UCF survived its toughest test of the year so far, beating Navy 31-21 on the road. Next, the No. 18 Knights (6-0, 4-0 AAC) return home for a non-conference matchup with Austin Peay. Before looking ahead, what else went down around the AAC in week eight?
USF: The No. 16 Bulls (7-0, 4-0 AAC) survived a late scare at Tulane to win 34-28. Senior Darius Tice led the way, running for 141 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries. The Green Wave scored the game’s final 21 points, closing the gap from 34-7 to 34-28. The six-point win didn’t impress voters, as USF dropped a spot to No. 17 in this week’s AP poll. Up Next: vs. Houston
Temple: The Owls (3-5, 1-3 AAC) suffered a heartbreaking loss to Army, falling 31-28 in overtime. They held a late 28-21 lead, but the Black Knights scored a touchdown with one second left to send the game to overtime. The Temple defense held Army to a field goal to start things before setting up for a field goal that would’ve sent the game to a second overtime. Instead, the 27-yard field goal was no good and the Owls fell for the fifth time this season. Up Next: vs. Navy (Nov. 2)
UConn: The Huskies (3-4, 2-3 AAC) held on late for a 20-14 win over Tulsa. They led 20-0 with 8:33 left in the fourth quarter, but the Golden Hurricane came back with two late touchdowns to give them a scare. Senior Bryant Shirreffs threw for 372 yards and a touchdown in the victory. Junior Hergy Mayala was his favorite target, as the two connected four times for 131 yards and a score. Up Next: vs. Missouri
East Carolina: The Pirates (2-6, 1-3 AAC) snapped a three-game losing streak on Saturday with a 33-17 win over BYU. The game was tied 10-10 at halftime, but a big second half allowed ECU to pull away. Sophomore Jake Verity kicked four field goals and junior Gardner Minshew tossed two second half touchdowns to lead the effort. Up Next: at Houston (Nov. 4)
Cincinnati: The Bearcats (2-6, 0-4 AAC) played SMU tough, but eventually fell 31-28 in overtime. Junior Hayden Moore found senior Devin Gray for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 2:22 left, then the two connected again for the two-point conversion to force overtime. After the Cincinnati defense held SMU to a field goal to start overtime, Moore threw an ill-advised shovel pass that ended up in the hands of a Mustangs defender. Up Next: at Tulane (Nov. 4)
Navy: The Midshipmen (5-2, 3-2 AAC) gave No. 20 UCF all it had, but fell 31-21 to snap a 17-game home winning streak. Junior Zach Abey scored two touchdowns, threw for 115 yards and ran for 126, but left in the second half with an injury. Navy had a chance to take a late lead, but a costly fumble gave UCF the ball back. Up Next: at Temple (Nov. 2)
Memphis: The No. 25 Tigers (6-1, 3-1 AAC) needed a 42-point second half to win 42-38 at Houston on Thursday night. Sophomore Patrick Taylor Jr. ran for four touchdowns while senior Anthony Miller caught 10 passes for 178 yards. Memphis trailed 17-0 at halftime, but a furious rally kept them on top of the AAC West. Up Next: vs. Tulane
Houston: The Cougars (4-3, 2-2 AAC) blew a 17-0 lead and eventually fell 42-38 against No. 25 Memphis. Senior Kyle Postma threw for 315 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 49 yards. Unfortunately for Houston, it lost all momentum in the second half, getting outscored 42-21. Up Next: at No. 17 USF
SMU: The Mustangs (5-2, 2-1 AAC) came through in overtime to beat Cincinnati 31-28. Sophomore Ben Hicks put up 295 yards and two scores, finding junior Trey Quinn 17 times for 186 yards. Junior Josh Williams made a 27-yard field goal to take the lead in overtime, then the defense came up with the game-clinching interception to seal the victory. Up Next: vs. Tulsa
Tulane: The Green Wave (3-4, 1-2 AAC) almost pulled off a huge upset over No. 16 USF, but a late rally fell just short. They ended the game on a 21-0 run, but a 34-7 deficit was just too much to erase. Senior Dontrell Hilliard went for 94 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in addition to his 24-yard touchdown catch. Up Next: at No. 24 Memphis
Tulsa: A late comeback attempt fell short as the Golden Hurricane (2-6, 1-3 AAC) lost 20-14 at UConn. The defense had one of its better performances of the season, but the offense couldn’t get going until halfway through the fourth quarter. Freshman Shamari Brooks rushed 31 times for 164 yards and both of Tulsa’s touchdowns. Up Next: at SMU
What does this all mean for UCF?
First of all, UCF’s win over Navy was the conference’s biggest result of the week. The Knights withstood one of their toughest opponents and came away with a 31-21 road win. After weeks of blowout victories, it was definitely encouraging to see UCF hang tough and win a close game. Things appeared to be easy throughout the first five games, but when the Midshipmen proved to be a tough obstacle, the Knights responded in a big way to boost their resume and stay undefeated. Also going relatively unnoticed is the fact that Saturday’s win clinched bowl eligibility for Scott Frost’s program.
As for the rest of the AAC, it was again more of the same. Memphis looked like it was going off the rails, but a 42-point barrage in the second half kept the Tigers as the favorite to win the AAC West. The loss knocks Houston down quite a bit, while Navy is further behind than they were a week ago as well. If anyone is going to challenge the Tigers for that division, it might be SMU and its impressive aerial attack. It’s almost not worth repeating for the hundredth time, but yes, the AAC East should still come down to Black Friday’s War on I-4 matchup between UCF and USF. That is, as long as neither team unexpectedly trips up.