The UH/AAC Report

Houston receives reality check after their upset loss to SMU; The AAC West is up for grabs

D'Eriq King and his offense struggled against SMU Houston Cougar Football Facebook

SMU 45, Houston 31

Houston traveled up to Dallas as the No. 2 scoring offense in the nation to face an SMU team that was on paper very beatable. But Mustang’s QB Ben Hicks and company had other plans on a night that unexpectedly opened up a closer race for the AAC West division. After suffering their loss on Saturday, Houston only has a one game conference lead in the AAC West sitting at 4-1, while SMU and Tulane are currently tied at 3-2. Losing the division lead was seemingly out of reach for UH a week ago after their explosive victory against USF. But here they are, facing a much needed reality check which will hopefully translate into positive improvements.

Houston QB D’Eriq King and his offense were completely unrecognizable mainly due to the new defensive looks SMU was giving them. The Mustang defense decided to switch up their traditional scheme to one that was fully committed to protecting the air, while surrendering the ground. Their gamble worked. Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles couldn’t seem to draw up an effective run game, causing him to rely on an uncharacteristically inaccurate King on third and long. King went for 11 of 22, 175 passing yards, 54 rushing yards, and 2 TDs; his lowest offensive showing this season.

Star DT Ed Oliver sat out his second game in a row due to a knee injury he suffered at Navy. He was a game time decision, but was sidelined before kickoff because of discomfort. Since Oliver’s absence, UH has allowed 81 points, and for the fourth time this season, Houston has allowed four opposing offenses to gain over 500 total yards.

Houston was down 17 points and was shut out by the end of the first quarter, but after a quick strike TD from King to WR Marquez Stevenson, and a fumble recovery TD scored by the defense, the Coogs came back to cut the difference to only three points in the second quarter. But that was the closest the Cougars would get to a fearless SMU team. Houston continued to attempt to get the run game going while Hicks was going off against the school he de-committed to back in 2014. Hicks went for 28 of 43, had 318 passing yards, and threw four TDs.

The weather was also seemingly going against Houston that night. A lightning delay halted any momentum the Cougars were seemingly gaining and sealed a well-deserved win for SMU. Houston falls to 7-2 for the season and will host Temple for their homecoming game on Saturday at 6 p.m., while SMU closes in on the AAC West division at 4-5 and will face a 1-8 Connecticut team.

Positives do remain. No notable injuries occurred. Stevenson continues to prove that he is one of the best WRs in the AAC. Oliver remains day by day, but should be ready to go this week. And best of all, Houston continues to control its own destiny towards the AAC championship game. 

Negatives also loom. Houston plays a Temple team this week that was just in a shootout with UCF. They also have yet to play a Memphis team that is capable to run the ball all over them. The offensive game plan was also worrisome. It’s interesting to ask ourselves why HC Applewhite and OC Briles were so inclined to keep trying the run game for so long when it was apparent it would never get going? Houston has proved they can make quick, in game, adjustments throughout the season, so why stick to an obviously faulty run game? Lastly, the extent of Oliver’s injury is realistically unknown. The video looks worse that what they are making it seem, but hopefully he’ll be good to go by this weekend.

After allowing only five sacks in the first eight games, King was sacked four times by the Mustangs.

Major Applewhite’s record as Houston’s head coach is 14-8.

Marquez Stevenson has his 5th career 100 yard receiving game.

Memphis 59, ECU 41

Memphis can knock off Houston as the leader of the AAC West. They currently sit at 2-3 in conference play, and are 2 games behind Houston. But after their win in Greenville, NC, it is hard to dismiss the Tigers and their elusive run scheme from contention. QB Brady White went 21 of 30, threw for 362 yards, and had three total TDs. He was accompanied by RB Darrell Henderson who had 21 carries, rushed for 132 yards, and two rushing TDs. WR Damonte Coxie had 10 receptions, 176 receiving yards, and 2 TDs. This Memphis team is capable of putting big numbers on the board, and they proved it in the second half where they scored 35 points which earned them a hard fought win over the Pirates last Saturday. The Tigers improve to 5-4 in the season and will play Tulsa at home. ECU falls to 2-5 and will face Tulane, who upset USF by a huge margin.

