It took a down-to-the-wire second-half comeback, but UCF extended its winning streak to 19 games on Saturday with a 31-30 road win over Memphis. The Knights (6-0, 3-0 AAC), who remained No. 10 in this week’s AP Poll, are on the road again this weekend against East Carolina. Before shifting to week eight, let’s break down what went on around the AAC in week seven.
Temple: The Owls (4-3, 3-0 AAC) overcame a 10-point deficit in the third quarter on Saturday to beat Navy on the road by a score of 24-17. Trailing 17-7 just two minutes into the second half, Temple responded. Will Mobley brought the game to 17-10 with a 31-yard field goal before Rob Ritrovato scored from one yard out to tie the game with 5:53 left in the third. With 9:14 to go in the game, Anthony Russo connected with Ventell Bryant for what turned out to be a game-winning 62-yard touchdown. Russo finished the day with 300 yards and the touchdown (to one interception) on 23-of-31 passing. Up Next: vs. No. 20 Cincinnati
Cincinnati: The Bearcats (6-0, 2-0 AAC) were off this week. They moved up five spots to No. 20 in this week’s AP Poll. Up Next: at Temple
South Florida: The Bulls (6-0, 2-0 AAC) survived an upset scare on Friday night, beating Tulsa 25-24 on the road. They struggled their way through the first three quarters, trailing 24-10 with just 15 minutes to go. South Florida quarterback Blake Barnett ran for a one-yard touchdown with 7:10 left, but a blocked extra point kept it an eight-point game. He then ran for a 12-yard score with 2:09 left, but a missed two-point conversion meant the defense needed a quick stop. The Bulls got the stop and took over possession at their own 43-yard line with just 55 seconds left. The big play on the final drive was a 32-yard completion from Barnett to Tyre McCants, which set up a game-winning 22-yard field goal by Coby Weiss. The Bulls moved up to No. 21 in this week’s AP Poll. Up Next: vs. UConn
East Carolina: The Pirates (2-4, 0-3 AAC) couldn’t hang with Houston on Saturday, falling 42-20 at home. The Cougars got out to a 42-6 lead before ECU finally answered back with two late touchdowns. Quarterback Reid Herring threw for 229 yards and two interceptions on 26-of-42 passing. Holton Ahlers was more efficient, completing 11 of his 18 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. He added 45 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The Pirates outgained the Cougars 415-406, but four turnovers did them in. Up Next: vs. No. 10 UCF
UConn: The Huskies (1-5, 0-3 AAC) were off this week. Up Next: at No. 21 South Florida
Houston: The Cougars (5-1, 2-0 AAC) stormed out to a 42-6 lead at East Carolina on Saturday before winning 42-20. Quarterback D’Eriq King scored three first-half touchdowns to get Houston going, then a defensive touchdown stretched the lead to 28-6 late in the third quarter. King completed 13 of his 23 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns while adding a score on the ground. The Cougar defense forced four turnovers to make up for allowing ECU to put up 415 yards. Up Next: at Navy
SMU: The Mustangs (2-4, 1-1 AAC) were off this week. Up Next: at Tulane
Tulane: The Green Wave (2-4, 1-1 AAC) were off this week. Up Next: vs. SMU
Navy: The Midshipmen (2-4, 1-2 AAC) watched their disappointing season continue on Saturday, blowing a 17-7 second-half lead on their way to a 24-17 loss to Temple. Nelson Smith ran for a 12-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, but the offense went silent the rest of the way. Overall, Navy put up just 284 yards while the Owls put up 409. The Midshipmen have lost two straight heading into a very tough four-game stretch. Up Next: vs. Houston
Memphis: After losing both meetings last year, the Tigers (4-3, 1-3 AAC) almost got their revenge on No. 10 UCF on Saturday. Instead, a 30-14 lead turned into a heartbreaking 31-30 loss. The Memphis offense was all about Darrell Henderson as the nation’s leading rusher finished the afternoon with 199 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. But as the rain began to fall in Memphis, the Knights came back. A 71-yard touchdown run by Taj McGowan on fourth down brought UCF within 30-24 before McKenzie Milton scrambled for the go-ahead seven-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. The Tigers were held scoreless in the second half after putting up 30 points in the first 30 minutes of the game. The loss was their 12th straight against the Knights. Up Next: at Missouri
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane (1-5, 0-3 AAC) blew a late lead on Friday night, falling to South Florida 25-24 on a last-second field goal. Tulsa held a 24-10 lead after three quarters, but couldn’t quite hold on. A big blocked extra point and a stop on a Bulls’ two-point conversion attempt set the Hurricane up for the win, but its offense couldn’t get a first down and the defense failed to come up with a stop. Quarterback Seth Boomer finished just six-of-21 for 79 yards and a touchdown, but Shamari Brooks picked up the slack with 100 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Up Next: at Arkansas
What does this all mean for UCF?
The Knights got a major scare on Saturday, barely scraping by Memphis for their 19th straight win. Surviving that game was huge for UCF, which now travels to a struggling East Carolina, has a week off and then returns to Spectrum Stadium for three straight home games. I-4 rival South Florida survived an upset alert of its own on Friday night, which means a crucial stretch in November will still decide the AAC East:
Nov. 10: South Florida at Cincinnati
Nov. 17: Cincinnati at UCF
Nov. 23: UCF at South Florida
Temple is sitting at 3-0 in conference play as well, so the Owls certainly aren’t out of the running. Their matchup with Cincinnati next week will be big, while the Knights and Bulls get their shots in at the division’s bottom-feeders.
In the AAC West, Houston is alone at the top. SMU and Tulane were off this week, but their game next week will impact the top of the division. The winner will serve as the Cougars’ top competition for a spot in the AAC Championship Game, considering the fact that Navy already has two conference losses and both Memphis and Tulane have three.
November will test the Knights, but it’s going to be tough for any team to challenge them as well as the Tigers did in Saturday’s one-point game. As of now, the likeliest matchup for the title game on Dec. 1 looks to be UCF against Houston.