The UH/AAC Report

Short week offers Houston an opportunity for redemption

D'Eriq King breaks AAC single season TD passing record Houston Cougar Football Facebook

Temple 59, Houston 49

Houston’s season has lost all of the luster it gained two weeks ago after being ranked No. 17 in the AP Top 25 poll. They are in a two game losing skid, and in a three-way tie sitting at 4-2 in the AAC West with SMU and Tulane. Offense is definitely not an issue for Houston, but they have somehow lost two games this season when scoring at least seven touchdowns. (Texas Tech, Temple).

Saturday’s Homecoming game was also accompanied by the celebrations of the 243rd Marine Corps Birthday and Veteran’s Day, but these celebrations were spoiled very early. A blocked punt induced by the Owl’s special teams was capitalized 70 seconds after kickoff by RB Ryquell Armstead; Who had 30 carries, 210 rushing yards, and a AAC record breaking 6 rushing TDs. Temple QB Anthony Russo had a quiet game mainly due to the effectiveness of their rushing attack; He went 14 for 22, threw for 217 yards, and 0 TD’s. After an early 14-point explosive start from the Owls, the Cougars would try to tie the game, but it took them almost 13 minutes and 15 play drive to finally score a touchdown. Houston played from behind the entire game and would never even tie it, the closest score margin was 7 points. On a positive note, King broke UCF’s QB McKenzie Milton’s AAC 2017 single season touchdown record by surpassing 45 TDs with two games left in the season. He went 28 for 46, threw for 322 yards, had 6 total TDs, and had 1 INT.

The question remains as to what the defensive adjustments will be after Ed Oliver departs. Defensive Coordinator Mark D’Onofrio is definitely on the chopping block, but you can make the case that many of his key players are sidelined due to injuries that have ended their seasons. Oliver has sat for the last three games due to a knee contusion suffered after receiving a nasty chop block vs. Navy in Annapolis. Head Coach Major Applewhite has held Oliver from doing press conferences mostly to protect him from the difficult position he is in right now and what is to come in the future since he is a projected top five NFL draft pick next year. On Tuesday evening, it was reported that he would sit out again this week vs. Tulane. Regardless, Houston continues to be one of the worst defenses in the FBS, ranking last in pass defense, 121st in total defense, 116th in third down defense, out of 129 schools. Unacceptable.  

The one good thing for Houston is that it is a short week. They have a shot at reconciliation and the opportunity for a division lead against Tulane at home on Thursday night. But it won’t be easy, Tulane is on a three game winning streak that includes a 41-15 blowout win over USF. This game could be another one of those typical AAC shootouts with no defense. (Hint: I would bet the over at 67.5) Houston must also keep an eye out on SMU, who holds the tie breaker against them in case of a tie at the end of the season. UH falls to 7-3 for the season, and 4-2 in the AAC West. Temple improves to 6-4 for the season, and 5-1 in the AAC East.

Tulane 24, ECU 18

The Green Wave won in front of their homecoming crowd on Saturday night. However, they lost their top pass rusher Patrick Johnson in the first half due to a targeting ejection and will also sit out the first half vs. Houston. Green Wave QB Justin McMillan went 12 for 28, threw for 372 passing yards, had 3 TDs, and 0 INTs. WR Darnell Mooney had 6 receptions for 217 yards and 2 TDs. ECU falls to 2-7 on the season and will face Connecticut in Greenville, NC. While Tulane improves to 5-5, 4-2 in the AAC West, and will play Houston for the division lead on Thursday at TDECU stadium.

UCF 35, Navy 24

The Golden Knights extend their win streak to 22 games after their win on Saturday vs the Midshipmen in Florida. McKenzie Milton had an easy night; he went 17 for 21, threw for 200 yards, rushed for 62 yards, had 3 total TDs, and 0 INTs. UCF ran the ball for 70 percent of their plays, where the rushing corps went for over 250 yards and accounted for 3 TDs. UCF maintains the No. 12 ranking in the College Playoff Rankings and will face a tough Cincinnati team on Saturday night. Navy drops to 2-8 and will play against Tulsa at home.

Other Notable Results in the AAC

SMU 62, UConn 50

Memphis 47, Tulsa 21

Cincinnati 35, USF 23

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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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