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Around the American: Week 5 Football Recap

Conference play is underway, and 11 of 12 teams were in action last weekend. Let’s see how everyone did.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

After a week off due to travel and handwringing about USF’s defense, our weekly look at how the rest of the American fared on the football field is back. There were four conference games last weekend, including USF-Cincinnati, and three non-conference games of varying importance. Tulsa had the week off.

Houston 42, UConn 14

The Cougars easily got revenge for their only loss of 2015. This game essentially ended when the score was still 0-0. On 4th and 3 at the Houston 38-yard line late in the first quarter, UConn coach Bob Diaco decided to punt the ball. Not only did the Huskies fail to pin Houston in bad field position because the punt went for a touchback, but they also promptly gave up a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. By halftime the score was 28-7 Cougars.

Greg Ward, Jr. had a monster game, completing 32 of 38 passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 12 times for 65 yards and scored two touchdowns of his own. Linell Bonner caught 12 of Ward’s passes for 159 yards and a score. In a losing effort, UConn’s Noel Thomas continued to put up massive numbers, catching six passes for 135 yards and a touchdown.

UCF 47, East Carolina 29

Even with mini-mite freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton back on the bench, the Knights found a way to break their 666-day conference losing streak. Adrian Killins ran a kickoff back for a touchdown, while UCF’s defense collected five turnovers, recorded a safety, and scored when Brendon Hayes snagged a screen pass and lumbered four yards for a touchdown.

East Carolina outgained UCF 521-373, but had a truly awful day running the ball (32 attempts for 33 yards) and lost starting quarterback Philip Nelson to an injury in the third quarter. Volume receiver Zay Jones caught 17 more passes, giving him 66 receptions in just five games. The FBS record for catches in a season is 155, so Jones might have a shot at it on his current pace, especially if ECU can make a bowl.

Side note: A handful of East Carolina marching band members took a knee to play the national anthem, and maaaaannnn did the fans in Greenville not like that. They even booed at the end of the anthem.

These white people aren’t mad, they’re laughing! It’s actually funny to them! They’re totally unwilling to think about why this bothers them so much!

Temple 45, SMU 20

The other 45-20 score in league play last weekend took place in front of an intimate gathering of friends and well-wishers in Philadelphia. Ryquell Armstead and Jahad Thomas each ran for two scores as the Owls had no trouble with SMU. Armstead totaled 159 yards on the ground. The Mustangs are so bad that even a terrible 7-for-18 passing day by Philip Walker, including a pick-six on the third play of the game, didn’t slow Temple down.

SMU freshman quarterback Ben Hicks continues to get a baptism by fire. He completed 22 of 42 passes for 199 yards and threw two touchdowns, but also had two interceptions. Hicks has thrown nine interceptions in his four starts since replacing Matt Davis, lost for the season with a knee injury. The biggest difference is Hicks’s total lack of mobility. He doesn’t offer a running threat, which puts a big kink in Chad Morris’s offensive scheme. Hicks was very highly touted, though, and SMU doesn’t have much behind him to work with. It’s hard to see him being replaced under center unless he completely falls apart.

Ole Miss 48, Memphis 28

After being the victim of Memphis’s biggest win in years last season, Ole Miss didn’t have much trouble paying the Tigers back in Oxford. Chad Kelly threw for 361 yards and the Rebels had two 100-yard rushers as they racked up 624 yards of total offense. Riley Ferguson completed 30 of 46 passes for 343 yards for Memphis, but he was intercepted three times, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

Down 27-7 early in the third quarter, the Tigers did put a scare into Ole Miss with two consecutive touchdowns. When Ferguson scrambled into the end zone from a yard out, the Rebels led only 27-21. But after a very short kickoff (an onside kick, perhaps?), Ole Miss drove 65 yards in seven plays for a touchdown. Memphis then went three and out and the Rebels scored again on the first play of the fourth quarter to go ahead 41-21.

Air Force 28, Navy 14

The first leg of the Commander-in-Chief Trophy series went to the homestanding Falcons. Everyone who has to play Navy this season will want to watch the tape of this game, because the Midshipmen virtually gave up on the triple option and didn’t score a point until the fourth quarter, when Air Force already led 20-0. Navy ran the ball 37 times for a shockingly low 57 yards. Even more shocking, they threw 30 passes. Will Worth completed 17 of them for 260 yards, but threw two interceptions.

Air Force wasn’t totally effective running their option, either, but they hit two huge pass plays to break open a defensive struggle in the third quarter. Nate Romine threw for 257 yards on only eight completions, including 75- and 62-yard touchdowns.

Tulane 31, UMass 24

The Green Wave came back from an early 14-0 deficit for their first road win of the year. The Minutemen took their lead on a pair of 12-yard touchdown passes from Andrew Ford to Andy Isabella, sandwiched around a fumbled kickoff return by Devin Glenn. But Tulane got to work after that, responding with an 11-yard touchdown by Dontrell Hilliard, and controlling the game for most of the afternoon with 280 yards rushing. Hilliard ran for 99 yards, Josh Rounds added 77, and Glen Cuiellette had 60 to go with his 168 yards passing. At 3-2, Tulane has already matched their win total from each of the last two seasons.