Saturday Football Roundup
Nov. 22, 2008
The race for the 2008 Conference USA Football Championship is starting to clear. East Carolina will be making its first trip to the title game after it won the East Division with Saturday's 17-13 victory at UAB. Houston continues to be in the driver's seat in the West. A win next Saturday will give the Cougars the West Division title and allow them to host the Dec. 6 C-USA Championship. A Houston loss to Rice opens the door for Tulsa to win and host the championship game if it can win at Marshall. If Rice beats Houston and Marshall defeats Tulsa, then Rice will win the West and host the title game.
EAST CAROLINA 17, UAB 13
Simmons' touchdown capped a nine-play, 55-yard drive that was aided by a face mask penalty that gave East Carolina (7-4, 5-2 Conference USA)a first down at UAB's 11. Two plays later, Simmons scored to cap the drive, which was led by backup quarterback Rob Kass.
UAB (3-8, 2-5) moved to the East Carolina 40, but Pierre Bell intercepted Pirates quarterback Joe Webb at the 31 to preserve the victory after the ball skipped off the hands of tight end Zach Lankford.
The win clinched the C-USA East Division title for the Pirates and a spot in the conference championship game on December 6.
HOUSTON 42, UTEP 37
Sophomore quarterback Case Keenum's one-yard touchdown plunge with just 41 seconds remaining in the game gave the Cougars the game-winning score. Keenum, topped the 300+ yard passing mark for the 12th straight game by completing 41-of-51 passes for a career-high 480 yards and three touchdowns.
The victory improves the Cougars overall record this season 7-4 and their mark in Conference USA to 6-1, setting the stage for the important Bayou Bucket game with cross-town rival Rice, who also owns a 6-1 league mark, next Saturday.
The Miners' first drive stalled after reaching the UH 37-yard line and visitors lined up for a long field goal. The attempt, however, was blocked by Wesley Scourten and brought back by the Cougars to the UTEP 48-yard line. The play was the fourth blocked kick by Scourten this season.
Houston's first drive would end in a similar fashion as the visitors, as a field goal attempt from Ben Bell was unsuccessful. Unlike the UTEP attempt, the Bell attempt was not blocked by a defender but instead banged off the left upright.
A kick attempt would not be result of UTEP's second drive of the afternoon as the Miners were able to drive 80 yards in 12 plays to put the game's first points on the board on a four-yard touchdown run from sophomore quarterback Trevor Vittatoe.
Vittatoe made it 14-0 UTEP on the second play of the second quarter as he connected with receiver Kris Adams on a 28-yard touchdown pass.
UH was finally able to break the ice on its side of the scoreboard as Bell converted a 36-yard field goal attempt with 11:35 left in the second quarter.
UTEP (5-6; 4-3 C-USA) was the benefactor of a fortunate bounce to put seven more points on that board before halftime, as a Vittatoe pass slipped through the hands of UH defender Brandon Brinkley and into the waiting hands of Adams to make it 21-3 Miners with 8:55 to play before intermission.
The Cougars rallied behind Keenum to close the gap to 21-9 as the sophomore quarterback engineered an eight-play, 80-yard drive that was capped off by a one-yard plunge from Keenum. The ensuing extra point attempt was blocked by the Miners.
Houston's last two drives of the second quarter put them in a position to inch closer to the Miners, but a Keenum fumble and a missed field goal off the foot of Bell left them still trailing 21-9 at intermission.
The Miners took advantage of a UH miscue to put seven more points on the board, midway through the third quarter, to open their lead up to 28-9. After driving down to the UH 18-yard line, the Cougars appeared to get a momentum switching interception from senior Kenneth Fontenette, but the pick was nullified by a off sides call against the Cougars. Three plays later, Vittatoe tossed this third touchdown pass of the afternoon to a wide open Jeff Moturi.
Houston's offense finally kicked into high gear late in the third quarter. In just four plays, the Cougars marched 62 yards in 52 seconds and scored on a 15-yard completion from Keenum to freshman running back Bryce Beall.
Sophomore wideout Tyron Carrier, who enjoyed his best game as a Cougar a week ago with three total touchdowns, got the Cougars within a score as he caught short pass from Keenum and eluded a slew of Miner defenders on his way to a 62-yard touchdown. The score cut the UTEP lead to 28-23 with 13:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Carrier was the Cougars leading receiver for the second straight week, ending play with 141 yards on nine receptions.
The Miners were able to regain the momentum with 10:37 remaining as Vittatoe and Adams hooked up for the third time on the game, this time a 42-yard scoring toss to extend the visitors lead to 35-23.
Beall regained the momentum for the Cougars on their ensuing drive as he broke loose for a 71-yard touchdown that closed the gap to 35-30 with 9:34 to play. The rookie rusher from Tatum, Texas, finished with 167 yards on 19 carries while also hauling in eight catches for 96 yards.
Houston appeared to complete the comeback with a 16-yard scoring pass to Kierrie Johnson that gave them a short-lived 36-35 lead, but on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, the Miners returned an errant Keenum pass all the way for a two-pointer of their own. The return regained the lead for UTEP at 37-36 with just 4:54 remaining.
Needing a big defensive stand to give the ball back to their offense, the Cougars got one as senior defensive end Phillip Hunt collected his 11th sack of the season on third-and-long to give the ball back to UH at the 2:35 mark of the fourth.
