The UH/AAC Report

Houston makes Navy retreat and has an opportunity to knock off No. 21 USF

The UH offense was able to sink Navy. Photo via Houston Cougar Football Facebook

The weekly UH/AAC report:

Houston 49, Navy 36

UH traveled to Annapolis, MD on Saturday looking for their sixth win of the season and in an attempt to halt Navy’s elusive triple option run scheme. The Midshipmen dominated on the ground the entire first half, something they have done all season, ranking them third in rushing nationally. Consequently, Navy precisely controlled the time of possession battle with 42 minutes vs Houston’s 17. But for every Midshipmen rushing attack, the Cougars had a quick answer in QB D’Eriq King, who ended the game 25 of 38, 413 yards, and three total touchdowns, earning AAC Offensive Player of the Week honorable mentions. Jim Nantz, a UH alumnus, joined the broadcast booth to watch his Cougars and even called a 17-yard King rushing touchdown. Nantz was in the area prepping to call Sunday’s Cowboys vs. Redskins game at nearby FedEx field. The first half was entertaining, both teams traded blows and lit up the score board in a staggering manner, ending with Navy leading 24-21.

Houston adjusted greatly in the second half, where they went on an onslaught of 35 unanswered points, and an equally impressive defensive showing by Ed Oliver and company.  Senior Linebacker Austin Robinson had another monster game, where he led the team with 21 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks earning him AAC Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors. Ed Oliver had 5 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and a sack, but was later sidelined as a precautionary measure due to an illegal chop block in the fourth quarter. But the most impressive thing about Houston was that they won the physicality battle against a military academy team. Not easy to do. They set the tone early in the second half, and constricted a tough Navy team that was seemingly scoring at will in the first.

Cougars’ WRs also showed up big despite having a couple of drops in the early parts of the game. Marquez Stevenson, Courtney Lark, and Keith Corbin each had 100+ receiving yards. The offensive line continues to be a fortress for King, where they have only allowed one sack in the last five games.

Houston is set to host No. 21 USF, one of five unbeaten teams in the FBS, and the Bulls possess dangerous weapons in QB Blake Barnett and RB Jordan Cronkite, who has had five straight 100+ rushing yards per game. UH improves to 6-1 in the season.

Houston is ranked third in scoring offense, and fourth in total offense nationally.

King's season stats in seven games: 141 of 222, three INTs, 63.5 completion percentage, 1,984 passing yards, 281 net rushing yards, 31 total TDs.

Houston is now bowl eligible for the sixth straight year after their win.

Ed Oliver is questionable vs USF due to a knee contusion.

Stats pulled via the official UH Cougar Football page.

UCF 37, ECU 10

UCF went into Greenville, NC with 20 straight wins and ranked at No. 10. The Golden Knights medical staff determined that star QB McKenzie Milton had to be benched after being closely monitored in pre-game warmups. Milton had to leave the field in their previous game vs. Memphis where he tweaked his ankle on a game winning touchdown run. QB Darriel Mack Jr. had to succeed Milton on short notice and it showed in the first half, where UCF greatly depended on their defense and even a trick play to induce their first touchdown of the game with seven minutes left. Turnovers kept the Pirates from standing a chance to make a comeback attempt, especially after they fumbled the football at the UCF 1-yard line, only to be recovered and converted into a dagger defensive TD. ECU falls to 2-5, and will play Memphis after its bye. UCF continues to be on a roll and head into next week at 7-0 as they will host Temple in Orlando.

USF 38, UConn 30

No, 21 USF got off to a slow start against a UConn team that went into this game at 1-5. Turnovers and a persistent rushing attack created by the Huskies were the two factors on why this game was so close. UConn RBs dominated the ground where David Pinell had 28 carries, 197 rushing yards, and two TDs, and Kevin Mensah had 19 carries, 120 rushing yards, and two TDs. The difference came in the third quarter where the Bulls returned a kickoff for 65 yards, which led QB Blake Barnett to rush in a quick 21-yard TD. USF RBs Johnny Ford and Jordan Cronkite rushed for over 100 yards and scored three TDs. UConn falls to 1-6 and will play UMass at home. USF improves to 7-0 and will visit a Houston team that is more than capable to dethrone them from their Top 25 ranked status.

Temple 24, Cincinnati 17

Cincinnati went into this game at 6-0 and ranked 20th as they visited Temple in Philly. The Bearcats fumbled the ball twice in their opening possessions allowing Temple to score 10 early points. Temple QB Anthony Russo completed 20 of 41, 237 passing yards, three TDs and three INTs. What kept this game so close was the amount of turnovers both offenses were coughing up. The game then went into overtime tied at 17 points apiece. The Owls scored first and defended Cincinnati well on their attempt to tie the game to remain alive. But the Bearcats made a costly communication error at the point of the snap via fumble and backed themselves 10 costly yards, where they then would go on to throw a pick and ended their win streak. Cincinnati is kicked out of the Top 25 rankings and head into SMU with a 6-1 record. Temple faces a tough task at UCF and improve to 5-3.

Other Notable Results in the AAC

Arkansas 23, Tulsa 0

SMU 27, Tulane 23

Missouri 65, Memphis 33

 

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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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