Conference USA: Week 10
Sat., Nov. 6 @ 11:00 am CT
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Alabama-Birmingham Blazers
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Louisiana Tech will look to break out of a four-game slump on Saturday as the Bulldogs take on UAB at 11 a.m. CT in Birmingham, Ala.
Saturday’s game will mark Louisiana Tech’s first game played in the month of November since 2019.
Louisiana Tech did not play a game in November in 2020 after having its four games against North Texas, Rice, ULM and FIU postponed and/or canceled due to injuries, COVID-19 positive cases and contact tracing.
LA Tech last faced UAB in a thrilling double overtime victory, 37-34, in Ruston on Oct. 31, 2020.
Redshirt freshman kicker/punter Jacob Barnes nailed the 35-yard field goal in the second overtime period to lift Louisiana Tech to the 37-34 win.
For the first time in program history, LA Tech’s first five games of the 2021 campaign were decided by a single possession.
Six of LA Tech’s eight games in 2021 have been decided by a single possession, the most since seven Tech games were decided by one possession in 2011.
Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz earned his 150th career win as a FBS head coach in the 45-42 victory over Southeastern (Sept. 11).
Two Tech seniors have appeared in at least 50 career games as Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in linebacker Ezekiel Barnett and defensive back Zeno Hannibal. >> Since joining the league in 2013, Louisiana Tech leads Conference USA with 211 forced turnovers.
Four Bulldog wide receivers have registered over 200 receiving yards this season in sophomore Smoke Harris (455), redshirt freshman Bub Means (375), freshman Tre Harris (347) and graduate Samuel Emilus (257). >> LA Tech’s three starting linebackers have each registered double-digit stops in a game this season in freshman Tyler Grubbs (11 at ODU, Oct. 30; 13 vs. SMU, Sept. 18), senior Trey Baldwin (11 at ODU, Oct. 30; 12 at UTEP, Oct. 16, 11 at No. 23 NC State, Oct. 2), and senior Ezekiel Barnett (10 vs. SMU, Sept. 18).
Brothers Levi Bell and Ben Bell have combined for six of LA Tech’s 11 sacks this season
Series Record …………………………………………………………………………LA Tech leads, 6-3
in Ruston ………………………………………………………………………………..LA Tech leads, 3-1
in Birmingham ………………………………………………………………………LA Tech leads, 3-2
Neutral Site ……………………………………………………………………………………………………N/A
in Postseason Play ……………………………………………………………………………………….N/A
Most LA Tech Points ………………………………………………. 54 (LA Tech, 54-23, 1998)
Most UAB Points ………………………………………………34 (LA Tech 37-34, 2OT, 2020)
Most Combined Points …………………………………………. 77 (LA Tech, 54-23, 1998)
Biggest LA Tech Win………………………………………………. 19 (LA Tech, 54-23, 1998)
Biggest UAB Win ………………………………………………………………21 (UAB, 28-7, 2018)
Current Streak …………………………………………………………………………………….LA Tech 1
UAB HOSTS LOUISIANA TECH FOR SALUTE TO SERVICE GAME:
In what has become a very competitive and closely contested rivalry, UAB and Louisiana Tech meet on Saturday at Protective Stadium. Since UAB returned to action in 2017, the Blazers and Bulldogs have meet four times with UAB winning three of those games. However, three of the four contests have been one-possession games, including last year’s double overtime thriller. UAB controls its own destiny of capturing a fourth straight C-USA West Division title. If the Blazers win out, they will be crowned champions once again.
DEFENSE CREATING TURNOVERS:
The UAB defense ranks 29th nationally with 14 turnovers gained so far this season. UAB has eight interceptions and six fumble recoveries. The Blazers have registered at least one takeaway in seven straight games and have 12 takeaways in their last six games. Last week against Rice, both Antonio Moultrie and Justin Thomas had fumble recoveries. Additionally, UAB ranks 23rd in total defense and looks to end the season strong in hopes of finishing top 10 nationally for a fourth
HOPKINS UNDER CENTER:
Quarterback Dylan Hopkins is averaging 206 passing yards per game in five starts this season. He is coming o” a career-high 318 passing yards against Rice. Despite seeing limited action in the first two games, Hopkins has thrown for 1,291 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions this season. In 10 career starts, Hopkins has already cracked UAB’s top 10 for career touchdown passes (14), and is approaching the top 10 for career passing yards (needs 706 more yards).
PRINCE EYES JOHN MACKEY AWARD AND OTHER NATIONAL RECOGNITION:
Senior tight end Gerrit Prince is having an All-American worthy season. Prince enters this week’s game with 21 catches for 471 yards and seven touchdown receptions. He is leading all tight ends in yards per reception (22.43), while ranking third in touchdown receptions (7). His seven touchdown receptions are tied for eighth most in a single season at UAB, and his 12 career touchdown receptions currently ranks him seventh all time.
39 WINS AND COUNTING:
UAB has won 39 games since returning to action in 2017, the most wins of any C-USA team during that span. The Blazers are 39-19 overall dating back to the 2017 season and are the first C-USA team in league history to win their division three years in a row (2018-2020). UAB has been dominant against league action, compiling an overall record of 27-8 vs. Conference USA and a mark of 20-4 against West divisional opponents during that span.
Sat., Nov. 6 @ 2:00 pm CT
North Texas Mean Green at Southern Miss Golden Eagles
North Texas Mean Green
• North Texas ended a six-game losing streak last Saturday with a 30-24 overtime win at Rice.
• The Mean Green beat Rice despite the Owls scoring a very late 4th quarter touchdown to send the game into overtime. After forcing a missed field goal by the Owls, UNT scored on its first possession in overtime on a Ayo Adeyi 1-yard touchdown run to secure the victory.
