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CFB: Week 13 Conference USA (C-USA) Championship Preview

2022 RYAN C-USA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 2
Ryan C-USA Championship (CBSSN) 6:30 pm
North Texas at UTSA

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK,
PRESENTED BY BLENDERS
EYEWEAR (WEEK 13)
OFFENSE
RB DEWAYNE MCBRIDE, UAB
Junior, Starke, Florida
McBride set the UAB single game rushing record with 272 yards in a 37-27 victory over Louisiana Tech. McBride carried the ball just 16 times, good for an average of 17 yards per carry, and also scored one touchdown. In the process, McBride established a new single season school rushing record with 1,713 yards, which is the most total rushing yards in the nation this season. McBride finished the regular season with 233 carries for 1,713 yards and 19 touchdowns (7.35 YPC).

DEFENSE
DB JAKOBE THOMAS, MTSU
Redshirt Freshman, Tullahoma, Tennessee
Thomas made the two biggest defensive plays of the game against FIU. Down one with less than three minutes to play, Thomas stepped in front of
an FIU pass and returned it 28 yards for his first collegiate touchdown to put the Blue Raiders ahead for good. Then on FIU’s last possession after reaching the MTSU 22-yard line, Thomas came up with his second interception of the game to seal the win.

SPECIAL TEAMS
K, JARED SACKETT, UTSA
Redshirt Senior, Fort Worth, Texas
Sackett kicked the game-winning field goal with three seconds left to complete UTSA’s historic 34-31 comeback victory over UTEP on Saturday in
San Antonio. The senior split the uprights from 28 yards to cap the Roadrunners’ final drive, which started with 4:03 left on the clock and the score tied at 31-all. Sackett also drilled a career long-tying 51-yarder late in the third quarter to pull UTSA to within one score after trailing 24-0 in the first half and 31-14 early in the second half. With his two makes, the Fort Worth native took over sole possession of first place on the program’s career field goals chart with 52, and he improved to 19-24 this season. He also made all four extra points and
had touchbacks on five of his seven kickoffs in the win over the Miners that wrapped up a perfect 8-0 league ledger and improved UTSA to 10-2 overall with its ninth straight victory.

QUICK HITTERS
RYAN 2022 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
No. 23 UTSA (10-2, 8-0 C-USA) will host the 2022
Ryan Conference USA Championship Game on Friday, Dec. 2, against North Texas (7-5, 6-2 C-USA) from the Alamodome in San Antonio. The game will
be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network and kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT.

North Texas at UTSA
Friday, Dec. 2 San Antonio, Texas
6:30 p.m. CT Alamodome
All-Time Series Tied 5-5
Last Meeting: at UTSA 31, North Texas 27
(Oct. 22, 2022)
TV: CBS Sports Network
Announcers: Rich Waltz (PxP), Aaron Taylor
(AN), Sherree Burruss (SL)

North Texas (7-5, 6-2 C-USA)
Website: www.meangreensports.com
Head Coach: Seth Littrell (7th year, 7th at
UNT)
Leading Passer: Austin Aune (201-350, 3,115
yards, 31 TDs, 11 INTs)
Leading Rusher: Ayo Adeyi (86 att., 690
yards, 4 TDs)
Leading Receiver: Roderic Burns (36 rec., 644
yards, 1 TD)
Leading Tackler: KD Davis (118 tackles, 63 solo)
Total Offense: 472.0 ypg (3rd in C-USA)
Rushing Offense: 204.2 ypg (2nd in C-USA)
Passing Offense: 267.8 ypg (4th in C-USA)
Scoring Offense: 34.5 ppg (3rd in C-USA)
Total Defense: 450.8 ypg (8th in C-USA)
Rushing Defense: 185.2 ypg (8th in C-USA)
Passing Defense: 265.7 ypg (9th in C-USA)
Scoring Defense: 30.1 ppg (7th in C-USA)

UTSA (10-2, 8-0 C-USA)
Website: www.goutsa.com
Head Coach: Jeff Traylor (3rd year, 3rd at
UTSA)
Leading Passer: Frank Harris (273-392, 3,524
yards, 27 TDs, 7 INTs)
Leading Rusher: Brenden Brady (156 att.,
699 yards, 9 TDs)
Leading Receiver: Zakhari Franklin (76 rec., 956
yards, 11 TDs)
Leading Tackler: Jamal Ligon (79 tackles,
36 solo)
Total Offense: 479.0 ypg (2nd in C-USA)
Rushing Offense: 173.3 ypg (4th in C-USA)
Passing Offense: 305.7 ypg (2nd in C-USA)
Scoring Offense: 37.9 ppg (1st in C-USA)
Total Defense: 407.9 ypg (5th in C-USA)
Rushing Defense: 149.5 ypg (3rd in C-USA)
Passing Defense: 258.4 ypg (7th in C-USA)
Scoring Defense: 26.5 ppg (1st in C-USA)

