UCF Football finally returned to the field on Saturday afternoon. The return was a triumphant one, as the team rolled over Maryland in a 38-10 road win. The Knights are now 2-0 heading into a week five conference opener against Memphis. What else went down around the AAC in week four?
USF: South Florida (4-0, 1-0 AAC) started conference play on Thursday night with a 43-7 win over Temple. The defense led the way for the Bulls, holding the Owls to just 85 total yards while forcing six total turnovers. Offensively, it was the ground game that got the job done, as USF put up 312 rushing yards. Seniors Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson both eclipsed the 100-yard mark. Up Next: at East Carolina
Cincinnati: Despite a 381-yard, three-touchdown day from junior Hayden Moore, Cincinnati (2-2, 0-1 AAC) fell 42-32 at Navy. The Bearcat defense allowed 569 rushing yards to the Midshipmen. Cincinnati trailed just 28-24 in the third quarter, but couldn’t keep up from there. Up Next: vs. Marshall
UConn: An early 27-7 deficit was too much to overcome for UConn (1-2, 0-1 AAC) at home against East Carolina. The Huskies went on to lose 41-38 despite a furious comeback attempt that featured a 24-14 second half advantage. Senior Bryant Shirreffs threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. Up Next: at SMU
East Carolina: The Pirates (1-3, 1-0 AAC) picked up their first win of the season at UConn, 41-38, thanks to an early 27-7 lead. Senior Thomas Sirk completed 30 of his 39 pass attempts for 426 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target was senior Davon Grayson, who hauled in 11 catches for 223 yards and three scores. Up Next: vs. USF
Temple: The Owls (2-2, 0-1 AAC) were unable to get anything going offensively against USF on Thursday night, falling 43-7. The defending conference champions turned the ball over six times in the loss, which repeatedly set their defense up for failure. The team’s lone touchdown came on a 44-yard fumble return by senior Jacob Martin. Up Next: vs. Houston
Navy: The Midshipmen (3-0, 2-0 AAC) ran all over Cincinnati in a 42-32 win. Junior Zach Abey rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore Malcolm Perry went for 100 yards and a touchdown. The team rushed for 569 yards total, which was enough to overcome the defense allowing 439 total yards. Up Next: at Tulsa
Houston: The Cougars (2-1, 0-0 AAC) suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday, falling 27-24 to Texas Tech. Two fourth quarter touchdowns weren’t enough for a Houston comeback after it fell behind 27-10 midway through the quarter. The loss snapped a 16-game home winning streak for the Cougars. Up Next: at Temple
Memphis: The Tigers (3-0, 0-0 AAC) picked up a 44-31 win over Southern Illinois on Saturday. They trailed 21-17 at halftime, but a strong second half kept them perfect on the year. Senior Riley Ferguson threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns, while sophomore Patrick Taylor Jr. added 77 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Up Next: at UCF
SMU: The Mustangs (3-1, 0-0 AAC) rolled over Arkansas State on Saturday by a score of 44-21. Sophomore Xavier Jones rushed for 146 yards as a part of SMU’s 314-yard rushing day. The Red Wolves led 14-10 after one quarter, but a 20-0 second quarter advantage put the Mustangs up for good. Up Next: vs. UConn
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane (1-3, 0-0 AAC) fell 16-13 to New Mexico on Saturday. Senior D’Angelo Brewer rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown in the loss. Tulsa tied the game at 13 with a field goal early in the fourth, but New Mexico came back with a game-winning 53-yard field goal as time expired. Up Next: vs. Navy
Tulane: The Green Wave (2-2, 0-1 AAC) used a late touchdown to beat Army 21-17. Junior Jonathan Banks’ four-yard touchdown run with 23 seconds left made the difference. Senior Dontrell Hilliard was a big help on the ground for Tulane, rushing for 134 yards and a touchdown. Up Next: vs. Tulsa (Oct. 7)
What does this all mean for UCF?
Conference play started for some teams in the AAC this week before it really gets going next week. There weren’t too many surprises in the conference, except for an ECU win over UConn. The AAC East still looks like it’s there for the Knights to take, especially considering their impressive win over the weekend. Another win for Memphis adds intrigue to week five’s matchup between the Knights and Tigers, as the winner could possibly see heavy consideration for a spot in the top 25.
Through four weeks, it feels like this might be a down year for the AAC. There have been a couple of key wins, but even more missed opportunities in statement games. Houston missed a chance at a power five win this weekend, while the entire eastern division aside from UCF and USF looks poor. As predicted before the season, the Black Friday matchup between the Knights and Bulls may very well be for a spot in the conference championship game. Until then, though, UCF must take care of business. That starts with a challenging conference opener on Saturday against Memphis.