The Cougars made the most of the opportunity, driving 59 yards on nine plays to set the stage for Keenum's deciding score.
UTEP's Hail Mary attempt during the game's final second fell harmlessly to the grass in the back of the end zone.
TULSA 56, TULANE 7
The Golden Hurricane (9-2, 6-1 Conference USA) piled up a season-high 489 rushing yards, and Adams, a senior playing his final home game, surpassed the 312 yards Mark Brus rushed for in a 1990 game at New Mexico State.
Tulsa entered the game tied with Houston in Conference USA's West Division, but faced the prospect of losing a tiebreaker unless the Cougars, who beat the Golden Hurricane 70-30 last week, drop one of their final two games.
Tulsa controlled the game against Tulane from the beginning, spreading out the injury-depleted Green Wave defense, then running Adams and Jamad Williams between the tackles.
Tulane quarterback Kevin Moore was sacked four times, but managed to complete 15 of 30 passes for 144 yards for the Green Wave (2-9, 1-6 CUSA), who were held to 232 total yards.
RICE 35, MARSHALL 10
With the victory, the Owls (8-3/6-1) reached eight wins for only the third time since 1953 and ran their conference mark to 6-1. They are tied with Houston and Tulsa for the top spot in the C-USA West, and can earn the right to host the C-USA title game with a win over Houston and a Tulsa loss next week at Marshall.
Chase Clement threw for four touchdowns and ran for a fifth to smash the C-USA career record for total touchdowns and he teamed with Jarett Dillard for a pair of touchdown passes to extend their NCAA record for a passing duo to 50 career TD passes. James Casey caught seven passes to erase Dillard's name from the Rice record book with his 92 catches this season.
Marshall and the Owls hit the midpoint of the game tied 7-7, and the Herd defense had held Rice's high-powered attack to just 147 yards. But Rice scored on their first three possessions of the second half, while the Owls defense held Marshall to just 85 yards and a field goal, registering their lowest number of points allowed since they held Houston to just seven points in the opener of the 2004 season.
Clement threw for 315 yards, topping 300 yards for the sixth time this year (one better than his 2007 effort) and passed 9,000 career yards in passing. His four touchdown passed moved him into a tie with David Klingler of Houston for 13th on the NCAA career list with 91 touchdowns.
Dillard became the 10th player in NCAA history to reach 4,000 yards of career receptions and moved into a tie with the legendary Glenn Davis of Army for 14th on the NCAA career scoring list. Dillard now has scored 354 career points, and he is one touchdown away from tying the C-USA career mark for touchdowns (60).
Corbin Smiter led the Owls receiving corps with a career-high 120 yards, his second consecutive game of better than 100 yards.
Travis Bradshaw led the Owls defense with 10 tackles, his fourth time in double figures in four career starts.
UCF 28, MEMPHIS 21
Freshman running back Brynn Harvey once again led all rushers for both teams, totaling 71 yards on 11 carries. Last weekend at Marshall, Harvey finished with a game-high 150 yards on 33 attempts.
Defensively, Sha'reff Rashad collected 11 tackles, which was one shy of his career-high. Meanwhile, Joe Burnett added to his school record by picking off his 16th pass as a Knight, which is just two short of the C-USA record. Burnett's 42 return yards on the interception surpassed teammate Johnell Neal for the UCF career record, as Burnett now has 262 yards in four seasons in a Black and Gold uniform.
Special teams ignited UCF's first touchdown of the day when Bruce Miller blocked an Arkelon Hall punt to give the Knights the ball at the Memphis 30. Harvey quickly got into the redzone on a 26-yard scamper, and Calabrese found Ricky Kay on third-and-goal for the 7-0 lead with 7:51 to go in the first quarter.
That advantage doubled to 14-0 when the Tigers got the ball back. On their second play of the ensuing drive, a bad snap enabled UCF defensive back Derrick Hallman to sprint in for the fumble recovery and he took it to the house for a 26-yard touchdown.
Although Memphis' offense sprung to life on a three-play, 69-yard drive that culminated in a 54-yard touchdown pass from Hall to Duke Calhoun with 5:40 remaining in the opening quarter, that was as close as it would get in the first half. Late in the second quarter, UCF answered with a lengthy 12-play, 82-yard drive that had two plays work in the Knights' favor. On third-and six from their own 22, Joe Weatherford connected with Kamar Aiken on a 39-yard pass play, and eventually facing fourth-and-17 on the Memphis 35, Weatherford again converted by hooking up with Brian Watters for 28 more yards. That set up Latavius Murray's one-yard touchdown run to bring the lead to 21-7 at the break.
Already with a two-touchdown cushion, UCF had possession first in the third quarter and went down the field in 3:16, as the Williams' touchdown proved to be a huge moment in the game. Curtis Steele put Memphis back in the endzone on a two-yard run with 4:52 showing on the clock in the third, and Steven Black closed the deficit to 28-21 with a three-yard run of his own mid-way through the fourth quarter.
Memphis did have three more drives in the final frame. The Tigers could not get into UCF territory on their first two attempts, but reached the Knights' 44-yard line after a fourth-down conversion. Hall spiked it on first down to stop the clock, then witnessed his next three passes fall off the mark to seal the win for the Knights.