Thirteen of Fourteen league teams played last night. Four played conference games. There are surprises, and maybe some confirmations about some thoughts we might have already had. There are teams with more wins than losses that maybe are not as impressive as that may seem on its face. Let us walk through the league and note some things.
Illinois 24 vs Charlotte 14
The Illini are in the midst of a rebuild/retool and are therefore a perfect “upset” candidate for the enterprising CUSA program. UTSA took advantage earlier this season, and Charlotte looked competitive for at least the first quarter. The 49ers took an early lead and held on to that four point difference for a while. They took it back early in the second half. Ultimately it seemed the bully-ball from the Big Ten was too much and Illinois powered their way to a couple of more scores and bullied their way into Reynold’s face in a crucial drive in the fourth. From a resource comparison point of view, this was an impressive game. We know it as a missed opportunity.
Eye-catching stat line: Illinois’ Brown with 257 yards rushing and 2 score on 26 carries.
FAU 58 vs FIU 21
The Shula Bowl has been dominated by the Owls recently. The brief moment when these programs hired “name” coaches was intriguing but Lane Kiffin dominated during his time and it has continued under Taggart. This game was relatively competitive through the second quarter (FAU by 6) and then FAU scored 31 straight, unanswered points. FAU is CUSA Report’s pick to win the East and that is looking stronger as the season continues and we get into conference play. The Owls had trouble with strong programs, but should hav enough for CUSA-level teams.
Eye-popping stats: 704 total yards from FAU
UTSA 24 UNLV 17
CusaReport may not be super-impressed with the Runners so far — a lot of dead offense, leaky pass defense, unimpressive schedule, lack of pop — but as an enterprising young writer once penned, the view from undefeated mountain is beautiful.
People are taking notice of the 5-0 record. Wins are impressive, no matter the competition. Eventually people want to test that record. They pay a little closer attention when you play and to how you are winning. They bring up your name in conversation and put you on front pages. The legitimacy of your accomplishments start being questioned. People overhear these conversations. Later, when they see your name on a scroll or in a pamphlet or in the newspaper they think “Weren’t they that team that is winning all those games or something?”Cooler “neé Coker” Chronicles
UNLV has played some tough competition and they looked like they were going to steal a tying touchdown late. The UTSA defense has playmakers, guys who have and can step up to blow up an otherwise catchable ball, or grab a timely interception, or make a tackle for loss. That is how you pull out a 21-point comeback. That is how you get a game-sealing sack. Still, you wonder how this team finds itself needing those qualities against such a mediocre slate. It is concerning as UNLV is seventh in their league in passing yard per play (7.1) and they put up 8.3 in this game. WKU (Zappe put up 488 vs Michigan State) next week and Louisiana Tech looked really good vs NC State. For now, enjoy the view from undefeated mountain.
Eye-catching stats: Sincere McCormick had 29 carries … for just 89 yards.
23 NC State 34 Louisiana Tech 27
Sometime after kickoff we tweeted that we had an eye out for this game and that it would go down to the wire and break hearts. As Tech gamely clawed their way back to within seven in the fourth (twice!) I wondered aloud what heartbreak the football gods would bestow upon us this time. Would it be a just-about-a-gametying touchdown followed by a missed PAT? Would it be a fumble on the goal line? Would it be a Titans-vs-Rams-’99-Super Bowl yard-short?1 The cruel joke was that Austin Kendall, in a gutsy play on a day full of them, escaped for 12 yards on 4th and 10.
Then he was hurt for a play.
The Tech staff, presumably graduates from the Andy Reid-Mike MaCarthy school of time management, ran out Aaron Allen to throw a pass. That cost them 30s because no one knew the clock was at 41 and started running. You can try to blame the backup there, but no, that is clearly on the staff, which had TWO TIMEOUTS. They let it ride, hoping the ‘six’ route Allen threw would connect. It did not, and Kendall was intercepted on the next play.
Tech is good enough to win this league and disorganized (and cursed) enough to lose to everyone by a point in hilarious, heart-breaking fashion.