• A win Saturday at Southern Miss would mark the first time the Mean Green won consecutive road games since Sept. 22, 2019 at Liberty (47-7) and Oct. 6, 2018 at UTEP (27-24).
• All four of UNT’s touchdowns at Rice last week were scored on the ground. Freshman walk-on running back Ayo Adeyi had two of the rushing touchdowns, which is a single-game high for him.
• UNT’s defense had one of its best performances of the season last week at Rice led by linebacker KD Davis who had a single-game career-high 18 tackles. Davis was one of four Mean Green defenders who had 10 or more tackles at Rice.
• North Texas’ offense has been most dangerous on the ground this year. UNT leads Conference USA and ranks 18th in the nation in rushing offensive with an average of 216.63 rushing yards per game. The Mean Green lost running back Oscar Adaway III to an injury before the season started, but freshman walk-on Ayo Adeyi has emerged behind fourth-year starter DeAndre Torrey, who ranks 10th in FBS and first in C-USA in rushing yards per game at 112.0.
• LB KD Davis is having a monster year. Through eight games he has 12.0 tackles for loss, which ranks tied for seventh in the nation and second in C-USA. He had a career-best 4.0 tackles for loss at Missouri on Oct. 9. He’s had three games this year with 3+ tackles for loss. His 78 total tackles are tied for 11th in the nation entering Saturday. Davis is averaging 9.8 tackles per game.
• UNT’s overtime win over Rice last Saturday was its first overtime game since 2016 when it played two overtimes twice and its first overtime win since Sept. 24, 2016 when it beat Rice 42-35 in double overtime.
• Senior DL Dion Novil leads C-USA and is tied with the FBS national lead in blocked kicks with two.
SOUTHERN MISS HISTORY
• North Texas leads the all-time series history with Southern Miss, 8-7.
• The series history dates back to Oct. 2, 1954 when the Mean Green beat USM 15-7 in Denton.
• Current Mean Green head football coach Seth Littrell is 3-2 all-time versus Southern Miss. He began his UNT coaching tenure with three straight wins over the Golden Eagles including a 43-28 win in Hattiesburg on Sept. 30, 2017.
• Last year North Texas lost to Southern Miss 41-31 on Oct. 3, 2020 in Denton. It was quarterback Austin Aune’s first career start. He threw for 339 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the game.
• In last year’s game versus Southern Miss, UNT linebacker KD Davis had a then career-high 14 tackles.
• Following the Saturday battle at Southern Miss, UNT goes back home to host UTEP on Saturday Nov. 13.
• The Mean Green are on a four-game winning streak over UTEP. They beat the Miners last season 45-43 in Denton but was technically a road game for the Mean Green but the game couldn’t be played in El Paso due to COVID-19.
• Saturday’s game at Southern Miss will be a homecoming for UNT defensive back Quinn Whitlock and running back DeAndre Torrey. Whitlock is from Pinola, Mississippi, which is about an hour northwest of Hattiesburg and Torrey is from Gautier, Mississippi, which is along the gulf near the Alabama border roughly an hour and a half from Hattiesburg.
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Noting the Golden Eagles
• Southern Miss is playing in its 105th football season, having first fielded a team in 1912. The Golden Eagles are 605-445-27, which is 40th best among FBS teams by winning percentage (.574).
• The Will Hall era got its first victory over Grambling State 37-0 as the Golden Eagles posted their first shutout since 2017. He became the top man of the program on Dec. 2, 2020 (formally introduced on Dec. 7). Hall is the school’s 22nd full-time head coach.
• Southern Miss had a string of five-straight winning seasons snapped last season after finishing 3-7. Coach Jay Hopson resigned following the opening game against South Alabama and the program used two interim coaches – Scotty Walden and Tim Billings – during the year. The program has collected 23 winning seasons over the last 27 and appeared in 18 bowl games during that time. Nuggets From the Middle Tennessee Contest
• Jake Smithhart, who was a student coach for much of the year and was activated to the roster in recent weeks, saw his first action at QB. He was 0-for-1 in the game.
• Jason Goldstein took the fi nal snap of the game, marking the eighth player to play under center this season for the Golden Eagles. That is the most by any FBS program in 2021.
• Jason Brownlee collected his third receiving touchdown of the year in the opening quarter on a 12-yard pass from Jake Lange. Brownlee finished with a career-best nine catches for 120 yards. It was his second 100-yard receiving game and fifth of his career.
• Frank Gore, Jr., enjoyed his most rushing yards of 83 on 20 carries since collecting 162 yards against Grambling State this season. It was the first time this season Gore did not record a catch in a game.
• Grayson Gunter tied a career-high for catches with three for 34 yards.
• Cole Cavallo added a career-high for catches with three for six yards.
• The defense forced a season-high four turnovers (3 fumbles, 1 interception).
• The defense allowed just 14 points in the contest as Middle Tennessee scored seven points each on an interception, a fumble and a blocked punt return.
• The Golden Eagles limited Middle Tennessee to 287, which was the second time this season they held an opponent to under 300 total offensive yards.
• Despite being behind at the half 21-7, the Golden Eagle defense limited the Blue Raiders to 93 yards over the first two quarters.
• Rachuan Mitchell registered his first sack of the year, and second of his career, on third down to end the game’s opening drive.
• Santrell Latham recovered his first fumble of the year on Middle Tennessee’s second drive, and the Golden Eagles converted their first points of the game. He ended the game with two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble, his fourth forced fumble of the year.
• Eric Scott, Jr., posted his first career interception on the Blue Raiders’ third drive.
• Briggs Bourgeois converted his sixth field goal of the year in nine tries in the third quarter with a 38-yarder.
• Mason Hunt collected a 53-yard punt in the contest and now has 12 for the season. It was also the sixth game this season he had a punt of 50-or-more yards.
