Photo courtesy of Marshall Athletics
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (Sports Network) -
EAST CAROLINA: The Pirates (7-4, 6-1) are now tied with UCF atop the East Division standings after their 28-23 win over Tulane on Saturday. ECU will be headed to the league championship game if its win and the Knights lose. Shane Carden propelled the victory over the Green Wave by passing 215 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 36 yards on the ground. Vintavious Cooper paced the rushing attack with 87 yards on 15 carries. He now needs just 22 to hit the 1,000-yard mark for the season. The defensive unit played very well against Tulane as it held the Green Wave to nine rushing yards. The pass defense was great as well with six total sacks of Ryan Griffin. ECU will close out its regular season on Friday when Marshall comes to town.
HOUSTON: The Cougars (4-7, 3-4) found out on Saturday that they will not be going to a bowl game under first-year head coach Tony Levine, as they were outdueled by Marshall in a 44-41 shootout at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Houston went into the fourth quarter down by 14 points and trailed by three with just over a minute remaining before Matt Hogan chipped in a 28-yard field goal to tie it up. The Thundering Herd managed to move down the field quickly to put Justin Haig in position to make the game-winning field goal from 45 yards away. Senior quarterback Crawford Jones made his first career start in the loss. He finished with career-highs of 316 yards and five touchdowns on 31- of-44 passing. Deontay Greenberry made a team-best six catches for 60 yards and a score while Dewayne Peace and Xavier Maxwell caught two touchdown passes each. Philip Steward paced the defense with 16 total stops, two tackles for loss, and a sack. Houston's 2012 campaign will end with a home bout versus Tulane on Saturday.
MARSHALL: Doc Holliday's bunch kept its hopes of going to another bowl game alive as Justin Haig drilled a 45-yard field goal with just seconds left on the clock to push the Thundering Herd (5-6, 4-3) past Houston to a 44-41 decision. Marshall was excellent on offense once again and tied a school- record with 37 first downs. Rakeem Cato went 32-of-50 for 377 yards and three scores with two interceptions. The sophomore sensation also provided a rushing touchdown, while Kevin Grooms racked up a career-high 155 yards on 21 carries. Tommy Shuler made nine catches for 105 yards, which leaves him five shy of Troy Brown's program single-season record of 101. Antavious Wilson made his senior day even more memorable by reeling in one of Cato's touchdown passes. Jermaine Holmes was all over the place on the defensive side of the ball which led to a game-high 16 total tackles. Marshall will gain bowl eligibility with a win over East Carolina in Greenville on Friday, but a loss will end the team's season.
MEMPHIS: The Tigers (3-8, 3-4) have a chance to close out their season on a three-game winning streak after their 46-9 rout of UAB at Legion Field on Saturday. Jacob Karam and Brandon Hayes produced three touchdowns each in the third career win of rookie head coach Justin Fuente. Karam was nearly perfect under center, completing 14-of-16 attempts for 147 yards without an interception. In addition to his three rushing scores, Hayes gained a career- high 127 yards on 19 carries. Keiwone Malone made a huge impact and gave the Tigers great field position on multiple occasions by racking up 112 yards on five punt returns. He also helped the team as a wideout with 42 yards and a touchdown on two receptions. The defensive unit registered a season-high of six sacks to chip in. The Tigers play their final game as a member of the conference this weekend when they host the winless Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.
RICE: The Owls (5-6, 3-4) picked up their third win in a row with an impressive 36-14 victory over SMU at home. Place kicker Chris Boswell kicked five field. Taylor McHargue finished 24-of-36 for 297 yards and a pair of passing touchdowns. He also ran for another score late in the fourth quarter. Vance McDonald led the Owls' receivers with seven receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown. Cody Bauer had a strong showing on the defensive side of the ball with three tackles for loss, two sacks, and a forced fumble. Jared Williams also registered two sacks for Rice, which now is one win shy of bowl eligibility with one game left on its schedule. The Owls will try to earn a postseason berth when it places its Lone Star State rival Texas-El Paso on the road on Saturday.
SMU: The Mustangs (5-6, 4-3) failed to become bowl eligible as they suffered a 36-14 setback to Rice. Graham Gilbert extended his streak of games without an interception to four, but he was sacked four times and held to 214 yards on 15- of-27 passing. Darius Johnson made six receptions for 153 yards while Zach Line rushed 19 times for 94 yards and the team's only two touchdowns. Coach June Jones and his team will be in a do-or-die scenario when they close out their regular season at Tulsa on Saturday, which will also be the final regular season for SMU as a member of the conference before it migrates to the Big East.
