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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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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