RYAN C-USA CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
UTSA (10-2, 8-0 C-USA), which enters its second week ranked in various polls, this week at No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 24 in the USA Today AFCA Coaches Poll, clinched the right to host the 2022 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game on Friday, Dec. 2, when it knocked off Rice 41-7 on Nov. 19 in Houston. North Texas (7-5, 6-2 C-USA) punched its ticket during the final week of the regular season with a 21-17 win at home against Rice. The 2022 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game will be televised live on CBS Sports Network, beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. CT.

This marks UTSA’s second straight trip to the C-USA title game, while North Texas makes its second appearance, and first since 2017. UTSA is looking to defend its 2021 championship, while UNT is seeking its first. This will be the 11th all-time meeting between the schools (series tied 5-5) and second meeting this season, as UTSA came from behind in the final moments of a wild, 31-27 win on Oct. 22 in San Antonio to remain unbeaten in league play.

UTSA captured the regular season C-USA crown by winning all eight league contests. Roadrunners head coach Jeff Traylor has weathered countless injuries throughout the season and is looking to lead UTSA to its second straight Conference USA title, and UTSA will be heading to a bowl for the third time in as many seasons under the former Gilmer High School coaching legend. The Roadrunners are led offensively by the three-headed monster of QB Frank Harris, WR Zakhari Franklin and WR Joshua Cephus. Harris has completed nearly 70% of his passes for 3,524 yards with 27 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. He’s also a major threat on the ground for the Roadrunners, having carried 104 times for 539 yards and eight more scores. Franklin (76 catches for 956 yards and 11 touchdowns) and Cephus (76 catches for 901 yards and six touchdowns) are Harris’ primary targets and a huge component of the offense that leads the league in scoring (37.9 ppg). Defensively, LB Jamal Ligon leads the team in tackles with 79 (36 solo) and also has 4.5 TFL, four quarterback hurries, a fumble recovery and a pair of forced fumbles. DBs Clifford Chattman and Corey Mayfield, Jr. lead the team with three interceptions apiece, while LB Trey Moore leads the team in both TFL (12.5) and sacks (6.0). K Jared Sackett (19-24 on field goals) and P Lucas Dean (45.28 yards per attempt, with 15 inside the 20 and 13 of 50+ yards) are difference makers in the kicking game as well for the ‘Runners.

North Texas makes its first trip to the championship game since 2017, and did so by winning six of eight league games, including the win over Rice last week to clinch a berth in the title game. Seth Littrell’s Mean Green have rebounded from a difficult non-conference schedule to vie for the league title and have done so with a very productive offense led by its QB Austin Aune and a very talented running game. Aune has thrown for 3,115 yards and 31 touchdowns (just one shy of the program’s single-season record, set by Mason Fine in 2017). North Texas boasts the second-ranked rushing attack in the conference, and 22nd in the country at 204.2 yards per game. WR Jyaire Shorter has caught 20 passes for 550 yards and nine touchdowns, while Roderic Burns leads all pass-catchers with 36 receptions for 644 yards and a score. A pair of talented TEs are a major component of the Mean Green offense as well – Var’Keyes Gumms has 31 catches for 438 yards and five touchdowns, while Jake Roberts has hauled in 23 passes for 342 yards and two more scores. Five running backs have 100 yards or more, and RB Ikaika Ragsdale and Isaiah Johnson have combined for nearly 800 yards and six touchdowns. Defensively it all starts with senior LB KD Davis, who leads the conference with 118 tackles (63 solo) to go along with 3.0 TFL, 1.0 sack, an interception, four quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. DB Ridge Texada leads the team with three interceptions and 15 pass break-ups for an improved secondary. K Ethan Mooney is a weapon in special teams, having made 15-18 field goals on his way to the Lou Groza Award semifinalist list.

