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CFB: Week 6 Conference Notes: Conference USA (C-USA)

UPCOMING GAMES (ALL TIMES CT)

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 8
Middle Tennessee at UAB (Stadium) 2:30 pm

WKU at UTSA (ESPN+) 5 pm

UConn at FIU (ESPN3) 6 pm

UTEP at LA Tech (ESPN+) 6 pm

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK, PRESENTED BY BLENDERS EYEWEAR (WEEK 5)
OFFENSE
QB FRANK HARRIS, UTSA
Redshirt Senior, Schertz, Texas
Harris broke his own school records for passing yards and total offense for the second straight week to lead UTSA to a 45-30 road victory over Middle Tennessee in the C-USA opener on Friday night. Harris completed 27-36 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 31 yards and a pair of scores to help the offense churn out a season-high 590 yards. Harris reached the 300-yard mark through the air before halftime, notching his fourth 300-yard game of the season and seventh of his career, both school records. Harris leads the FBS in total offense (383.4 ypg) and he ranks second nation- ally in passing yards (1,724), seventh in completions per game (26.2) and 10th in points responsible for (98). The Schertz Clemens High School product now owns 30 UTSA records and is one of only 11 active FBS quarterbacks with 7,000-plus passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in his career.

DEFENSE
DB RIDGE TEXADA, NORTH TEXAS
Sophomore, Frisco, Texas
Texada finished the day with four tackles (all solo), four pass breakups, a tackle for-loss, two interceptions and an interception return for a touchdown in the win over Florida Atlantic. Texada’s 58-yard interception return for a touchdown with 9:22 left in the first half marked the first career interception for Texada and the first interception return for a touch- down for UNT since Kemon Hall’s against Arkansas on Sept. 15, 2018. On his second interception, Texada’s 58-yard interception return to the FAU 1-yard line set up a Mean Green touchdown to take a 42-21 lead with 8:23 left in the third quarter. Texada became the first UNT player with two interceptions in a game since DeShawn Gaddie had two against UTEP on Dec. 20, 2020 and Texada is only the 13th UNT player since 2000 with two interceptions in a game. The last time a UNT player had more than four pass breakups was in 2011, when Royce Hill had five in a game.

SPECIAL TEAMS
K, GAVIN BAECHLE, UTEP
Senior, McKinney, Texas
Baechle scored a season-high 11 points (5-5 PATs, 2-2 FG) in UTEP’s 41-35 win at Charlotte on Saturday. Baechle extended his streak to 11 consecutive made field goals after hitting on a 22-yard make that gave the Miners a 10-7 edge in the first quarter, while hitting a 29-yarder late in the third that pushed UTEP’s lead to 34-21. Baechle is now 11-for12 on field goals on the season. He leads Conference USA in made field goals (11), attempts (12) and FGM/game (1.8). Nationally, Baechle ranks third in field goals made and is tied eighth in field goals made/per game. Baechle’s efforts helped UTEP win its first league game of 2022, while also ending its dreaded winless streak in the eastern time zone (1- 26-1).

QUICK HITTERS
A LOOK AT WEEK 6
Seven C-USA teams are in action this week, with a trio of league contests, with all games taking place on Saturday. UAB hosts Middle Tennessee at 2:30 p.m. CT to kickoff the weekend, while WKU travels to UTSA in a rematch of last season’s championship game at 5 p.m. CT. FIU hosts UCONN in the lone nonconference game of the week for C-USA schools, at 6 p.m. CT for homecoming and the final game of the week pits UTEP against Louisiana Tech in Ruston, also at 6 p.m. CT. Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas and Rice are all on byes this week.

Middle Tennessee (3-2, 0-1 C-USA), travels to Birmingham to take on UAB (2-2, 0-1 C-USA) on Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. CT on Stadium. Both teams are in search of their first C-USA win of the season, after Middle fell 45-30 last Friday night at home against UTSA, while UAB dropped a close one on the road, 28-24 at Rice.

WKU (3-2, 1-0 C-USA) heads to San Antonio on Saturday to battle UTSA (3-2, 1-0 C-USA) in a rematch of last year’s C-USA Championship Game at 5 p.m. CT on ESPN+. Saturday’s game features the No. 1 passing offense in the country (UTSA) and the No. 5 passing offense in the country (WKU) and the league’s top two scoring teams – WKU at 43.4 ppg and UTSA at 38.6 ppg. UTSA swept the Hilltoppers in two meetings last season, and look to make it three straight when they meet in the Alamodome.

FIU (2-2) is coming off its first FBS win since 2019 when the Panthers upset Miami following last week’s comfortable 21-7 win at New Mexico State. FIU welcomes UCONN (2-4) for Homecoming on Saturday night at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN3. UCONN also picked up its first FBS win in quite some time – 2019 at UMass – after beating Fresno State 19-14 last week. Both programs are in transition with new head coaches – Mike MacIntyre at FIU and Jim Mora, Jr. at UCONN.

The final game of the night is another conference duel between UTEP (3-3, 1-1 C-USA) at Louisiana Tech (1-3, 0-0 C-USA) in Ruston at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN+. UTEP has won two straight, beating Boise State two weeks ago and Charlotte on the road, 41-35, last week, while Louisiana Tech had its bye last week after completing its non-conference slate at 1-3, most recently falling 38-14 at South Alabama on Sept. 24.

SHORTER, TEXADA LEAD UNT TO 2-0 START
North Texas (3-3, 2-0 C-USA) improved to a perfect 2-0 start in league play with a comfortable 45-28 win over Florida Atlantic (2-4, 1-1 C-USA) on Saturday afternoon. WR Jyaire Shorter hauled in three catches for 52 yards, all of which went for touchdowns in the win. The Mean Green racked up 300 yards on the ground, and were paced by RB Ikaika Ragsdale, who carried 19 times for a team-high 119 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, DB Ridge Texada had a career day, picking off a pair of passes, one of which he returned for a touchdown (and the other he returned to the FAU 1), broke up four passes, recorded four tackles and a TFL in the win. Dating back to last season, the Mean Green have now won seven consecutive league contests.