The North Texas Series
• This will be the 16th meeting between the Golden Eagles and Mean Green with Southern Miss leading 8-7 in the series
• Southern Miss has won the last two games in the series, winning in Hattiesburg 45-27 in 2019 and 41-31 last season in Denton (see page 3 for last season’s recap).
• Southern Miss is 4-3 in games played in Hattiesburg.
• The Golden Eagles are also 4-4 in Conference USA games since the Mean Green joined the league in 2013.
• The winning team in this contest has scored at least 40 points in four of the last six games.
• The Mean Green have two players from the state of Mississippi on their roster, including RB DeAndre Torrey who hails from Gautier (Gautier HS/Miss. Gulf Coast CC) and DB Quinn Whitlock of Pinola (Mendenhall HS/Co-Lin CC).
Sat., Nov. 6 @ 3:30 pm ET
Rice Owls at Charlotte 49ers
INSIDE THE SERIES • This is the third meeting between the two schools with the Owls having won the first two.
• Rice took the first meeting between the two, 27-7 at Rice Stadium in 2015, breaking open a scoreless tie with 27 straight points in the second half to win on Senior Day for the eighth consecutive year.
• Rice lost a bid for its first shutout since 1995 when the 49ers scored on a 56-yard pass play with 2:16 left in the game.
• In first meeting in Charlotte, the Owls spotted the 49ers a 21-0 led in the first half before rallying to win 22-21 thanks to a pair of Tyler Stehling touchdown runs in the second half while the Rice defense shut out Charlotte.
• The win was the first for Rice in the state of North Carolina…. The Owls are 1-6-1 all time in the state (1-0 at Charlotte, 0-3 at Duke; 0-1-1at Wake Forest; 0-2 at East Carolina).
• Rice is 5-3 vs. those teams when playing at Rice Stadium and also owns a win over North Carolina in the Cotton Bowl.
Saturday’s game will be the final of four consecutive Homecoming games for Rice. The Owls opened the stretch two weeks ago at UTSA at UAB before hosting North Texas last week for Rice’s 101st Homecoming.
Rice is 55-74 (.426) in Conference USA since joining the league in 2005. Rice has an overall mark of 31-32 in Conference USA at Rice Stadium, 0-1 at NRG Stadium and 24-41 on the road. The Owls have won seven of their last 12 conference games, including five of the last seven away from Rice Stadium.
THREE IN THREE FIGURES
Jake Bailey became the third Rice receiver to top 100 yards in a game this year with his career-best 143 yards on 10 receptions against North Texas. Cedric Patterson III totaled 108 vs. Texas Southern while August Pitre III matched him with 108 at UAB. They are the first trio to top 100 yards receiving in a season for the Owls since 2015 (Dennis Parks, 163; Nate German, 138; Zach Wright 116). Bailey’s 143 yards matched Austin Trammell’s 2020 effort at Southern Miss as the 10th best receiving output for an Owl in C-USA play.
Rice will be looking to open with three consecutive wins in a series for the first time as a member of C-USA and the seventh time since 1949 on Saturday when they face Charlotte. Rice most recently opened play against UTSA by winning the first three meetings (2012-14), but the first game of that series was prior to the Roadrunners joining the conference. The last team the Owls opened with three straight wins while also being in the same conference was Hawai’i (1999-2001). Rice’s
three wins vs. Alabama are the most wins by any school vs. the Crimson Tide without a loss.
GREEN AND TAYLOR HONORED
Quarterback Wiley Green and safety Gabe Taylor picked up multiple honors for their performances in Rice’s 30-24 win over defending Conference USA champion UAB on 10/23. They were named C-USA’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week, the first Rice teammates to be honored by the conference the same week since Chris Boswell (special teams) and Charles Ross (offense) were recognized in 2013 after the Owls’ 52-14 win over LA Tech. They were the first Owls to capture the offensive and defensive honors for Rice since Jarett Dillard and Brian Raines were cited for their performance against SMU in 2006 while leading the Owls to a 27-24 win which clinched their first bowl berth since 1961. Taylor was earned weekly honors from the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award and the Frisco Bowl, while Green was named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose honorable mention list.
Rice handed UAB its first home loss in a conference game since the program restarted in 2017. The Blazers had won 15 consecutive conference home games prior to Saturday. Rice’s last two road wins have snapped notable streaks for the hosts. The Owls ended a 10-game conference winning streak for Marshall in 2020 with their 20-0 win.
Charlotte Owns 3-1 Home Record; 9-3 All-Time at Home under Healy
Charlotte Looks to Snap Two-Game Skid
NCAA Top 20 in Time of Possession (9th; 33:40); Red Zone Defense (19th; .750)
Red Zone Defense (Scores: .750; 21-of-28; TDs: .571; 16-of-28)
Byrd Tops C-USA in Kick Return Yardage (413 yds; 25.8/gm)
Charlotte Goes 1-1 vs. Power 5 Opponents; Topples Duke for First Power 5 Win
Former Walk-On Chris Reynolds Becomes All-Time Leader in Passing Yards; Passing TDs
Will Play 100th Game in Program History vs. Marshall, Nov. 20
HOME SWEET HOME
Charlotte, which has played just one home game since Sept. 24, is 3-1 at home and averages 30.0 points. CharloƩ e is 9-3 at home in its three years under head coach Will Healy.
Charlotte leads C-USA:
Kick Return average (25.48/ret.) Punt Return defense (4.50/ret.)
KR Shadrick Byrd leads C-USA in KR yds (413); 2nd in KR avg. (25.8) on pace to break 49ers single-season record: 22.9/ret.
