Friday, January 27, 2023

CFB Week 7 Conference Notes: Conference USA


Marshall at North Texas (CBSSN) 6 pm

UAB at Southern Miss (Stadium) 2:30 pm
WKU at Old Dominion (ESPN3) 2:30 pm
Rice at UTSA (ESPN+) 5 pm
LA Tech at UTEP (ESPN+) 8 pm



Ten Conference USA teams are in action in Week Seven, with all five games as conference matchups. North Texas hosts Marshall on Friday night to kick the week off on CBS Sports Network. WKU hits the road to take on Old Dominion, UAB travels to Southern Miss in a West Division clash, 6-0 UTSA hosts Rice and Louisiana Tech will be in El Paso to take on 5-1 UTEP. Florida Atlantic, FIU, Charlotte and Middle Tennessee all have byes this week.

Marshall (3-3, 1-1 C-USA) travels to Denton to take on North Texas (1-4, 0-1 C-USA) on CBS Sports Network at 6 p.m. CT on Friday night. The Thundering Herd escaped a homecoming date with a frisky Old Dominion team with a 20-13 overtime win to get back to .500. It was a struggle most of the day for Marshall, but they overcame a pair of turnovers and pulled even with 33 seconds remaining in regulation on a Willie Johnson 52-yard touchdown reception from QB Grant Wells. North Texas was on the road at Missouri last week, falling 48-35 in Columbia. The Mean Green seemed to find some offensive firepower behind QB Austin Aune, totaling 493 yards of total offense and posted 28 second half points (21 in the fourth quarter).

Saturday’s action kicks off as WKU (1-4, 0-1 C-USA) makes the trip to Norfolk, Virginia, to battle Old Dominion (1-5, 0-2 C-USA) on ESPN3 at 2:30 p.m. CT. WKU dropped its fourth straight game, but were again in it till the end. The Hilltoppers fell 52-46 at home to undefeated UTSA, and were in the red zone in the final minute with an opportunity to win. They will take on the Monarchs, who dropped an overtime game at Marshall, despite leading in the fourth quarter for the second straight week. Both teams are in search of their first C-USA win of 2021.

Also at 2:30 p.m. CT, UAB (4-2, 2-0 C-USA) hits the road to Hattiesburg to face Southern Miss (1-5, 0-2 C-USA) on Stadium. The Blazers defeated Florida Atlantic comfortably, 31-14, to pick up their first win at their new home, Protective Stadium. UAB’s defense held the high-powered Owls to just 291 total yards and forced four turnovers in the win. Southern Miss lost at home last week 26-13 to the surging UTEP Miners. Southern Miss has dealt with a rash of injuries at the quarterback position and started true freshman Jake Lange, who completed 20-31 passes for 239 yards and a pair of touchdowns and an interception.

UTSA (6-0, 2-0 C-USA) is one of 13 undefeated teams in the FBS entering Week Seven after outlasting WKU in Bowling Green last week, 52-46. Offensive Player of the Week, QB Frank Harris, was responsible for seven touchdowns (six passing and one receiving) and 400 yards of total offense in the win. The Roadrunners return home to the Alamodome to host Rice (2-3, 1-0 C-USA) at 5 p.m. CT on ESPN+. The Owls are coming off a bye week, and last saw action when they knocked off Southern Miss in Houston, 24-19. Rice has seemingly settled on a starting quarterback, in Jake Constantine. One of the best stories across college football through the first half of the season,

UTEP (5-1, 2-0 CUSA), faces a stiff West Division test when the Miners host Louisiana Tech (2-3, 1-0 C-USA) on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. CT. The Miners knocked off Southern Miss 26-13 in Hattiesburg last week, while Louisiana Tech had a bye. The Bulldogs last saw action on 10/2 when they fell at then-No. 23 NC State, 34-27, in Raleigh.

UTSA remained unbeaten, outlasting WKU on the road, 52-46, to start 6-0 for the first time in program history. QB Frank Harris totaled seven touchdowns (six passing and one receiving, which tied for fourth-most in a single game in Conference USA history), and also threw for 349 yards on 28-38 passing, while also rushing for 51 yards on nine carries. RB Sincere McCormick posted his fourth game this season with 100-plus rushing yards, carrying 23 times for 120 yards, and WR De’Corian Clark hauled in seven catches for 160 yards and three touchdowns in the win. With all of the offensive numbers, it was a defensive play that sealed things for the Roadrunners. LB Clarence Hicks intercepted a pass in the red zone with 43 seconds remaining to hold off the Hilltoppers. WKU QB Bailey Zappe completed 38-60 passes for 523 yards (11th-most in a single game in C-USA history) with five touchdowns, coming up
just short.