UCF 52, Temple 40

Temple and No. 12 UCF got into a typical AAC shootout on Thursday night. The Owls managed to win the first half by scoring 34 points, but the Golden Knights always had an answer and also lit up the scoreboard with 28 points of their own. The key to the game for UCF came in the third quarter, where they managed to shut out Temple after what seemed like an impossible task to do. UCF only allowed the Owls to score six points in the second half, halting an impressive performance by QB Anthony Russo who went 31 of 52, threw for 444 yards, rushed for 46 yards and had five total touchdowns. WR Ryquell Armstead lead Temple in receiving with 7 catches for 142 yards, including two TDs. Much of the offense came from the ground for UCF, where Greg McCrea had 16 carries, 188 rushing yards, and a TD. QB McKenzie Milton went for 17 of 33, threw for 312 yards, rushed for 19 yards, and had four total TDs. The Golden Knights improve to 8-0 on the season and will face Navy at home, while Temple falls to 5-4 and will travel to Houston.

Other Notable Results in the AAC

Cincinnati 42, Navy 0

Tulsa 49, Connecticut 19

Tulane 41, South Florida 15

Stats pulled via UH Cougar Football.

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Composite photo by Jack Brame

Former Astros manager Andrew Jay Hinch is on a short list of candidates to become manager of the Detroit Tigers in 2021.

The question is, after being suspended and later fired for his role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal, does A.J. Hinch deserve to manage again in baseball?

It's weird to think because so much has happened in 2020, but Hinch was suspended and fired only nine months ago. His banishment, however, ends in a matter of weeks with the final out of the upcoming World Series. At that point, he will be available to manage the Tigers or any other team. There's a possibility that the Mets are interested. Some were hoping it'd be the Astros, but the Astros are committed to manager Dusty Baker for next year. After that … never say never.

Shortly after getting the Astros ax, Hinch went on MLB TV and apologized for his role in the Astros cheating scandal. Although baseball's investigation said the garbage can banging scheme was "with the exception of (Astros coach Alex) Cora, player-driven and player-executed," Hinch took responsibility as manager and didn't challenge his punishment. No players were punished.

"I still feel responsible and will always feel responsible as the man out front," Hinch said. "As the leader, I was in charge of the team. I put out a statement to apologize. But there is something different to doing it on camera and putting a face to an apology, and saying I'm sorry to the league, to baseball, to fans, to players, to the coaches.

"It happened on my watch. I'm not proud of that. I'll never be proud of it. I didn't like it. But I have to own it. And the commissioner's office made very, very clear that the GM and the manager were in position to make sure that nothing like this happened. And we fell short."

In effect, while Hinch didn't authorize or participate in the sign-stealing scandal, he didn't do enough (really anything) to stop it. He is the rare case of being a guilty bystander.

To be clear, Hinch has not been offered the Detroit manager job. However, he has more experience and more wins under his belt than most of the other candidates being considered.

Hinch's reputation is blemished, but his credentials can't be disputed. During his five years as Astros manager, the team never had a losing season, won 100 or more games three times, including a team record 107 wins last year, made the playoffs three times and won a World Series.

Has baseball forgiven Hinch, and does he deserve another chance to manage in the big leagues? This is America, the land of forgiveness and second chances.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."

Hinch knew his team was cheating and didn't do enough to stop it. There's no defense for that. But I think he's paid enough of a price to get back in baseball.

Mike Tyson raped a woman, went to jail, and now he's practically America's sweetheart. Hillary forgave Bill. We not only forgave Confederate leaders, we built schools and statues to honor them. Martha Stewart went to jail for insider trading, now she's back on TV baking crumpets. Ozzy Osbourne was arrested for pee'ing on a monument outside the Alamo, there is no more sacred place in Texas, and now he sells out concerts at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pee-wee Herman, well, let's not say what he was caught doing, but he's planning to tour the U.S. celebrating the 35th anniversary of Pee-wee's Big Adventure movie.

Remember, Hinch was suspended for a year. It could have been worse. Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred has the power to ban people for life. Since becoming the commish, Manfred has permanently banished two people: former St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa for hacking into the Astros computer database, and former Atlanta Braves general manager, John Coppolella for signing international players illegally.

Manfred also has temporarily banned Astros assistant general manager Brandon Taubman for shouting inappropriate comments at female reporters last year. Taubman is eligible to apply for reinstatement after this year's World Series. However, if he commits one more violation of baseball rules, he will be banned for life.

Lifetime bans aren't as unusual as you might think. Since baseball's beginnings in the 1800s, dozens of players, managers and team owners have been banned, mostly, like Pete Rose and the Chicago Black Sox, for gambling-related offenses.

A.J. Hinch copped to his crime, suffered the consequences, now it's time for him to manage a baseball team again. It's not like he'd be landing a plum job with Detroit. The Tigers are out of this year's playoff picture. They lost 114 games last season. And were 64-98 the two years prior. Managing the Tigers will be punishment enough.

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