K Jonathan Cruz 56-yard FG at WKU (Ties school record; matches longest in FBS, 2021) 5-of-6 (.833) in career from 50 or more yards
P Bailey Rice season-best 65-yard punt at WKU; 41.6 season avg. Punt of 50+ in each of last two games
Charlotte is 7-5 all-Ɵ me vs. C-USA West Division foes, including a 4-0 mark in 2 years under Healy
Charlotte is playing in its fifth home game but just its second of the season on a Saturday
Charlotte ranks 2nd in C-USA and 9th in the NCAA in Ɵ me of possession (33:40)
Charlotte, which ranks 19th in the nation in redzone defense, has forced 5 redzone turnovers WR Victor Tucker notched his school-record tying 13th career 100-yd. rec. game, this year, nine of which have come against C-USA opponents WRs Grant DuBose (561 yds) and Victor Tucker (553 yds) could become the 49ers first duo to
surpass 600 receiving yards in a season
At 4-4, Charlotte has matched the best start in school history (2013; 2018) Charlotte has never started a season 5-4
Charlotte is averaging 39.0 points in its four wins with an 11.5 avg margin of victory 13 different 49ers have scored Charlotte’s 25 TDs (8 rush; 16 passing; 1 defense) 8 different receivers have caught the 49ers 16 passing TDs
RS Senior QB Chris Reynolds, who began his career as a walk-on and now stands as the 49ers all-Ɵ me leader in career passing yards and passing TDs, was named to the Davey O’Brien Award 40-member QB Class of 2021 and was a mid-season addition to the Manning Award Watch List. Reynolds has twice been named C-USA Player of the Week.
NOTES OF INTEREST
Calvin Camp and Chris Reynolds lead the 49ers with 3 rushing TDs Eight different receivers have caught TD passes for the 49ers
Leaders: Grant DuBose 5, Elijah Spencer 3, Victor Tucker 2, Shadrick Byrd 2 Six of of those eight caught their first career TD pass as a 49er, this year (DuBose, Spencer, Byrd, Ryan Carriere, Jairus Mack, Jake Clemons) Four different receivers caught TD passes in the win at FIU, including three tight ends WR Grant Dubose (64th, 70.1/g) & Victor Tucker (66th; 69.1/g) rank in nation’s top 70 DE Markees Watts is 5th in C-USA and ranks 54th in the nation with 0.62 sacks/gm Watt had a season-best 2.0 sacks at FIU
LB Justin Whisenhunt had 3.0 TFL at FIU, the most by a 49er this year
K Jonathan Cruz (56-yd FG at WKU) owns school record for FGM of 40+ yds (15-22; .682) Cruz is 5-of-6 (.833) all-Ɵ me from 50+ (included in the 40+ numbers)
KR Shadrick Byrd leads C-USA and ranks 17th in the NCAA with 413 kick return yds (25.8/g) had a pair of returns of over 55 yards at FIU. Both returns set up scores Career-best 60-yard return; 57-yd return (2 returns; 117 yds; 58.5 avg.) First 49er with 2 50+ returns in one game Matches Aaron McAllister (App State, 2020) for most return yds (117) on 2 returns
Sat., Nov. 6 @ 2:30 pm CT
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
OPENING KICK u The Blue Raiders have gained 25 turnovers this season and 15 of those have come at home in just three games. The 25 turnovers lead the nation.
MT has blocked four kicks this season to rank 2nd nationally for most blocked kicks.
MT has picked off 13 passes this season to rank first in C-USA and 3rd nationally.
MT has 14 current players on its roster competing with a degree in hand. The student-athletes are Amir Rasul, Reed Blankenship, Jarrin Pierce, Will Gilchrist, Alex Usry, Cody Smith, Eric Magwood, Martell Pettaway, Raheme Fuller, Ja’Kerrius Wyatt, Wayne Parks, Chase Cunningham, CJ Windham and Joeseph Sewell.
MT is 40-26 all-time in C-USA play (2018 title game not included) and is averaging 184.1 yards rushing per game.
Consecutive Start Leaders: Jarrin Pierce (18), Greg Grate (18), and Reed Blankenship (17).
Under Rick Stockstill, the Blue Raiders have been involved in 27 games that were decided in the final minute of regulation or overtime. The team is 16-11 in those games and have won 12 of the last 17.
Rick Stockstill is third on the school’s all-time wins list with 98 victories.
In 194 games under Rick Stockstill, the Blue Raiders are +31 in turnover margin.
MT has scored 30 or more points 86 times in 194 games under Rick Stockstill.
Between Rick Stockstill, Tommy West and Scott Shafer the Blue Raider staff has a combined 33 years of head-coaching experience with all but one of those years at
the FBS level.
The 2021 season is the 107th for Blue Raider football and the 23rd at the FBS level
A LOOK AT THE SERIES
The oldest and most played series in Conference USA belongs to Middle Tennessee and WKU. The Blue Raiders own a 35-34-1 advantage in a series that began in 1914. WKU has won five of the last six meetings, including last year in Murfreesboro. MT is 14-19 all-time in Bowling Green with the last win coming in 2012.
Eight of the last 10 meetings have been decided in OT or by less than one score.
GOOD IN NOVEMBER
Under Rick Stockstill, the Blue Raiders have enjoyed success down the final stretch of the season in November. Over its last 33 games in the month of November, the Blue Raiders are 22-11 and have won 14 of its last 22. Overall under Stockstill, MT carries a 34-21 mark in November which is the most wins of any month. They have also won nine of their last 12 home November games.
The Middle Tennessee defense has had its share of inconsistency this season but the unit is excelling in gaining turnovers. After eight games, MT has gained 25 turnovers to lead the nation with 12 fumble recoveries and 13 interceptions. MT forced six turnovers against Marshall, which went down as the most since the Blue Raiders forced seven against Charlotte in 2015, then followed that with three at Liberty, three at UConn and five against USM (17 in the last four games). MT forced 14 total turnovers in nine games all of last year.
