There was only one big surprise in the American last weekend (unless you considered USF beating Navy a surprise). Let’s start in Memphis, where...
Tulsa 59, Memphis 30
If you think Navy has the West Division wrapped up, you may want to think again. Tulsa is now tied with the Midshipmen with only one conference loss after they went to Memphis and overwhelmed the Tigers. James Flanders ran for 249 yards and five touchdowns, one of two 100-yard rushers for Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane racked up almost 600 yards of offense, while Memphis melted down with four turnovers, 12 penalties, and a missed extra point.
Early in the third quarter, the Tigers cut Tulsa’s lead to 35-30 following a Riley Ferguson touchdown pass. But Flanders’ 48-yard touchdown run expanded the lead back to 15 points, and when Ferguson fumbled early in the fourth quarter and Petera Wilson Jr. returned it to the Memphis 10, Flanders’ fifth touchdown two plays later iced the game.
Tulsa is 6-2, bowl eligible for the second year in a row, and they play Navy in Annapolis on November 12. That game will probably decide the West Division title, but it does create the possibility that Houston backdoors a division title if there’s a three-way tie between themselves, Tulsa (who they beat), and Navy (who they didn’t).
Houston 31, UCF 24
Houston’s October torpor continued into this game. Turnovers, weird play selection and a mess of penalties contributed to UCF grabbing a 24-3 lead early in the third quarter. But in the second half, it was the Knights’ turn to tank. UCF had only 42 yards from scrimmage and turned the ball over four times. Greg Ward, Jr. took full advantage with two touchdown runs and a scoring pass to Romello Brooker. His 14-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter gave Houston its margin of victory.
Temple 34, Cincinnati 13
Much like UCF against Houston, the Bearcats went completely to pieces in the second half, allowing Temple to pull away to an easy win. The Owls limited Cincinnati to a shocking 11 yards after halftime and zero first downs. Jahad Thomas ran for 151 yards and Temple held the ball for 40:23.
The Bearcats still had hope until a two-play sequence early in the fourth quarter. Ryquell Armstead ran for a touchdown on the second play of the final period. Then Cincinnati failed to cover a kickoff and the Owls ran down field and recovered at the Bearcats’ 18-yard line. Armstead scored again four plays later and Temple led by 21. Cincinnati is now 4-4 and Tommy Tuberville’s fate looks certain...
East Carolina 41, UConn 3
...just like Bob Diaco’s might be after the Huskies’ debacle in Greenville. Here like in Philadelphia, a touchdown/fumble/touchdown sequence buried the losing team. James Summers found the end zone from a yard out to give the Pirates a 24-3 lead in the middle of the third quarter. UConn fumbled away the ensuing kickoff and ECU recovered. Two plays later, Philip Nelson passed to Zay Jones for a three-yard touchdown to put the Huskies in a 31-3 hole. Jones caught another 19 passes for 185 yards, moving into second place on the all-time career receptions list. He only trails former teammate Justin Hardy by 32 receptions and seems very likely to break that record.
After the game, UConn made a change at offensive coordinator, demoting Frank Verducci and replacing him with running backs coach David Corley. It probably won’t make much of a difference, though. Diaco is still in charge, and he delivered a 25 minute soliloquy to open his press conference Tuesday, so you know he’s gone off the deep end.
SMU 35, Tulane 31
The most exciting game of the weekend was in New Orleans, where the Mustangs rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Braeden West’s two touchdown runs, the second of which came with 1:25 to play, lifted SMU to victory. Ben Hicks threw for 302 yards, and although Tulane bottled up Courtland Sutton, they couldn’t stop James Proche at all. Proche had six catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
For the Green Wave, Dontrell Hilliard ran for 111 yards, including a 67-yard run. Tulane tried to keep a late drive going to burn more time off the clock by attempting a fourth-down conversion from the SMU 22-yard line. But Hilliard was stopped for no gain on 4th and 2, and from there the Mustangs began their winning drive. Tulane had one more chance to win, reaching the SMU 35, but Glen Cuiellette’s desperation pass was intercepted on the final play by Darrion Millines.