AAC Notebook: Memphis moves into Top 25

The Sports Xchange

October 04, 2015 at 9:36 pm.

Oct 2, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Memphis Tigers quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) throws a pass in the first half against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 2, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Memphis Tigers quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) throws a pass in the first half against the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium.  (Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Fuente’s rebuilding effort at Memphis is finally drawing national attention.

The Tigers moved into the coaches poll at No. 25 following its 24-17 over South Floridaon Friday. The win gave Memphis a 5-0 record, and extended its overall winning streak to 12 games dating back to the 2014 season.

Extending that further would take the best effort of the season. The Tigers next take the field Oct. 17 at home against a ranked Ole Miss squad, after a week off. For Fuente, the bye week comes at a good time, even if it comes in the midst of a great five weeks of football for his squad.

“We’ve got a lot of improvement to do,” Fuente said. “We’re going to take a couple days without practicing and we’ll be back at it Tuesday. We’ve got some specific things we want to target that we’ve got to improve on, in all phases.”

Though Ole Miss won’t go into the game undefeated — the Rebels lost to Florida 38-10 over the weekend — it’s still a marquee game against an SEC foe, and a game that could win over anyone still skeptical of the quality of this team.

“This is a big game for us; we’re not going to shy away from it,” linebacker Wynton McManis said.

Two other schools also received votes. Temple, which improved to 4-0 with a 37-3 win at Charlotte, picked up 16 votes, tied for sixth-best in the “Others Receiving Votes” section. The Owls continue to dominate after halftime, and on Saturday broke open a close game with 20 unanswered third-quarter points.

“I have to do a better job in finding a way to get the team to settle down, come out looser and play a little bit better early,” Temple coach Matt Rhule said. “I think when we come in at halftime and kind of regroup, we play together and do a lot better. I think we’re putting a lot of pressure on ourselves as players and coaches, and we just need to settle down and play.”

Navy received 12 votes after racing past Air Force 33-11. It got payback for a 30-21 loss to the Falcons a year ago and improved to 4-0.

“They worked hard for this all year,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “Last year was one of the most painful losses I have been a part of in athletics. Our guys were resolute the whole year.”


Game: Tulane 45, Central Florida 31. Five Central Florida turnovers led to 28 Tulane points as the Knights remained winless by dropping its AAC opener on the road. The Knights also allowed seven sacks and committed a season-high seven penalties.

Takeaway: As Central Florida’s injuries pile up, it’s forcing UCF to play its younger players. True freshman D’erren Wilson made his Knights debut against Tulane, and finished with seven catches for 114 yards and three touchdowns.

Next: vs. Connecticut, Oct. 10.

CINCINNATI (3-2, 0-2)

Game: Cincinnati 34, Miami 23. Hayden Moore threw for 279 yards and the Bearcats defense stifled the Hurricanes in the second half to give Cincinnati its biggest win of the Tommy Tuberville era. Cincinnati has now won 28 consecutive nonconference games at Nippert Stadium.

Takeaway: The Bearcats won despite having several key players on the sidelines due to injuries. Quarterback Gunner Kiel, running back Mike Boone, and wide receivers Chris Moore and Johnny Holton all watched the victory in street clothes.

Next: at Brigham Young, Oct. 16.

CONNECTICUT (2-3, 0-1)

Game: Brigham Young 30, Connecticut 13. UConn entered the fourth quarter tied at 10, but gave up 20 points in the final frame to fall on the road. The Huskies have now lost three in a row.

Takeaway: The Huskies defense was opportunistic, forcing three turnovers. However, when it couldn’t take the ball away, it couldn’t do much to slow down the Cougars, which outgained UConn 529-230.

Next: at Central Florida, Oct. 10.

EAST CAROLINA (3-2, 1-1)

Game: East Carolina 49, Southern Methodist 23. For the second week in a row, James Summers came off the bench to spark the offense in an East Carolina victory. The freshman completed nine of his 10 pass attempts for 153 yards and a pair of scores, and also ran for 85 yards and two more touchdowns.