CHAMPIONSHIP TRENDS

  • UTSA (37.9 ppg) and North Texas (34.5 ppg) rank first and third in scoring offense in Conference USA, and rank 13th and 25th, respectively in the FBS. These teams showcased their quick-score ability on Oct. 22 in the Alamodome as the teams combined for 35 points in the fourth quarter, when the Roadrunners came out on top 31-27.
  • Friday’s game pits two of the league’s top quarterbacks against one another – UTSA’s Frank Harris (ranks fifth in the country in total
    offense – 338.6 yards per game) and North Texas’ Austin Aune (leads the nation in passing yards per completion – 15.50).
  • Since C-USA began holding a conference championship in 2005, the host school is 12-5 all-time.
  • UTSA is only the second team in C-USA history to host the title game in back-to-back seasons (WKU in 2015 and 2016).
  • 2022 marked the first season since the league adopted a championship game that the league operated without divisions.

C-USA CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS
Here are the results and MVP’s of the first 17 C-USA
Football Championship Games:
2021 at UTSA 49, WKU 41
MVP: Sincere McCormick, RB, UTSA
2020 UAB 22, at Marshall 13
MVP: Spencer Brown, RB, UAB
2019 at Florida Atlantic 41, UAB 6
MVP: Chris Robison, QB, Florida Atlantic
2018 UAB 27, at Middle Tennessee 25
MVP: Spencer Brown, RB, UAB
2017 at Florida Atlantic 41, North Texas 17
MVP: Kalib Woods, WR, Florida Atlantic
2016 at WKU 58, Louisiana Tech 44
MVP: Anthony Wales, RB, WKU
2015 at WKU 45, Southern Miss 28
MVP: Brandon Doughty, QB, WKU
2014 at Marshall 26, Louisiana Tech 23
MVP: Justin Haig, K, Marshall
2013 at Rice 41, Marshall 24
MVP: Luke Turner, RB, Rice
2012 at Tulsa 33, UCF 27 (OT)
MVP: Trey Watts, RB, Tulsa
2011 Southern Miss 49, at Houston 28
MVP: Tracy Lampley, RB, Southern Miss
2010 at UCF 17, SMU 7
MVP: Latavius Murray, RB, UCF
2009 at East Carolina 38, Houston 32
MVP: Dwayne Harris, WR, East Carolina
2008 East Carolina 27, at Tulsa 24
MVP: Travis Simmons, DB, East Carolina
2007 at UCF 44, Tulsa 25
MVP: Kevin Smith, RB, UCF
2006 at Houston 34, Southern Miss 20
MVP: Kevin Kolb, QB, Houston
2005 Tulsa 44, at UCF 27
MVP: Garrett Mills, TE, Tulsa

POSTSEASON AWARDS TIMELINE
Here is a look at the schedule for announcement of
the league’s 2022 postseason awards. Awards are
voted on by the league’s head football coaches.
Thu., Dec. 1 All-Academic Team Announced
Tues., Dec. 6 All-Conference, All-Freshman Teams Announced
Wed., Dec. 7 Individual Awards Announced

HARRIS IS TOTALLY OFFENSIVE
UTSA QB Frank Harris ranks fifth in the FBS in total offense (338.6 yards per game). The redshirt senior ranks 12th nationally in passing yards per game (293.7). Harris is also 19th nationally in completions per game (23.36), fifth in completion percentage (69.6%), ninth in points responsible for (214), and 11th in points responsible for per game (17.8). Harris has completed 273-392 passes for 3,524 yards with 27 touchdowns (13th in FBS), only seven interceptions and has also carried 104 times for 539 yards and eight more scores in 12 games thus far in 2022.

MCBRIDE LEADS THE NATION
UAB RB DeWayne McBride leads the nation in rushing yards per game (155.7) and rushing yards (1,713), ranks third in the FBS in scoring per game (10.4 ppg), is seventh in all-purpose yardage per game (156.64), third in rushing yards per carry (7.35) and second in rushing touchdowns (19). McBride has carried 233 times for 1,713 yards with 19 touchdowns in just 11 games played thus far in 2022.

REED MAKING MAJOR IMPACT FOR WKU
WKU QB Austin Reed ranks fourth nationally in total offense (342.2 yards per game). The graduate transfer ranks second nationally in passing yards per game (326.8), is tied for the lead in the FBS in points responsible for (272), fourth in points responsible for per game (20.9), third in passing touchdowns (36), and fourth in completions per game (27.15). Reed has completed 353-548 passes for 4,247 yards with 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while also carrying 87 times for 199 yards and eight more scores in 13 games thus far in 2022.