Eye popping stat: Austin Kendall 26/43 341 and 3 TDs.
Rice 24 Southern Miss 19
An epic matchup of two underperforming squads. Rice looked like the better team, and then tried to let Southern Miss come back into it, allowing a kick return for a score. The Owls escaped.
Eye-catching stat: Jake Lange, wearing a 20s number, 304 yards passing and 3 interceptions
Liberty 36 UAB 12
Protective Stadium saw its first touchdown(s) scored by the visiting Flame in a blowout second half. The first was an ugly 3-3 game for a good portion. Protective is nice, the football on display was not. UAB is still formidable but they look like they can’t step out of this league and show their faces.
Eye-catching stat: 544 yards for Liberty, including 213 rushing and 9.1 yards per play for the Flame
Middle Tennessee 34 Marshall 28
The Herd are not as good as we thought after two weeks, are they? I had reservations about a successful team being reconfigured on the coaching staff and the roster and still competing at a high level. The defense is getting gashed more often and things are falling apart much earlier than they would have in a Doc Holiday season. Herd out gained Middle but just fumbled 4 times and threw two picks. Not how you win games.
Eye-catching stat: 19 carries 113 yards rushing and 3 scores — and like 100 costly fumbles for Rasheen Ali.
17 Michigan State WKU 31
WKU put up 560 yards including Bailey Zappe’s 488 on the way to being blown out. There was a nice push of stats and points after this was wrapped, but in the first and second quarter there were some nice things. The Spartans were too talented, and Kenneth Walker was un-tacklable. WKU played some tough squads on the way to 1-3, but it gets easier. We mentioned the poor UTSA defense, well they are next. Zappe should not be fazed by the CUSA talent on display as he has carved up every one in front of him. The WKU defense has been gashed by everyone so we still may be seeing shootouts the rest of the way.
Eye catching stat: Jerreth Sterns 17 grabs 186 yards 1 TD for WKU
UTEP 28 ODU 21
The Miners are 4-1, and as they knelt out the victory the announcer on the broadcast 2 tried to hype us all up with “Four years after being hired, Dana Dimel’s work is paying off”. I see where he is going and 4-1 is 4-1 [see UTSA entry above for more on this] however we are similarly unimpressed with this. Every game is a slog, and we are all worse for having watched. This one say a scrappy ODU — a team that has not played in a year with a first-year coach, and a squad that was not super great before he was hired — block a punt and nearly embarrass the Miners at home. Still, 4-1 is 4-1.
Next Week’s Intriguing Matchups
- Charlotte vs FIU is on CBSSN at 6pm, and that will tell us more about the 49ers. FIU is terrible and if CLT wants to compete with the WKU/FAU duo this season they will need to win the winnable games like this one.
- FAU at UAB on Stadium at 2:30. UAB was poor against a good team and I think FAU is a good team … but maybe not as good as Liberty. This is a litmus test for both as they will likely face each other in the title game if things go the way we expect (roughly). UAB has not had the same kind of fire this season. FAU has lulls but has more pop.
- UTSA at WKU on Stadium at 6pm. UTSA will be tested on the road and by Bailey Zappe and his receivers. UTSA has that ability to pull out some toughness and get a clutch first down, a clutch stop, and a big score when they need it. As we said, they probably have needed it too often. WKU has zero defense.
Others with like, a note: Middle at Liberty — a blow out for the Flames right? NT at Missouri — same but the Tigers roll easily. UTEP at Southern Miss — USM should win this but if UTEP Magoos their way into a win they will be 2-0 in the division, which is something.
I was a kid when this happened and my little brother fell asleep. I tried to wake him for it and excitedly told him about what happened later. He did not believe me, thinking that it had to be a joke that the time he fell asleep during the Super Bowl it was an all-time finish.↩
which had the worst camera work all day. UTEP is consistent with this every year, no matter the platform. Just awful zooms and pans and it looks like they find the most green person available all the time. ↩