Middle Tennessee owns four blocked kicks this season to rank second nationally and the four blocks are the most by the Blue Raiders since they had five rejections in 2014. The Blue Raiders have two blocked punts and two blocked field goals with three of the four credited to defensive linemen. Under Rick Stockstill, the Blue Raiders have blocked at least one kick all 16 years and have 48 total.
‘FERG’ WREAKING HAVOC UP FRONT
Junior defensive end Jordan Ferguson is having a career year in 2021 and has been highly disruptive. Ferguson leads the team with 13.0 TFLs (1st in C-USA, 3rd nationally), 7.5 sacks (ranks 1st in C-USA, 9th nationally) and 11 hurries while also adding three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. His 7.5 sacks equal the fourth most in a single-season at MT and is four shy of tying the all-time record.
Through eight games of 2021, the Blue Raider defense has intercepted 13 passes which ranks first in C-USA and 3rd nationally. The 13 picks are the most by the Blue Raiders since they recorded 16 in 2018. Eight different players have accounted for the 13 interceptions.
SPECIAL SEASON FOR ULBRICH
Punter Kyle Ulbrich, who set career highs at UTSA with 10 punts for 441 yards and five downed inside the opponent 20-yard line, is having a strong junior season. The Ray Guy Award candidate is averaging 44.6 yards a punt which would be the best mark of his career to go with 14 kicks of 50 or more yards and 18 punts downed inside the opponent 20-yard line (which is already 6 more than his season-best total of 12 and leads C-USA). For his career, Ulbrich has had 34 punts of 50-plus yards and he has pinned the opponent inside their 20 a total of 39 times.
SCORING IN ALL PHASES … AGAIN
A huge key to success in college football is to be sound in all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams. The Blue Raiders have scored in all three phases this season two different times which is the most of any team in the FBS this year. The Blue Raiders scored in all three phases in the opener against Monmouth which was the first time they had accomplished that feat since Aug. 30, 2014 against Savannah State. MT did it a second time this year by scoring all three ways in a win over Southern Miss.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
NOTING THE GAME
The teams will meet for the 71st time, with the Blue Raiders holding a 35-34-1 all-time advantage. But the Hilltoppers have won five of the past six matchups.
The first meetings between WKU and Middle Tennessee were in 1914 and 1915, with the Blue Raiders winning both by a score of 47-0. The two played four times in five years from 1921-to-1925, then in every year from 1928-to1936. After not meeting in 1937 or 1938, they faced off once per year from 1939-to-1941. After a 10-year haitus, the two matched up in every season from 1952-to-1991 except for 1986. They did not play their close rival from 1992-to2006, but the two have faced off in every season since 2007 except for 2013. In six matchups from 2011-to-2017, four of them went into at least double overtime. WKU won 36-33 in 2011 in 2OT, Middle Tennessee won 50-47 in 2014 in 3OT, WKU won 44-43 in 2016 in 2OT and WKU won 41-38 in 2017 in 3OT. WKU is 20-15 all-time in Bowling Green, while Middle Tennessee is 20-14-1 in Murfreesboro. Since 1940, the past 54 meetings have alternated hosts.
ZERO TO 10,004
WKU returned zero passing yards from the 2020 season. Enter graduate transfer quarterback Bailey Zappe, whose 10,004 yards at Houston Baptist from 2017-to-2020 led all active CFB passers to begin the season. Now at 13,411 yards after 3,407 through his first eight games as a Hilltopper, Zappe still tops the list, which is located on PAGE 8. You can also find notes on his HBU career (PAGE 15) and first few games at WKU (PAGE 30) in this package.
Through eight games, Zappe’s numbers are comparable to Brandon Doughty’s 2015 season in which he set WKU’s all-time passing record (5,055) in 14 games, as well as Texas Tech’s B.J. Symons’ 2003, in which he set the FBS all-time passing record (5,833) in 13 games: Bailey Zappe: 279-of-391 (71%) for 3,407 yards, with 33 TD and 6 INT Brandon Doughty: 234-of-327 (72%) for 3,034 yards, with 27 TD and 5 INT B.J. Symons: 304-of-459 (66%) for 3,914 yards, with 36 TD and 11 INT
STERNS: ALSO A STUD
Wide receiver Jerreth Sterns is also nipping at the heels of the all-time greats. Through eight games, Sterns’ numbers are comparable to Taywan Taylor’s 2016 season in which he set all-time records (98 catches for 1,730 yards, with 17 touchdowns) in 14 games. East Carolina’s Zay Jones set the FBS record with 158 receptions in 12 games in 2016, and Nevada’s Trevor Insley’s 2,060 yards in 11 games in 1999 is the all-time FBS mark: Jerreth Sterns: 93 receptions for 1,166 yards, with 11 touchdowns Taywan Taylor: 64 receptions for 993 yards, with 8 touchdowns Zay Jones: 114 receptions for 1,094 yards, with 4 touchdowns Trevor Insley: (In search of game-by-game stats for TI’s 1999) In his collegiate career, Sterns has 313 receptions for 3,137 yards and 29 touchdowns in 34 games played between Houston Baptist (27) and WKU (8). He has 14 100-yard receiving games and 15 double-digit reception performances
Sat., Nov. 6 @ 6:00 pm ET
Marshall Thundering Herd at Florida Atlantic Owls
Marshall Thundering Herd
Notes vs. FIU
With Saturday’s win, Marshall now leads the all-time series with FIU, 7-2. The Thundering Herd has won three consecutive games in the series. The Marshall defense recorded its first shutout of an FBS opponent since Nov. 17, 2018 against UTSA. The 38-yard punt return by Willie Johnson in the second quarter is a career long. Johnson entered Saturday’s game with 39 career yards on punt returns. Sheldon Evans’ 41-yard touchdown run in the second quarter is the eighth rushing score of his career and the longest run of his career (previous long: 26 yards). Freshman running back Rasheen Ali recorded his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season. Ali has scored at least one rushing touchdown in six of eight games and has five multi-TD games. Ali now has 15 rushing touchdowns this season, which puts the freshman running back into the Top 10 single season rushing touchdowns list.
