Quarterback Frank Gore, Jr — yes you read that correctly — had 10-0 UTSA on the ropes for a bit until he was hurt cutting back inside on a QB keeper. USM head coach Will Hall had the Golden Eagles trying some high school stuff — put your best player at QB! — and it nearly worked. He had help from a solid defense and some poor quarterbacking from UTSA QB Frank Harris but it all came undone as the Roadrunners relied on their talent and defense to win 27-17 at home.
If you are Runner-hater(ahem, CFP people), you might point to this and use it to immune their abilities and worthiness. On the other had you have to consider that every perfect team has had some scares and some close-calls. UTSA is the hunted, and is getting the best and most creative game plans now. USM’s Will Hall deserves full credit but it is easier to get your guys prepared for a ranked team on the road when you are -29 point dogs. Might as well try it!
Meanwhile, a more impressive win was had in West Virginia with UAB beating Marshall on the road again. This one finished 21-14. The Blazers and Herd were both 6-3 coming into the game and looking to either keep pace (UAB) in their division, or get some cushion (Marshall). UAB’s Dylan Hopkins had a big time throw to Trea Shropshire to get into scoring range to start the game. He hit him again in he first quarter. Those two grabs were the only connections by from those two and were also instrumental to building the lead. UAB controlled the game from the start to the end, even though Marshall made a little run. It was a classic Blazer game, where they got enough offense to get a lead and the defense and run game did the rest. There were a couple of moments of outstanding blocking for McBride and he was great making the first and sometimes second man miss. One example of that was the second TD of the game. Just good stuff. Marshall tied the game in the third, but UAB’s TE Garrett Prince was great on a crossing route, using his speed and agility to get big yards. That sparked the rest of the drive where Hopkins scored on a keeper 1
Let me just note that Prince is such a baller. In a different offense he would be putting up ridiculous numbers but ironically it is in this offense that I think he is putting himself (imho) in a good NFL position. He is showing he can do the grunt work while also making plays.
WKU 42, Rice 21
Middle Tennessee 50, FIU 10
UAB 21, Marshall 14
No. 23 UTSA 27, Southern Miss 17
Old Dominion 30, Florida Atlantic 16
LA Tech 42, Charlotte 32
North Texas 20, UTEP 17
Quietly, Western Kentucky is top of the East division after destroying Rice in Houston. Bailey Zappe had 482 and 5 TDs in the contest this game. He has not thrown for fewer than 3 TDs in any game this year. He has 42 tosses on the year against just the 7 interceptions. Balling out over in Bowling Green. We expected they would be fun to watch and they have not disappointed. The defense has been better against weaker competition (ODU, MTSU,FIU, Charlotte, Rice) and if you squint you can see the outline of a UTSA-WKU rematch in San Antonio. That should be a hell of a game. Meanwhile the Rice Owls are falling apart in a disappointing season for Bloomgren.
We wrote that Middle is playing spoiler and for bowl eligibility, and they are on the way after killing FIU. FIU looks like the have given up and are ready for the offseason. That bodes well for North Texas, the next opponent in Miami.
North Texas beat UTEP on homecoming. The Miners are having a solid season in the win department, but are on a three-game slide that is more revealing the reality than is a slip by Dimel’s crew. We have contended that the Miners were never very good, winning ugly early against poor squads. This week they played a poor NT and required a comeback. Full credit that they got a goal-line stop, then marched 99 yards to score a TD, got another stop, and got a FG that should have forced overtime. The problem was that they allowed a long pass from Austin Aune to D. Brown to get NT in field goal range. That was the ball game. If you are Mean Green fan, the three-game win streak is a curse in disguise. Winning five straight to get to bowl eligibility is impressive as it would have to include a win over UTSA. That sure sound like the kind of thing you keep your coach over. Therein lies the problem. Do Mean Green fans want Littrell to do more of this? Depends on if they can compete against UTSA.
How about ODU and FAU? The Owls were once our dark horse candidate but have found real questions at QB when they needed answers. Old Dominion got a signature win for Ricky Rahne, and did so with *three* two-point scores. Ridiculous. I would be remiss if I did not mention that Middle and Charlotte are all that stand between ODU and a bowl-eligible spot.
Finally, Tech and Charlotte played a surprising game. I did not get to watch much of this one but we saw elements of the Tech team that showed lots of promise early and disappointed in recent weeks. Charlotte put themselves out of contention for the East and blew their best chance (probably) of getting a sixth win. Now home vs Marshall (tough!) and then followed by a believing ODU. Not good, Niners.
McBride nearly had his third, but he was short at the goal line. Hopkins scored on a QB dive from the shotgun↩