a trip to Birmingham in the face.
UCF 24, Connecticut 16
Boy, things sure looked good for UConn early. They took a 13-0 lead, they snuffed out a UCF fake punt... the Huskies were well on their way to retaining the Civil ConFLiCT trophy.
UCF FAKE PUNT IN THE CIVIL CONFLICT. OF COURSE BOB DIACO'S BUNCH SNUFFS IT OUT. YOU DON'T COME INTO THE RENT AND JUST THINK YOU CAN CALL THE— Chip Patterson (@Chip_Patterson) October 22, 2016
It didn’t last, though, because Mackenzie Milton threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns to rally UCF to victory. The Knights only ran for 83 yards on a little over three yards per carry, but two touchdowns sandwiched around either side of halftime tipped the game in their favor. Noel Thomas In A Losing Effort had nine catches for 165 yards.
And after the game... well, you knew this was going to happen.
UCF players and coaches leaving the field without the Civil ConFLiCT trophy.— Neill Ostrout (@NeillOstrout) October 22, 2016
UCF left the "Civil ConFLiCT" trophy sitting on a bench at Rentschler Field, never approached it. UConn staffer took it. Destination unknown— Mike Anthony (@ManthonyCourant) October 22, 2016
I assume that UConn will eventually try and mail the trophy to the Knights. What will happen then? As a USF blog, this should really be none of our business, but since we have some experience dealing with a school that desperately tries to force a rivalry on us, we do have some ideas.
- Ghost it. Don’t answer any calls asking if it arrived, or texts or Facebook messages or snaps or DMs or whatever. If a reporter asks you about it, pretend you can’t hear them. And of course don’t even think about bringing it to the next game.
- Return to sender, wrapped in this meme:
- Throw it into one of the ponds behind UCF’s student union as an artificial reef.
- Leave the unopened package outside for an entire year, let it get rained on and pooped on by birds and rodents and watch the cardboard get all moldy and dirty and infested with bugs, then take it to the stadium in its disgusting rotted box next season and leave it on UConn’s bench.
- Crush it with an 80-ton hydraulic press.
- Blow it up in the contraption that bar in Wrigleyville used to blow up the Steve Bartman ball.
- Payload on the next rocket leaving Cape Canaveral, to be hurtled out into space.
- Keep it in a storage closet, then mail it back to Bob Diaco as a “consolation” gift if (and at this point it’s looking like when) UConn lets him go.
Navy 42, Memphis 28
USF’s next opponent and the conference’s only remaining hope for a New Year’s Six bowl bid made pretty easy work of another West Division contender. The Midshipmen are the only unbeaten team left in conference play, with a clear path to hosting the American championship game. And if you’re looking for any hope that the Bulls might be able to slow down Navy’s triple option, well, sorry.
That’s 74 rushes at over six yards per carry, led by Will Worth’s 201 and three touchdowns. Navy threw the ball exactly four times and they had possession for 39 minutes, 42 seconds. Riley Ferguson threw for 333 yards and Tony Pollard ran a kickoff back for a touchdown, but Memphis was just the latest team to be slowly flattened by Navy’s offense. Sort of like that 80-ton hydraulic press.
Tulsa 50, Tulane 27
Tulsa has about the softest five wins imaginable, which is why I keep putting their recaps toward the bottom of this column every week. But they do have five of them, and they’re the only team in the West Division besides Navy with less than two conference losses. James Flanders ran for 190 yards and two touchdowns, while Josh Atkinson caught seven passes for 142 yards and a score to pace the Golden Hurricane. Their schedule gets a bit tougher after this week, but they only need one win to get back to bowl eligibility.
Tulane actually outrushed Tulsa 355-330, and Josh Rounds and Dontrell Hilliard each broke the century mark. But man alive, Glen Cuiellette is a terrible passer. He completed only three of 19 against a pretty crummy defense, and if you take out the 30 yards he lost on sacks, he had seven net passing yards.
Cincinnati 31, East Carolina 19
So what would it take for the Bearcats to finally give 18th year senior Gunner Kiel a start?
Zach Edwards asked Coach Tuberville if Gunner could start during a senior meeting.— BearcatsSportsRadio (@bearcatsradio) October 23, 2016
Oh, well that was easy enough. Kiel threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns, three to Kahlil Lewis, as Cincinnati got its first conference win of the year. East Carolina hung around in this game and pulled within 24-19 after Philip Nelson threw a touchdown pass to Jimmy Williams early in the fourth quarter. But Kiel’s fourth touchdown pass with 3:38 to play, followed by a Nelson interception on the next play from scrimmage, sealed the deal.
And here come the Bearcat fan revisionist history takes on Gunner Kiel! So many takes!
Did Gunner Kiel just save the UC season? https://t.co/wUG5pTFkH4— ESPN1530 (@espn1530) October 23, 2016
UC would be in the big 12 if Gunner Kiel played all year— Brad Kanter Jr. (@BradleyKanter10) October 23, 2016
THIS IS WHY YOU PUT GUNNER KIEL IN!!! @GoBearcatsFB - TRUE NFL TALENT!— . (@jady_boi) October 23, 2016
I want to know the coaches who said Gunner Kiel was 3rd string ? He has thrown 10 balls tonight the other two only dream of in Madden— Keeneland Dan (@fatbaldguyracin) October 23, 2016
So the Bearcats have had a healthy Gunner Kiel, an NFL caliber QB, just sitting on their bench for the past year...yea Tuberville's great.— Kevin Falkler (@kfalkler) October 23, 2016
Cincinnati visits Temple next week, so USF needs to root for the Bearcats to spring an upset to return control of the East Division back to the Bulls... you know, assuming they can actually beat Navy.