Defensive back Steven Gilmore recorded his third interception of the season and sixth of his career. Daytione Smith recorded his first career sack. Defensive end Koby Cumberlander recorded two tackles for a loss for the second time in his career (Sept. 18, 2021 vs. East Carolina).
Feeling the Sunshine
Since the beginning of the 2013 season, Marshall is 16-4 in games contested in the state of Florida and/or against Florida schools.
Herd Stymies Opponents in the Red Zone
After FIU failed to score on its only red zone appearance against Marshall, Herd opponents have scored points on just 61 percent of their red zone opportunities, which ranks Marshall at No. 4 among the nation’s stingiest red zone defenses.
Ciucci Keeping Streak Intact
With his five extra points in as many attempts against FIU, Ciucci is now 58-for-58 in his career. In the win over the Panthers, he moved past Tyler Warner (54 straight, 2010- 11) and Scott LaTulipe (55 straight, 1982-84) on Marshall’s all-time PAT streak list.
The only Marshall placekickers ever to log longer PAT streaks than Ciucci are Tim Openlander (91 straight, 1994- 95), and Justin Haig, who had streaks of 103 straight (2011- 13) and also 102 straight (2013-14).
Gaines Moves Up
Senior tight end Xavier Gaines had 40 receiving yards, which pushed him into the No. 5 spot on the program’s all-time receiving yards by a tight end list. Gaines passed Gator Hoskins, who had 1,318 yards from 2010-13. Gaines now has 1,320 career receiving yards. He’s 34 yards away from Ryan Yurachek for No. 4. Gaines now has 97 career receptions. He moved past Eric Ihnat (1988-90) and is now No. 7 all-time among Herd tight ends, one behind Hoskins for sixth place.
In 2021, the Marshall defense has now held six of its first eight opponents to 180 or fewer passing yards. The Herd is currently ninth nationally in pass defense, allowing an average of 171.2 yards per game.
Third Quarter Stinginess
Marshall allowed its first points in the third quarter in the loss at Middle Tennessee, although the Herd DEFENSE has still yet to yield any points in the third period.
Marshall ranks No. 8 in the nation in total offense (503.4) and passing yards (334.9) per game.
-17 plays of 40+ yards (fifth nationally)
-50 plays of 20+ yards (11th nationally)
-143 plays of 10+ yards (13th nationally)
-23 plays of 30+ yards (19th nationally)
Individually, Rasheen Ali leads the nation with his 17 touchdowns and his 12.8 points per game. With 15 rushing touchdowns, he’s now No. 2 in the nation, one behind BYU’s Tyler Allgeier. Ali’s two touchdowns against FIU moved him past Doug Chapman (16 in 1996) into a tie for third place on Marshall’s all-time list for touchdowns scored by freshmen with Doug Freutal (1919). Wells ranks No. 9 in the nation with his average of 313.4 passing yards per game.
Through eight games, Marshall is No. 6 in the nation in quarterback sacks per game (3.5). Bowl Prowess
Marshall enters 2021 featuring a .750 winning percentage (12-4) in all NCAA-sanctioned bowl games, the highest mark nationally among programs that have made at
least seven appearances. (The Thundering Herd also participated in the 1948 Tangerine Bowl, at which point it was not sanctioned). The leaders are below:
1. Marshall: .750 (12-4)
2. Utah: .739 (17-6)
3. Army: .667 (6-3)
4. Rutgers: .667 (6-3)
5. Ole Miss: .658 (25-13)
6. Louisiana Tech: .654 (8-4-1)
7. Oklahoma State: .645 (20-11)
8. USC: .642 (34-19)
9. San Jose State: .636 (7-4)
10. Syracuse: .635 (16-9-1)
Protecting the Home Turf
Marshall is nationally known for being one of the toughest places to play in college football. The program has won 82.0 percent (173-38) of its home games in Joan C. Edwards Stadium, the fourth-highest mark in the country.
Since the beginning of the 2010 season, the Thundering Herd has posted a combined 90-57 (.612) record. When Marshall has an edge in turnover margin, it is 48-12 (.800). When the turnover number is equal, Marshall is 22-8 (.733). When the opponent is more sure-handed, the Herd is 20-37 (.351). Of Marshall’s 147 games in that span, the Herd has played 74 while committing zero or one turnover, amassing a record of 56-18 (.757) in those games. Marshall is 26-5 (.839) when it has a turnover margin of +2 or better. Marshall has won nine in a row when winning the turnover battle by three or more.
Marshall is 28-7 (.800) when it has zero turnovers, and the Herd has won 15 of its last 18 when it does not make a miscue. Marshall has won 19 of its last 23 when winning the turnover battle and the 2020 win over Middle Tennessee was the 10th straight win when MU quarterbacks have two-plus touchdown passes without an interception. The Thundering Herd had five takeaways in 2018 wins over Eastern Kentucky and Florida Atlantic, giving the program nine consecutive wins when it forces four or more turnovers.
The Thundering Herd has now won 37 of its last 40 games when scoring first and has won 24 of its last 27 when leading after the first quarter. Related: since the beginning of the 2013 season, the Herd is 57-4 (.934) when scoring first.
Defensive Numbers to Know
The Herd has won 52 of its last 60 when holding offenses to 5.0 yards per play or fewer. The Herd has won 33 of its last 36 when allowing fewer than 300 yards. Twenty-two (22) times in the last 11-plus seasons has the Herd allowed 125 yards passing or fewer. Marshall is 19-3 (.864) in those games. Marshall is 35-4 (.897) when the defense does not allow a rushing touchdown during that timeframe as well.