RICE TAKES DOWN UAB 28-24 IN HOUSTON
Rice (3-2, 1-0 C-USA) opened its conference season with a bang at home, defeating UAB (2-2, 0-1 C-USA) 28-24 in a back-and-forth affair Saturday night. The Owls capitalized on a 14-play, 82-yard drive that culminated in a TJ McMahon touchdown pass to Dean Connors from six yards out to put them on top for good, with 9:02 to play in the final period. Rice is now 3-0 at home this season, and continued to give the Blazers trouble, picking up its second straight win in the series. With UAB driving late, Rice’s defense recorded a pair of sacks on the final three plays to seal the victory.

UTEP HOLDS ON AT CHARLOTTE, 41-35
UTEP (3-3, 1-1 C-USA) held on 41-35 at Charlotte (1- 5, 0-2 C-USA) to pick up its first conference win of 2022, and even its overall record at 3-3. QB Gavin Hardison was efficient for the Miners, throwing three touchdowns on 10-14 passing with 173 yards, while the duo of RBs Deion Hankins (20 carries for 112 yards) and Ronald Awatt (13 carries for 88 yards) were effective on the ground. WR Tyrin Smith hauled in four catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the win as well. DE Jadrian Taylor had a monster game for UTEP, recording four tackles, three sacks, forcing a fumble and returning another 100 yards for a score to help lift UTEP to the program’s first ever win in the Eastern Time Zone (UTEP is now 1-26-1 in such games).

FIU PICKS UP ROAD WIN AT NM STATE, 21-7
FIU (2-2) traveled to Las Cruces to do battle with future conference mate New Mexico State (1-5) on Saturday night and left with a 21-7 win to even its overall record at 2-2 under new head coach Mike MacIntyre. Heading into this season, FIU had dropped 18 of its previous 19 games dating back to 2019. Offensively, QB Grayson James completed 13-19 passes for 175 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and also ran for 43 more yards in the win. WR Tyrese Chambers led the way for the FIU receivers, hauling in six grabs for 72 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, the Panthers held the Aggies to just 221 yards of total offense (82 on the ground) in the win. The seven points allowed were the fewest allowed by FIU since Oct. 5, 2019 in a 44-0 win over UMass. The Panthers return home next week to host UCONN in search of their third win, and second straight.

UTSA TAKES DOWN MIDDLE 45-30
UTSA (3-2, 1-0 C-USA) opened its defense of the Conference USA title with a 45-30 road win at Middle Tennessee on Friday night. The Roadrunners rolled up nearly 600 yards of total offense (590), including a program record 423 through the air, 414 of which were courtesy of QB Frank Harris. The league’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year completed 27-36 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns, while also picking up 31 yards and two scores on the ground. Uncharacteristically, however, Harris threw three interceptions. Middle’s defense, which entered the week ranked second among C-USA schools, now has 12 turnovers gained on the season, an FBS-leading three of which have been brought back for touchdowns after DL Jordan Branch recorded a pick six in the fourth quarter to draw the Blue Raiders within one score, at 38-30. DB Decorian Patterson intercepted a pair of Harris passes, giving him four on the season and three in the past two weeks. UTSA’s three-headed monster at receiver were at it again on Friday night, as De’Corian Clark led the way with eight catches for 139 yards, while Joshua Cephus hauled in seven grabs for 91 yards and Zakhari Franklin had five catches for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns. RB Brenden Brady also turned in a strong performance for the visiting Roadrunners, carrying 19 times for 98 yards and a score in the win.

HARRIS LEADS FBS IN TOTAL OFFENSE
UTSA QB Frank Harris leads the FBS in total offense (383.4 yards per game). The redshirt senior ranks third nationally in passing yards per game (344.8). Harris is also seventh nationally in completions per game (26.2).

TAKEAWAYTOPS

WKU enters Week 6 third nationally in turnovers forced (14 in five games), behind just USC and Coastal Carolina, who have 15 each. The Hilltoppers are fourth nationally in interceptions with nine. WKU has brought three of their 14 forced turnovers back for touchdowns, which is tied for second most in the FBS.

MTSU DEFENSE SHINING
Middle Tennessee is also on the national leaderboard in terms of turnovers forced, entering Week 6 ranked ninth in the nation with 12 in five games, and their +7 turnover margin ranks best in C-USA and ninth nationally. The Blue Raiders have intercepted nine passes, which ranks fourth, and like their rivals WKU, have brought three turnovers back for touchdowns, ranking second in the country. Individually, DB Decorian Patterson is tied for the national lead in interceptions with four through five games after picking two off last week against UTSA.

ROADRUNNER WR TRIO SHOWING OUT
UTSA may have the best receiving trio in the nation – as WRs De’Corian Clark, Joshua Cephus and Zakhari Franklin are each within the top-20 in receiving yards per game (111.2, 100.6 and 98.2, respectively) and have combined for 14 touchdowns. Clark hauled in eight catches for 139 yards, Cephus caught seven passes for 91 yards and Franklin had five catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns last week in the win at Middle Tennessee.

MCBRIDE IS DOMINANT
UAB RB DeWayne McBride has been a dominant force in the run game for the Blazers thus far in 2022 – he leads the nation in rushing yards per game (173.7) and is ninth nationally in yards per carry (6.95). Through three games played, McBride has 75 carries for 521 yards with six touchdowns. He also ranks second in the country in all-purpose yardage per game (173.7).

Mikey Balhan Sports

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