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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Even though the Rockets got out rebounded this past weekend by the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks, they still came out victorious. With the small-ball rotation, the Rockets are 8-2 against the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks, and Milwaukee Bucks.

The Rockets are suffering on the rebounding side, but this offense has allowed them to score more points. They are much faster in transition because of Robert Covington and Jeff Green. This team can spread the floor more because of the space. This allows their shooters to get more open. With having Russell Westbrook on the Rockets, he can create plays for wide open shooters. As defensive zones collapse on Westbrook, he is able to get the ball out to James Harden, Ben McLemore, and PJ Tucker.

Before the All-Star break, the Rockets were averaging 118.2 points per game and their winning percentage was .630%. After the break, including bubble play, the Rockets are averaging 121 points per game and winning percentage is now .667% because of the small man rotation.

The Rockets are ranked number one in offensive scoring in the NBA. They put up 42 points in the first quarter against the Mavericks last Friday. The Rockets scored a total of 153 points to beat the Mavericks in overtime. They outscored the second highest team in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks, to get win on Sunday night. The Rockets went on a 14-6 run with three minutes left in the game. Their best weapon as a team, is to outscore the opposing opponent.

With the Rockets small-ball rotation, they are able wear defenses down. Harden and Westbrook are always playing Mike D'Antoni's system at a high tempo. The Rockets are ranked third in transition offense this season. This allows them win close games because the other team is tired.

Daryl Morey about a week ago cracked a joke on the Denver Nuggets big man starting five.

Morey even still feels confident about the smallball rotation. He made a great statement on July 15, 2020. He believes it is helping Westbrook a lot.

"Obviously, we're playing small but people forget that unlocked Russell a lot on the offensive end and James on the offensive end. But it also unlocked us on the defensive end. Not many guards average in their career multiple times over 10 rebounds a game," as Morey explained to Anthony Duckett of FanSided. "And the fact that Eric [Gordon] is thick and strong and James allows us to play this way. Everyone makes it sounds like it's a gimmick but really [it’s]the best way to play. And what I love about coach [D'Antoni] is that he recognizes that and is able to optimize that."

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