SOUTHERN MISS: The Golden Eagles (0-11, 0-7) came up just short of their first win of the season as they fell to Texas-El Paso in Hattiesburg. Arsenio Favor rushed two yards for a touchdown with just under three minutes remaining to make the score 34-33 and elected to go for two. However, Favor's pass was intercepted and the Miners hung on to that lead the rest of the way. Favor completed 16- of-22 attempts for a career-high 374 yards and two touchdowns in the loss Quentin Pierce made just two receptions to gain 125 yards and a touchdown while Dominique Sullivan turned two catches into 80 yards and a score. Jamie Collins anchored the defense with a team-high eight tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. USM's FBS leading losing streak reached 11 games. Coach Ellis Johnson will try to pick up his first career win on Saturday when the Golden Eagles end their regular season with a trip to Memphis.
TEXAS-EL PASO: The Miners (3-8, 2-5) ended a two-game losing slide with a hard-fought 34-33 win over Southern Miss in a thriller in Hattiesburg. Autrey Golden broke a fourth quarter tie with a 98-yard kick return for a touchdown. The Golden Eagles managed to score with under three minutes left to play, but Demarcus Kizzie intercepted Arsenio Favor's pass on the ensuing two-point conversion try to keep UTEP ahead by one point. Blaire Sullivan had a decent outing in his second career start at quarterback with 155 yards on 9-of-15 passing. He also tallied 98 yards and a touchdown on the ground while Nathan Jeffery produced 76 yards and two rushing scores. UTEP will end its 2012 season on Saturday with a home game versus Rice.
TULANE: The Green Wave (2-9, 2-5) continued to be limited by their non- existent rushing attack as they were handed a 28-23 loss by East Carolina at home on Saturday. Tulane, which entered the week ranked 119th in the nation in rushing with a mere 42.3 ypg, ran the ball a total of 22 times in the outing and finished with an average of 0.4 yards per attempt. Although it held its opponent under 400 yards of total offense for the second straight week, Tulane's own total of 302 yards was 85 shy of its opponent. Ryan Griffin did a decent job under center, completing 36-of-57 attempts for 293 yards and two touchdowns. Ryan Grant extended his streak of consecutive games with a catch to 19 by reeling in 10 receptions for 94 yards. The junior wideout surpassed the 1,000 yard mark in the process. Zach Davis paced the defense with 14 tackles while Shakiel Smith and Jordan Batiste recorded interceptions to give the team a chance. Tulane concludes its 2012 season on Saturday when it visits Robertson Stadium to tangle with the Houston Cougars.
TULSA: The Golden Hurricane (9-2, 7-0) clinched the West Division crown with a 23-21 comeback victory over UCF at home. Tulsa trailed by three points at the intermission before a 13-0 run in the third quarter put it in front for good. Cody Green led the way by completing 21-of-34 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns. Trey Watts paced the rushing attack with 122 yards on 20 attempts while Keyarris Garrett torched the Knights' defense for game-high totals of 130 yards, three touchdowns, and seven receptions. The Golden Hurricane's defensive unit had its second best showing of the season with only 235 allowed yards. Tulsa will aim for its third win in a row when it closes out its regular season at SMU on Saturday.
UAB: The Blazers (3-8, 2-5) had their two-game winning streak halted as they were dismantled in a 46-9 loss to Memphis at home. Freshman Austin Brown was consistently pressured by the Tigers' defense while under center, and was sacked a total of six times. Brown finished with 187 yards, one touchdown, and one interception on 23-of-41 passing. Darrin Reaves, who racked up 573 yards in his three prior outings, was held to just 38 yards on 14 carries. Marvin Burdette made a team-best 10 tackles and registered 1.5 tackles for loss. The Blazers have a chance to knock their opponent out of the conference title game hunt on Saturday when they visit Orlando to play UCF.
UCF: The Knights (8-3, 6-1) suffered their first loss in league action when they were defeated, 23-21, by Tulsa at H.A. Chapman Stadium. UCF was held to a season-low 235 yards of total offense as star running back Latavius Murray managed only 60 yards on 22 attempts. Blake Bortles finished 13-of-31 for 169 yards and a touchdown. Coach George O'Leary's team is now tied with East Carolina at the top of the East Division standings, but it holds the upper hand due to its win over the Pirates earlier in the season. A win in the regular-season finale versus UAB on Saturday will punch the Knights' ticket to the conference championship game.