Feel the Rush
The Herd is now 53-9 (.855) in the last eight-plus seasons when rushing for 150+ yards and 39-6 (.867) the last eight-plus years with 200+ on the ground. All-time, Marshall is 11-0 since 2010 when rushing for 300+ yards, as it did with 305 in the 33-31 win over Ohio in 2019. Marshall’s 20 rushing first downs in the 2020 59-0 win over EKU was the most for the program since 24 versus Morris Harvey in 1925.
Marshall’s 38 points in the win over FIU makes the Herd 54-5 (.915) in its last 59 games when scoring 30+ points.
Marshall’s 51-10 win over UMass in 2020 was the 19th time that the Thundering Herd reached the 50+-point plateau under coach Doc Holliday, four more than Jim Donnan
(1990-95) for the all-time school mark. Bob Pruett (1996- 2004) reached that mark 14 times and Cam Henderson (1936-42, 1946-49) did it on 13 occasions.
Since 2010, the Herd has an excellent record of finishing off its opponents once it takes the lead. Marshall is 72- 10 (.878) when it scores first, 63-10 (.863) when leading after the first quarter, 75-6 (.926) when leading at halftime and 76-7 (.916) when leading after three quarters. In fact, Marshall has won 61 of its last 65 contests when it has the halftime lead.
Florida Atlantic Owls
No Notes Available
Sat., Nov. 6 @ 7:00 pm ET
Old Dominion Monarchs at Florida International Panthers
Old Dominion Monarchs
• Old Dominion hits the road for the first time in nearly a month to take on FIU on Saturday, Nov. 6 at FIU Stadium in Miami.
• Nick Rice kicked two field goals in the final 1:52, including the game-winning 46-yarder as time expired to lift ODU to a 23-20 win over Louisiana Tech last Saturday.
• Running back Blake Watson recorded his third-straight 100-yard rushing game in the win over LA Tech, carrying the ball 25 times for 108 yards.
• Tight end Zack Kuntz caught eight passes for 67 yards and a touchdown.
• The ODU defense held Louisiana Tech to 59 rushing yards on 22 attempts. The 59 rushing yards allowing is the fewest allowed by ODU since giving up 58 rushing yards to ODU on Oct. 24, 2015 to FIU.
• Cornerback Roger Cray had a season-high three pass breakups in the win over Louisiana Tech.
• Linebacker Jordan Young had six tackles in the win over LA Tech. He is third in school history with 298 career tackles. He is 42 stops away from tying Craig Wilkins’ school record of 340 career tackles. Young is 25 tackles away from second place TJ Ricks, who has 323 career tackles.
An ODU win would mean:
• Make ODU 3-6 on the year
• Give ODU its first win in Miami since 2017
• Give ODU consecutive wins for the first time since wins over North Texas (11/10/2018) and VMI (11/17/2018).
• The last time ODU won consecutive games against FBS foes was in 2017, against Charlotte, FIU and Rice to end the 2017 season on a three-game win streak.
The series is tied 3-3 between ODU and FIU. FIU has won consecutive one-score games in 2018 and 2019. The 2019 contest at FIU was the first start of quarterback Hayden Wolff’s ODU career. The Florida native completed 19-of-35 passes for 169 yards and an interception.
Year Opponent Score
2014 FIU W, 38-35
2015 at FIU L, 41-12
2016 FIU W, 42-28
2017 at FIU W, 37-30
2018 FIU L, 28-20
2019 at FIU L, 24-17
Florida International Panthers
CLEARED FOR TAKEOFF
The revamped Panther passing attack has payed dividends for FIU this season. Max Bortenschlager and company rank 20th in the country averaging 293.5 yards through
the air per game.
Senior QB Borthenschlager has been the main catalyst in the revival averaging 269.2 per game, which ranks 18th nationally and is on pace to obliterate Jake Medlock’s FIU record of 236.3 yards per game that was set in 2012. Borthenschlager has also broken the most passing yards in a single game record with 466 against
Charlotte on 10/8. On top of all that, the Panther signal caller sits second in the the country in yards per completion with 17.51.
Biletnikoff watch list member Tyrese
Chambers has been on the receiving end of those Borthenschlager passes. Chambers leads the nation in yards per reception averaging 26.28 yards per catch.
SCOUTING THE MONARCHS
The Monarchs of Old Dominion enter this weekend’s match up with a 2-6 overall record and are 1-3 in conference play.
ODU ranks 60th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 168.8 yards per game on the ground.
The Monarchs also rank 49th in the country in totally defense only surrendering 354.5 yards a contest.
The visitors from Norfolk downed Louisiana Tech, 23-20 on Oct. 30 for the programs first win over a FBS team since 2018.
Sat., Nov. 6 @ 8:15 pm MT
UTSA Roadrunners at UTEP Miners
Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners
« OPENING DRIVE »
+ UTSA is nationally ranked for the third straight week, appearing at No. 16 in the AP Top 25 and No. 18 in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll.
+ The Roadrunners are 8-0 for the first time in school history and currently riding a program-record eight-game winning streak, tied for the third-longest active streak in the FBS.
+ UTSA is one of only six undefeated FBS teams, and the only one from the state of Texas.
+ The Roadrunners are bowl eligible for the second straight and fourth overall season.
+ Head coach Jeff Traylor is 15-5 at the helm of the Roadrunners, the best 20-game start for a UTSA coach.
+ UTSA has won 11 of its last 12 contests dating back to last season.
+ Saturday will mark the ninth meeting between UTSA and UTEP.
+ The Roadrunners have won four straight meetings with the Miners and lead the series, 6-2, including a perfect 4-0 mark in El Paso.