TAKEAWAYTOPS

WKU enters the postseason as the national leader in turnovers forced (30 in 13 games). The Hilltoppers are tied for third in the country in interceptions with 17. WKU has brought six of their 30 forced turnovers back for touchdowns, which leads the FBS.

MTSU PICKS IT
Middle Tennessee enters the postseason are tied for third in the country in interceptions with 17, and DB Decorian Patterson is tied for the individual national lead with six.

NORTH TEXAS PUNCHES TICKET TO CUSA TITLE GAME
North Texas (7-5, 6-2 C-USA) pulled out a hard-fought 21-17 win at home on senior day to punch its ticket to the 2022 Ryan C-USA Championship Game to take on UTSA in San Antonio on Friday night on CBS Sports Network. The Mean Green were led offensively by RB Ikaika Ragsdale, who totaled 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He carried 17 times for 122 yards and a score and caught six passes for 59 yards and another touchdown. QB Austin Aune was efficient, completing 16-29 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions in the win. Defensively, LB KD Davis led the way with 13 total tackles, a tackle for loss and the game-sealing interception late in the fourth quarter. Fellow LB Larry Nixon III also posted 13 stops on the day for the Mean Green.

WKU OUTLASTS FAU 32-31 IN OT
WKU (8-5, 6-2 C-USA) picked up an overtime win, 32-31 at FAU (5-7, 4-4 C-USA), after a successful two-point conversion in the extra frame. The win briefly kept the Hilltoppers in the title game chase – though North Texas’ win over Rice eventually shut down a return trip for WKU. QB Austin Reed threw for 410 yards and scored four total touchdowns (three through the air). RB Davion Ervin-Poindexter carried 17 times for 108 yards in the win. WR Malachi Corley caught eight passes for 127 yards and two scores, while fellow WR Jaylen Hall hauled in eight catches for 118 and another touchdown. The win marked the first time this season that the Hilltoppers won when forcing less than two turnovers in a game. WKU now awaits its bowl destination, which will be settled on Sunday, Dec. 4.

UAB BOOKS TRIP TO THE BAHAMAS BOWL
UAB (6-6, 4-4 C-USA) took care of business on the road at Louisiana Tech (3-9, 2-6 C-USA), with a 37-27 win in Ruston. Doak Walker Semifinalist and All-America hopeful RB DeWayne McBride carried 16 times for a program-record 272 yards to go along with a touchdown in thewin for the Blazers. His partner in the backfield, Jermaine Brown, Jr., also had a big day on the ground, carrying 22 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. The Blazers scored on a blocked punt return for a touchdown, and their defense was paced by LB Reynard Ellis, who recorded a game-high 18 tackles (11 solo), a half sack, 1.5 tackles for loss and a pass break-up.

UTSA BEATS UTEP 34-31 IN THRILLER IN SAN ANTONIO
USA Today AFCA Coaches Poll No. 25 UTSA (10-2, 6-2 C-USA) came back to beat UTEP (5-7, 3-5 CUSA) 34-31 on Saturday afternoon in San Antonio to complete a perfect 8-0 record in league play. The Roadrunners were once again led by QB Frank Harris, who completed 16-22 passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. WR Zakhari Franklin (seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown) and WR Tykee Ogle-Kellogg (four
catches for 142 yards and a touchdown) were his primary targets on the day. The Miners raced out to a 24-0 lead in the first half, but the game turned on a pick-six just before the half by LB Dadrian Taylor, who jumped a route and returned it 73 yards for a score, cutting the deficit to 24-14. UTSA then mounted the comeback, as K Jared Sackett connected on a game-winning 28-yard field goal with four seconds remaining.

MTSU CLOSES REGULAR SEASON AT 7-5 WITH 33-28 AT FIU
Middle Tennessee (7-5, 4-4 C-USA) concluded its regular season on a high note with a 33-28 win in Miami against FIU (4-8, 2-6 C-USA). The Panthers held a fourth quarter lead at 28-27, but a pair of fourth quarter interceptions doomed their attempt to finish their season in the win column. One of those interceptions came in the final three minutes while the Panthers were nursing a one point lead, as Middle Tennessee DB Jakobe Thomas intercepted a pass on third down and scampered 28-yards to paydirt to put the Blue Raiders on top. His second interception in the final seconds sealed the win for Middle, who now await their bowl fate, having closed the season winners of three straight and four of the last five. Fellow DB Decorian Patterson also picked off a pair of passes in the win.

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