Cincinnati football clinched the American Athletic Conference East Division in Cincinnati fashion over the weekend.
The Bearcats held off Temple, 15-13, on Saturday night in Cincinnati for the Bearcats to improve to 7-0 in league play. It has not been dominant, however, with four of those victories decided by three points or less to go with its 10-1 overall record.
“Is this the way we drew it up and the exact way we wanted to play? No, but right now it happens to be the way the thing is going,” Bearcat coach Luke Fickell said Monday on the AAC coaches teleconference of his team’s not-so-convincing wins. “It doesn’t mean that you don’t need to get better and adjust. I think all of those things are about growing during a season, but when it really comes down to it, the only way to really grow is to face some adversity. When you can have that adversity without a loss, I think you can learn a lot more from it.”
Cincy switched places with league member Memphis this week in the AP poll, the Bearcats now at No. 18 and Memphis 17th. Navy is No. 24.
Sorting out the West
Memphis can clinch the West Division with a victory against Cincinnati on Friday, but a Bearcat win will leave the door open for Navy to take first place in the West if it beats Houston on Saturday night.
Navy created that scenario when it produced 25 total points in the second half to rally past SMU, 35-28.
“It’s not part of our structure to watch (the Memphis-Cincinnati game together),” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said of the contest scheduled for Friday in Memphis at 3:30 p.m. on ABC. “It’s the old coaching cliche that we can only control what we can control. ... But they know that if Cincinnati is to win then it gives us an opening. Kids recognize that and everyone is on social media and sees it.”
The Midshipmen took their final lead over the Mustangs in rainy Annapolis, Md., on a 70-yard touchdown run by quarterback Malcolm Perry with 6:11 remaining. Perry earned AAC offensive player of the week thanks to 195 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 38 carries, and he completed 9-of-15 passes for 162 yards and another TD.
“SMU is really good,” Niumatalolo said. “It was senior day and we were able to possess the ball on offense, which definitely helps, and Malcolm had another outstanding performance and at different points in the game put our team on his back.”
Connectictut’s 31-24 loss to East Carolina was the Huskies’ 18th straight league defeat dating back to 2017.
ECU was in control early in the second half, but the Huskies rallied to a 24-24 tie on Cam Ross’ 94-yard touchdown reception with 9:28 remaining. The Pirates’ were then able to use the run game with Darius Pinnix and Holton Ahlers to score again and seal their victory to drop the Huskies to last place in the AAC East.
“It was an exciting game against ECU that came down to the last couple of seconds,” UConn coach Randy Edsall said. “I thought defensively we did some good things, because ECU was hot team coming in here, and we did a pretty good job against the run for three quarters and then the fourth quarter we didn’t do as good. They also made a couple plays on us on some deep balls.”