The UH/AAC Report

Houston drops final game of the season; Bowl predictions and coaching changes

Houston ends their 2018 season at 8-4. Houston Cougar Football Facebook

Memphis 52, Houston 31

QB Clayton Tune made his debut start for the Cougars in the Liberty Bowl after D’Eriq King suffered a torn meniscus in the previous week. The true freshman QB had a decent showing, where he threw for 256 yards and had 3 TDs.

In the opening drive, Tune led the UH offense down the field and threw a 33-yard strike to WR Terry Mark. Things began to become increasingly difficult for the freshman QB as the game progressed. After his hot start, Tune threw at least four inaccurate passes that could have been easily picked off. Much of the first half saw a tightly contested battle between both teams. Ed Oliver made his first start in a month, and was doing a good job in stopping the second best rush attack in the nation. The Cougar defense had two key interceptions, one on a pick six and one at the goal line, that kept the game competitive and entertaining. Things were going as well as you’d hope for Houston, considering they had a makeshift offense and depleted defense due to all the injuries that occurred throughout the season. The first half ended in 21-17 Houston, but it was only a matter of time until Memphis’ three headed monster in RBs Darrell Henderson, Patrick Taylor, and Tony Pollard got going.

The second half was all Memphis, especially in the fourth quarter where they scored 21 unanswered points. UH Head Coach Major Applewhite pulled Ed Oliver from the field and sat him after halftime for precautionary measures from his lingering knee injury. Memphis completely took advantage and began running the ball relentlessly. Henderson rushed for 178 yards on 24 carries, Taylor rushed for 128 yards on 19 carries, and Pollard rushed for 83 yards on 11 carries. This enabled QB Brady White to go into game manager mode, where he went 21 for 33, threw 209 yards and had one touchdown. Collectively, Memphis had 601 total yards of which 401 of them were from the run game alone. Memphis ran away with a huge win at home and will play against UCF in the AAC championship game.

Houston ends the 2018 season in disappointment with a record of 8-4, where they lost three of their last four games. You could make the case that they peaked too early, or perhaps injuries caused the defense to be so bad it cost Defensive Coordinator Mark D’ Onofrio’s job. Houston finished 124th in total defense out of 129 schools. Regardless, Houston let go of the opportunity of participating in a New Year Six Bowl, and most importantly, a shot at the AAC Conference championship.

There is much speculation as to who is going to coach what next season in Houston. Offensive Coordinator Kendal Briles was interviewed for the head coaching job at Texas State. He managed to build a powerful offense at UH, where they were fourth in scoring and seventh in total offense in the FBS. A huge loss for the Cougars if he does decide to leave. But let’s jump into a hypothetical. Ex Texas Tech Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury was recently fired. It’s not too far of a stretch that he could be at least considered for the offensive coordinator job at UH if Briles leaves? Remember when they scored 63 points against them in week 3?

Bowl predictions are also fun. Most major networks are predicting Houston to be in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 22. Teams like TCU, Baylor, Duke, Oklahoma St., and Army are the projected contenders for the Cougars. As far as Ed Oliver is concerned, he is on the record of saying that he will play in whatever bowl game they are in. Bowl selections are expected to be announced on Sunday.

UCF 38, South Florida 10

The No. 9 Golden Knights continued their win streak to 24 consecutive games, but it came at a high cost. QB McKenzie Milton suffered a gruesome right knee injury early in the second quarter after being tackled by two defenders. Milton had accounted for 79 touchdowns since the start of last season and is widely considered the heart and soul of UCF. This is an enormous blow for the Golden Knights who will face a tough Memphis team for the AAC Conference championship and a consideration for a New Year’s Six Bowl spot.

Other Notable Results in the AAC

Tulane 29, Navy 28

Cincinnati 56, ECU 6

Temple 57, Connecticut 7

Tulsa 27, SMU 24

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1. Davis Mills had an up-and-down day under center Friday. One play saw Mills drop back and try to get rid of the ball as Jonathan Greenard was rushing him only to have Greenard leap up and intercept Mills for what would have been an interception returned for a score.

2. A few plays later Davis Mills showcased his short memory. Mills surveyed the field, looked off the safety, and pitched a strike to Brevin Jordan over the middle, wide open, for a touchdown.

3. Davis Mills doesn’t stack bad plays. It is rare to see multiple bad plays happen in a row and Mills be the cause, or a cause, of the play not working. When he misses something, he usually makes up for it the next play.

4. It was a makeshift offensive line on Friday. Max Scharping played a lot at left guard. Charlie Heck saw some snaps at left tackle while Laremy Tunsil took a breather. Veteran lineman Cedric Ogbuehi played some at right tackle. There was plenty of work emphasized on the rushing attack Friday. The offensive line was fine, nothing special. I would say slight edge to the defense overall.

5. Rookie Kenyon Green didn’t practice. Right tackle Tytus Howard didn’t practice either. Pro Football Network is reporting Tytus Howard is out with a positive Covid test. Kenyon Green was banged up last practice, but Lovie Smith expects both back in the coming days.

6.The offensive line had its hands full with the defensive line today. Jonathan Greenard made the above-mentioned play of the practice with an interception. It felt constantly like there was some level of success from the defensive line. Not to say they dominated, but I would think the defense is happy with their day.

7. Maliek Collins has been a nice player in camp. He looks a bit quicker than last year. Collins downplayed how many “close” plays he had last year citing that everyone knows the saying “close but no cigar.” I asked him if he expected a lot of cigars this year. He chuckled and said yes. Teammate Roy Lopez gushed about what he believes Collins can be for this team and called his teammate one of the best defensive tackles in the league.

8. I almost wonder if quiet Derek Stingley days are good days. Stingley wasn’t involved in a lot of plays, but I know Davis Mills saw him on Friday. Mills dropped back on one play and made a read to his left seeing Chris Moore. Stingley darted from coverage towards Moore causing Mills to move off Moore and head to Nico Collins for a score. Yes, the defense allowed a touchdown, but Stingley did his job.

9. Rookie safety Jalen Pitre is a “starting” safety for the team according to Lovie Smith. Pitre had an interception, depending on who you ask, in practice. It is clear the Texans trust him and have put a lot on his plate. I would expect to see a lot of the rookie safety, good or bad, this season.



10. Lovie Smith praised the team’s depth at linebacker earlier in camp. I scoffed a little at the notion, but there seems to be a new linebacker making a play each day. Christian Kirksey had a nice stop in the run game today. Kevin Pierre-Louis, who played very little last year, has flashed. There’s some depth here, despite my skepticism.

11. Ka'imi Fairbairn doesn’t have a challenger in camp this year. I believed this offseason should have seen at the very least someone to challenge the kicker heading into his seventh year in the league. He’s been solid in camp so far, but there have been some misses. It is tough to judge distance, but the team clearly has faith in him with no challenger in sight.

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