Entering Week 7, Houston and Navy were 1-2 in the AAC West. Exiting it? Not so much.
At 2-0, Houston led the conference’s West division. At 3-1, No. 25 Navy was right behind. In a span of about a half-hour Saturday, however, both teams put the finishing touches on losses, the former to Tulsa 45-17 and the latter to Memphis 30-27.
The Cougars’ loss, especially the margin, is borderline stunning as the Golden Hurricane came into the contest sporting a 1-5 overall record and a 0-2 mark in conference play. Just a week ago, Tulsa was taken to the woodshed by West rival Tulane in a 62-28 whooping.
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ win over the Midshipmen, coupled with the Cougars’ loss, pushes the U of M to the top of the division with a 3-1 record in conference play. While unranked, Memphis could replace Navy in the Top 25 when the new set of rankings are released Sunday afternoon.
Also lurking in the division are SMU, which enters the weekend 1-1 and will leave with the same mark as the Mustangs are on their bye, and Tulane, also 1-1 and will be that way entering Week 8 as they face Conference USA’s Florida International Saturday night.
The best defensive player in the country may not be in action this weekend for an increasing big game in conference play.
No we’re not talking about Florida State’s Derwin James or LSU’s Arden Key, but Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver. The All-American defender was injured last week early in his game against Temple and may not be back this week either for a contest against in-state rival SMU that could have big implications on the AAC title race.
The Houston Chronicle relays that Houston head coach Major Applewhite gave an update on Oliver’s status — officially a MCL sprain in his left knee — during his weekly radio show Wednesday and it does not sound like the team is counting on the defensive tackle’s return to the lineup on Saturday.
“He’s feeling better,” Applewhite told the radio station. “We will continue to evaluate him day in and day out and see how he’s doing at game time.”
Oliver earned a host of honors last season for the Cougars and has picked up where he left off this season by being borderline unblockable. Stats don’t tell the whole picture in terms of his impact but the sophomore has recorded 23 tackles and two forced fumbles already this season in leading his team to a 3-1 start.
If Oliver isn’t able to go, 6-foot-3, 290 pound sophomore Aymiel Fleming would start in his place after taking over against Temple last week.
Unfortunately, Houston has become all too familiar with this type of issue, and involving players named D.J. no less, over the past few years.
In UH’s Week 4 home loss to Texas Tech, D.J. Small sustained what was only described as an internal injury following an in-game collision. The defensive back had been hospitalized ever since the incident, but was released Wednesday.
Unfortunately for the true freshman, that’s where the good news ends as Small has been ruled out for the remainder of the 2017 season, the Houston Chronicle reported. Even in that there’s a sliver of a silver lining as he may be able to get a year of eligibility back through a medical hardship waiver.
Small was a two-star member of the Cougars’ 2017 recruiting class. Because of injury, he had slid into a backup corner slot prior to the game in which he suffered the injury.
In 2013, and thanks to the quick-thinking work of Houston’s medical staff, UH cornerback D.J. Hayden survived a practice injury so severe — and normally associated with high-speed car accidents — that it’s 95-percent fatal. He was released from the hospital a week after an injury that involved a major vein being torn from his heart.
That certainly didn’t last long.
In mid-June, Houston announced former Miami defensive lineman Courtel Jenkins was one of four Power Five transfers who had been added to Major Applewhite‘s roster. A little over three months later? Jenkins is no longer on the roster.
No reason for the departure was given.
While Jenkins was not eligible to play in games this season, he had been practicing with his Cougar teammates. After this year, he has one year of eligibility remaining.
The past three seasons, Jenkins, a three-star member of the Hurricanes’ 2014 recruiting class, appeared in 34 games at The U. He started seven of those contests, with all seven of those coming in 2015.
In 2016, he was credited with 11 tackles in 10 games. 4.5 of those were tackles for loss, a total that was tied for 10th on the team.
In early February, Miami announced that Jenkins had been dismissed from the football program for violating unspecified team rules.
As Houston prepares for a game that could quickly become a shootout of sorts with Texas Tech, the Cougars could have one more wide receiver good to go this weekend. D’Eriq King is expected to make his season debut for the Cougars this week after missing the past two games coming off an offseason knee injury.
Houston head coach Major Applewhite announced on the radio he feels his young wide receiver option is finally ready to get back at it, and it could come at no better time.
As a freshman in 2016, King caught 20 passes in 10 games for 228 yards and a touchdown. King was expected to be a contributor to the offense this season. Having a healthy receiver is going to be key against a Texas Tech offense that will not shy away from the pass.