UTSA continued its climb towards the top-25 in each of the major polls this week. The Roadrunners are receiving 22 votes in the Associated Press Top 25 and 30 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

UTEP defeated Southern Miss on the road last week to improve to 5-1 for the first time since 2010, and picked up its first win in Hattiesburg since 2012. Head coach Dana Dimel’s Miners are now just one win away from bowl eligibility. The five wins in 2021 equal the combined total from UTEP’s previous three seasons (3-5 in 2020, and 1-11 in both 2018 and 2019). This also marks the Miners’ first 2-0 start in C-USA play since 2008.

Charlotte brought Club Lit to South Beach, knocking off FIU 45-33 in Miami last Friday night behind a strong offensive effort, led by QB Chris Reynolds, who completed 21-27 passes for 203 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. RB/KR Shadrick Byrd, this week’s Special Teams Player of the Week, posted 196 total yards, 117 of which came on kickoff returns. Defensively DB Jon Alexander made a key interception on a 4th-and-2 play in the fourth quarter and returned it 41 yards to stretch the 49ers’ lead to 38-20. Charlotte is now 4-2 and 2-0 in conference play, as the 49ers sit alone atop the C-USA East Division.

WKU QB Bailey Zappe threw for 523 yards and five touchdowns and one interception in a losing effort at home against undefeated UTSA. Zappe’s 523 passing yards tied for 11th-most in a single game in C-USA history. WR Jerreth Sterns hauled in 16 catches for 195 yards and two touchdowns, and he now has 33 catches over the past two weeks.

WKU QB Bailey Zappe, who leads the nation in passing yards per game (447.0), was fantastic last week for the HIlltoppers as they fell to undefeated UTSA. Zappe completed 38-60 passes for 523 yards and five touchdowns with just one interception. Zappe has completed 70.4% of his passes (171-243) for 2,235 yards with 21 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also has a rushing touchdown. His 523 yards were a yard shy of the top-10 performances in a single game in Conference USA history.

WKU WR Jerreth Sterns is the FBS leader in a pair of categories entering Week Seven. The former Houston Baptist wideout is the national leader in receiving yards per game (148.2) and in receptions per game (11.2). Sterns has caught 56 passes (second in the FBS) for 741 yards (third in the FBS) and seven touchdowns (sixth in the FBS) in five games in 2021. He hauled in 16 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns last week against WKU, and he was one catch shy of the fifth-most in a single game in CUSA history, which he accomplished on 10/2 against Michigan State.

Conference USA has been the home of some of the most prolific passing attacks in the FBS through the first half of the 2021 season. Four C-USA quarterbacks rank in the top-15 nationally in passing yardage per game – WKU’s Bailey Zappe leads the FBS (447.0), Marshall’s Grant Wells is seventh (332.0), FIU’s Max Bortenschlager is 11th (305.7) and Louisiana Tech’s Austin Kendall ranks 14th (294.5). Additionally, five C-USA signal-callers rank inside the top-25 nationally in passing touchdowns – Zappe is second in the FBS (21), Charlotte’s Chris Reynolds is 10th (15), Bortenschlager is 11th (14), Middle Tennessee’s Chase Cunningham is 20th (13) and UTSA’s Frank Harris is 24th (12). Zappe (70.4%) and Harris (68.9%) rank 10th and 11th, respectively in completion percentage among
FBS quarterbacks as well. C-USA quarterbacks also rank 1-2 nationally in yards per completion – Bortenschlager (19.51) and UTEP’s
Gavin Hardison (17.57).

With all the success of the quarterbacks in C-USA, someone has to catch those passes, and in turn, CUSA receivers are all over the national leaderboards. In terms of receiving yards per game, three of the top-10 spots belong to receivers who hail from CUSA programs – WKU’s Jerreth Sterns leads the way (148.2), followed by FIU’s Tyrese Chambers (112.0), who is sixth and UTEP’s Jacob Cowing, who is 10th (101.5). Sterns (seven) and Chambers (six) are also inside the top-15 in receiving touchdowns, ranking sixth
and 12th, respectively. Big plays are seen all over the field across C-USA, as five pass-catchers rank inside the national top-15 in terms of yards per reception – Chambers leads the nation (33.6), while Cowing is third (23.42), WKU’s Daewood Davis is sixth (21.73), Rice’s Cedric Patterson III is 12th (20.70) and UAB TE Gerrit Prince ranks 14th (20.19).

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