Takeaway: The Pirates trailed 23-7 before scoring the game’s final 42 points to run away with the win. After three consecutive weeks of struggling to run the football, ECU totaled 306 yards on the ground and 555 overall.

Next: at Brigham Young, Oct. 10.

HOUSTON (4-0, 1-0)

Game: Houston 38, Tulsa 24. Greg Ward Jr. broke the Houston record for rushing yards by a quarterback in leading the Cougars to victory on the road. Ward ran for 182 yards and three touchdowns, and threw for 273 yards without an interception.

Takeaway: Houston dominated Tulsa on the ground, which proved decisive in the victory. In addition to Ward’s 182 yards, running back Kenneth Farrow finished with 159 yards, the ninth time he’s broken the century mark.

Next: vs. Southern Methodist, Oct. 8.

MEMPHIS (5-0, 2-0)

Game: Memphis 24, Cincinnati 17. The Tigers extended their winning streak to 12 games by outlasting the Bulls. Paxton Lynch threw for 305 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the offense.

Takeaway: Memphis still can’t seem to get off to strong starts. But after trailing 10-0, the Tigers scored the next 24 points to secure the win.

Next: vs. Ole Miss, Oct. 17.

NAVY (5-0, 2-0)

Game: Navy 33, Air Force 11. Navy forced four turnovers in avenging last season’s loss to Air Force and earning its most lopsided victory in the series since 1978. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds led the way with 183 yards on the ground.

Takeaway: While Robinson again was a dominating presence for the Midshipmen, he failed to reach the end zone for the first time this season. He’s still four rushing touchdowns shy of the NCAA record for career rushing scores.

Next: at Notre Dame, Oct. 10.


Game: East Carolina 49, Southern Methodist 23. The Mustangs took a 23-7 lead, then collapsed to lose to the visiting Pirates. East Carolina finished with 306 yards on the ground.

Takeaway: SMU’s breakdown too place on both sides of the ball. Mustang quarterback Matt Davis was sacked eight times and completed just 19 of his 37 pass attempts, and SMU managed just 40 rushing yards on 30 attempts.

Next: at Houston, Oct. 8.

SOUTH FLORIDA (1-3, 0-1)

Game: Memphis 24, South Florida 17. South Florida took a 10-point lead, but couldn’t sustain that level of play and fell to the visiting Tigers. The defense held a Memphis team that entered the night averaging 53.8 points per game to just 24.

Takeaway: It was another frustratingly close loss for the Bulls, which have played nearly everyone tough this season but have just one win to show for it. Losing the field position battle was a killer — South Florida had to start eight drives inside its own 15-yard line.

Next: vs. Syracuse, Oct 10.

TEMPLE (4-0, 1-0)

Game: Temple 37, Charlotte 3. Temple showed a bit of rust after its bye week, but rebounded to dominate Charlotte on the road. Jahad Thomas led the way with 109 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Takeaway: The Owls led just 10-3 at the half, but scored 20 points in the third quarter to end any hope of a 49ers upset. P.J. Walker was victimized by drops, but still threw for two touchdowns without an interception.

Next: vs. Tulane, Oct. 10.

TULANE (2-2, 1-0)

Game: Tulane 45, Central Florida 31. The Green Wave forced five turnovers and generated seven sacks to top the Knights in their American Athletic Conference opener. Tanner Lee threw a career-high four touchdown passes to lead the offense.

Takeaway: Tulane now has generated multiple turnovers in three of its first five games. It converted its five turnovers into 28 points, tying a single-game record for American Athletic Conference teams.

Next: at Temple, Oct. 10.

TULSA (2-2, 0-1)

Game: Houston 38, Tulsa 24. The Hurricane fell behind early and never caught up in losing its AAC opener. Tulsa finished with 456 yards of total offense, but couldn’t generate enough points to win.

Takeaway: Tulsa was in the game in the fourth quarter, getting the ball down 24-17 after a missed Houston field goal. But the Hurricane went three-and-out, and the Cougars drove right down the field and scored. Houston scored again late in the quarter to put the game out of reach.