SETTING THE SCENE
Off to the best overall and conference starts in school history, No. 16/18 UTSA (8-0, 4-0) will travel to El Paso to face UTEP (6-2, 3-1) in a key Conference USA West Division matchup this Saturday, Nov. 6. Kickoff is set for 9:15 p.m. CT at the Sun Bowl and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN2. The only undefeated FBS team from the state of Texas, the Roadrunners are riding a program-record eight-game winning streak and have won 11 of their last 12 games dating back to last season’s 52-21 home victory over the Miners.
UTSA won all three games in the month of November last season in the debut campaign for head coach Jeff Traylor. The Roadrunners rolled past UTEP 52-21, outlasted Southern Miss 23-20 on the road and scored a 49-17 triumph over North Texas a year ago this month. UTSA is 19-19 all-time in games played in the 11th month of the calendar year.
The Miners dropped to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in Conference USA after a 28-25 road setback at the hands of Florida Atlantic on Saturday. UTEP is averaging 24.9 points
and 393.9 yards of offense of game while allowing 20.4 points and 294.8 yards per contest. Gavin Hardison has thrown for 1,876 yards and 10 touchdowns on 114-of-204 passing and his favorite target has been Jacob Cowing, who has caught 41 passes for 811 yards and four TDs. Ronald Awatt paces the ground game with 504 yards and four scores on 98 carries. Breon Hayward leads the defense with 61 tackles, while Praise Amaewhule has 29 stops, including 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Head coach Dana Dimel is 11-29 in his fourth season at the helm
Saturday will mark the ninth meeting between UTSA and UTEP. The Roadrunners have won four straight meetings with the Miners and lead the all-time series, 6-2, including a perfect 4-0 mark in El Paso. In fact, the road team won the first five matchups before UTSA broke that streak with a 30-21 home victory in 2018.
UTSA/UTEP Series History
Date Location Score
9/21/13 El Paso W, 32-13
10/25/14 San Antonio L, 0-34
10/3/15 El Paso W, 25-6
10/22/16 San Antonio L, 49-52 (5OT)
10/28/17 El Paso W, 31-14
9/29/18 San Antonio W, 30-21
10/5/19 El Paso W, 26-16
11/14/20 San Antonio W, 52-21
Texas-El Paso Miners
MINERS AT A GLANCE
UTEP LOOKS TO SLOW DOWN UNDEFEATED NO. 16 UTSA ON SATURDAY NIGHT
UTEP (6-2, 3-1 Conference USA), after coming off a tough loss at FAU, will face its biggest challenge yet of 2021. Undefeated no. 16 UTSA (8-0, 4-0 C-USA) comes to El Paso for a nationally televised game against the Miners on Saturday night in the Sun Bowl. Kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. on ESPN2.
» ROLLING IN THE SUN BOWL
UTEP has won six consecutive games in the Sun Bowl dating back to last season.
» GOING FOR 2,000 PASSING YARDS
Gavin Hardison is also looking to be the first Miner to hit over 2,000 yards passing in a single seasons since 2010 when Trevor Vittatoe threw for 2,756 yards.
» DOMINANT UTEP DEFENSE
The UTEP defense ranks no. 1 Conference USA and sixth in FBS in total defense (294.9 ypg). The Miners also rank first in C-USA and sixth nationally in third-down defense (28.4 percent). UTEP ranks third in C-USA in scoring defense (20.4), while its run defense ranks second in C-USA and 11th in FBS (97.4 ypg).
» PROTECTING OUR QB, HARASSING OUR OPPONENTS’ QB
UTEP ranks 13th in FBS and second in C-USA in sacks allowed per game (1.13). The Miners’ defense ranks fourth in C-USA and 36th nationally in sacks per game (2.6). UTEP’s 21 total sacks rank tied for 37th in FBS.
» UTEP VS. RANKED TEAMS
UTEP last hosted a ranked team on Sept. 1, 2012 when no. 4 Oklahoma came to the Sun Bowl. The Miners last defeated a ranked team at home on Oct. 3, 2009 when they defeated no. 12 Houston 58-41.
» SERIES HISTORY VS. UTSA
UTSA owns a 6-2 record against UTEP all-time, including a 4-0 mark in the Sun Bowl. The Miners last defeated the Roadrunners on Oct. 22, 2016 when it took five overtimes to win, 52-49.
Overall: UTSA leads 6-2
El Paso: UTSA leads 4-0
San Antonio: tied 2-2
First Meeting: UTSA won 32-13 in El Paso (Sept. 21, 2013)
Last Meeting: UTSA won 52-21 in San Antonio (Nov. 14, 2020)
Streak: UTSA, W4
Stadium: Sun Bowl Stadium
Surface: Artificial (Classic HD CoolPlay)
UTSA owns a 6-2 record against UTEP all-time, including a 4-0 mark in the Sun Bowl. The Miners last defeated the Roadrunners on Oct. 22, 2016 when it took five overtimes to win, 52-49. Since then, UTSA has won the last four meeting by an average of 16.8 points. The Roadrunners have outscored the Miners, 139-72, during that
span. UTSA defeated UTEP, 52-21, in the last meeting last season in the Alamodome.
UTEP VS. RANKED TEAMS
UTEP last hosted a ranked team on Sept. 1, 2012 when no. 4 Oklahoma came to the Sun Bowl. The Miners last defeated a ranked team at home on Oct. 3, 2009 when they defeated no. 12 Houston 58- 41. UTEP is 4-55 all-time versus AP Top 25 teams, including a 3-18 mark at home. The Miners’ two other home wins came against no. 7 BYU, 23-16, on Oct. 26, 1985, and no. 25 BYU, 14-3, on Nov. 1, 1997. UTEP last faced a ranked team on Sept. 12, 2020 at no. 14 Texas.