The UH/AAC Report

Houston in control of their own destiny: UCF and USF avoid upset

Ed Oliver ends sack drought. Photo via Houston Cougar Football/Facebook

Houston 42, ECU 20

The Cougars went into Greenville, NC on Saturday still hot from their late game-winning rally vs Tulsa. Houston started with a typical up tempo Kendal Briles opening drive, where QB D’Eriq King threw to WR Courtney Lark for a 38-yard TD. The Cougar defense then held ECU to another three and out and gave the ball back to King, where he led his offense to the end zone after another long drive, and scored via rushing TD from the Pirate 8-yard line with 8 minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Houston defense showed up even bigger this game and continue to show that they are peaking at the right time. LB Emeke Egbule intercepted a batted pass from ECU’s QB Reid Herring, which was converted into another TD throw from King and resulted in the Cougars leading 21-3 at the half.

ECU drove to the Houston 16 on their second half opening possession, but were halted by the Cougar defense yet again, and were forced to kick a field goal cutting the difference to 21-6. Houston’s Heisman candidate Ed Oliver finally ended his 2018 sack drought in a pivotal manner by forcing ECU to fumble the football in their own territory, only to be picked up by Egbule and run in for a defensive touchdown, which resulted in a 28-6 lead with 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter. The offense continued to pile on with two more touchdowns, one being a flashy trick play passing TD from QB Bryson Smith to WR Keith Korbin, leading the Cougars to a score of 42-6 with 11 minutes left in the game. Much of the fourth quarter saw the second string Houston defense, which allowed ECU to score 14 points in garbage time.

The Houston defense yet again proves that they are able to force turnovers in the right moments. They intercepted the ball three times and forced a fumble. Egbule had another outstanding game, with an INT and fumble recovery for a touchdown. Oliver also had another monster game with five tackles for loss and two sacks. The offense is very effective because of this one overlooked component, the offensive line, who has only allowed one sack and 19 tackles for loss through five games, ranking them fifth nationally. ECU drops to 2-4 and will play the 19-0 UCF Golden Knights. Houston improves to 5-1 and travels to Annapolis, MD this week to face a 2-4 Navy team. UH is now in control of their own destiny and keep their AAC championship title hopes alive.

Houston is ranked second in the nation in total offense with 582 yards per game.

Ed Oliver leads all defensive linemen in the nation with 8 tackles per game, despite being double and triple teamed.

King went 13 of 23, threw for 209 passing yards, and had three total TDs.

UCF 31, Memphis 30

Two of the most compelling offenses in the AAC went at it in rainy Memphis on Saturday, both who possess Heisman hopefuls in Tigers’ RB Darrell Henderson, and the No. 10 ranked Golden Knights’ QB McKenzie Milton. This game had upset written all over it from the beginning. The Memphis offense dominated UCF throughout the first half by scoring 31 points, against UCF’s 17. But the UCF defense adjusted so well, that they shut out the Memphis explosive offense in the entire second half. McKenzie Milton displayed his Heisman quality athleticism as he went airborne for what was the game winning TD, finishing a 14-point comeback with 12 minutes left in the clock. Do not be fooled, much of this game was attributed to the rain and its impacts on the passing game, where UCF went 2 for 12 in third down efficiency. Memphis is a tough opponent, especially at home and with a workhorse like Henderson, who finished with 31 carries, 199 rushing yards, and 1 TD. They even had a valiant effort in attempting a comeback to try and set up a game winning field goal, but the Tigers ran out of time as the final catch wasn’t taken out of bounds to stop the clock.  In the end, Milton came through for the Golden Knights by going 17 of 29, with 296 passing yards, and 1 TD, leading his team to an unbeaten 19-0 streak. Memphis falls to 4-3 on the season and will face Missouri next. While UCF will head to Greenville, NC and face a not so impressive ECU team.

USF 25, Tulsa 24

No. 23 USF climbed in the rankings two spots after their close win in Oklahoma. The Bulls uncharacteristically struggled offensively vs Tulsa. Golden Hurricane QB Seth Boomer had an awful day vs the USF defense, where he went 6 of 21, had 79 passing yards, 0 INT, and 1 TD. USF had difficulty taking advantage of the weak opposing quarterback play until the fourth quarter, where QB Blake Barnett began to set up what would be a clutch comeback win. Barnett took matters in his own hands by driving in two rushing TDs, but failing to convert a game tying 2-point conversion with two minutes left on the clock. USF got the football back with 48 seconds left, where Barnett once again showed how USF is an offense capable of exploding at a moment’s notice. He made a couple of long throws down the field that set up a chip shot, game winning, 22-yard field goal. USF remains perfect and improves to 6-0, while Tulsa continues to lose control in the 4th quarter, dropping to a record of 1-5. USF will play a weak UConn team next.

Other AAC Results

Temple 24, Navy 17



Teams on BYE week

#20 Cincinnati (Prior rank #25), Tulane, SMU, UConn

Stats available via UH Cougar Football.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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