Next: vs. Louisiana-Monroe, Oct. 10.


–Cincinnati dug itself a hole in American Athletic Conference play with its September struggles, but opened October in eye-catching fashion with a 34-23 victory over Miami.

With starting quarterback Gunner Kiel in street clothes with an injured neck, redshirt freshman Hayden Moore got his first career start. It’s unlikely to be the last. Moore threw for 279 yards and a pair of touchdowns in leading the Bearcats to victory.

What happens when Kiel is healthy enough to play again remains uncertain. The Bearcats won’t be rushing him back, since he’s been plagued by injuries throughout his Cincinnati career, but having two capable quarterbacks isn’t the worst thing in the world for a program.

“Nothing has really changed,” Moore said. “From the beginning I knew I was the back-up quarterback to Gunner (Kiel). We are both getting about the same reps and we are both getting prepared to play the same games. Either of us could play a whole game, so nothing is really going to change now.”

Moore said after the game that he’s relied on Kiel to get him prepared for what he’ll see in games, and that Kiel has been nothing but helpful.

“He has been behind me 100 percent. Literally, nothing has changed,” Moore said. “He was in the locker room beforehand, in the locker room at half time just pumping me up just telling me what reads I need to do, what they were playing, what coverage, all kinds of things.”

–The weather might be getting colder, but it’s Summers Time in East Carolina.

James Summers came off the bench for the second week in a row and proved impossible for opposing defenses to stop. He went 9-for-10 for 153 yards and two touchdown, and ran for 85 yards and a pair of scores. That quickly turned 23-7 deficit into 49-23 victory at Southern Methodist.

“They have to respect him as a runner — and James isn’t just a runner he can throw the ball too,” coach Ruffin McNeill said. “That opened up lanes for the running backs, it helped up and with the threat of pass it stretches the defense.”

Summers said that coming off the bench may not be ideal, but it’s sure working thus far.

“It’s definitely hard,” Summers said, “but my job is to be ready like coach always says — be ready for my teammates. That’s what keeps me going.”

–Tulane opened its conference slate with a 45-31 victory over a reeling Central Florida squad, but the historic moment occurred during an otherwise-unremarkable play in the fourth quarter.

When sophomore long snapper Aaron Golub walked out on the field to fulfill his duties for an extra point attempt, he became the first legally blind player to play in an NCAA football game.

“The reason why I played him is because he works so hard,” coach Curtis Johnson said. “Every morning when I’m up, and as you know, I get up early, he’s in the weight room, and he’s working. I would like to play him as much as I can, because that’s what you do; you reward kids when they work. This kid works, and he is just like everybody else. I’m going to play him as much as I can.”

Golub successfully snapped the ball holder Peter Picerelli, and Andrew DiRocco converted the kick to give the Green Wave a 45-17 lead.
“Mentally, I was ready,” Golub said. “I’ve done it in practice a thousand times. It was nothing — the same as in practice.”

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I haven’t watched film yet, but we have two weeks to prepare for it. I know the coaches are going to do a good job and were all going to get in the film room and get studying.” — Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, on preparing for the Oct. 17 game against Ole Miss.



1. The third quarter has been all Temple, all the time thus far in 2015. The Owls have outscored its opponents 54-6 in the third quarter through four games, including a 20-0 whitewash this past weekend against Charlotte.

2. Central Florida may be getting reinforcements this week. Quarterback Justin Holman and running back Dontravious Wilson both are day-to-day and may be ready to take on Connecticut on Saturday.

3. Connecticut didn’t do itself any favors with its early struggles on offense. It didn’t get a first down on any of its first five possessions.

4. Houston’s Tom Herman is just the second Houston coach ever to win his first four games. He has a long way to go to reach No. 1, however — John Jenkins won his first four games in 1990.

5. Shaq Washington doesn’t seem to have an issue with the quarterback changes at Cincinnati. He had 106 receiving yards against Miami, his second game in a row with more than 100.