Week 6 CUSA Recap – Some Late-Game Drama and a Whole Bunch of Bowl Contenders

And I do mean a whole bunch of bowl contenders. In the West division, every single team except Rice and UTEP has at least three wins and has yet to play either Rice or UTEP (both of whom are unlikely to win another game). Meanwhile, in the East, everyone but ODU and Charlotte has reached that plateau, and there’s plenty of the 49ers to go around yet.

This week definitely had some surprised though, so let’s see what’s up.

MTSU 37, FIU 17

The Golden Panthers’ offense continues to struggle to find much momentum, and just isn’t built to play catch-up when the defense can’t get off the field. They opened with a three-and-out before trading field goals with MTSU, but by the time they got the ball to start their first drive of the second half they were trailing 24-3 and were going to have a hard time pulling this one out.

They found enough of a spark to cut the deficit to 27-17, but then the Blue Raiders produced two more scoring drives, while FIU watched Alex McGough and Maurice Alexander combine to finish the game 2-for-7 for 12 yards and an interception from that point forward. The final are rather pedestrian, but they came in fits and starts that tended to match the defense’s inability to keep MTSU out of the end zone. If not for the three drives that stalled out in the red zone and produced field goals, this one would have been even more lopsided.

MTSU will now head to Birmingham for an evening matchup against upstart UAB, while FIU will head home to face off against a surprisingly good Tulane team.

UAB 23, La Tech 22

Not many people got to see this one thanks in large part to the mess that is CUSA.tv. Well, you know, except for the 27,000+ UAB fans that attended the game in person at Legion Field.

One thing everyone might have wanted to see less of was the kicking game. On one hand, UAB would have had a more comfortable lead in the fourth quarter were in not for Nick Vogel missing on a pair of 44-yard field goal attempts and the Blazers getting stuffed on fourth and one instead of kicking what would have been a 40-yard field goal (possibly related).

Louisiana Tech returned the favor, though, as the blocked field goal that cost them the game would have simply sent them to overtime had they not missed the extra point on their previous touchdown drive.

Spencer Brown appears to have emerged as the feature back for the time being, carrying the ball 25 times for a freshman-record 168 yards, the second time this season he’s topped 150 yards. The Blazers put a couple of guys that stand at 6’7″ and 6’8″ respectively in the middle of the field goal block formation, and it was just enough to come away with a surprise win.

The Blazers will welcome the equally surprising (considering their injuries) MTSU Blue Raiders into Legion Field next week, while Louisiana Tech will have to find a way to recover quickly lest they get caught with their pants down by a quickly-improving Southern Miss team.

FAU 58, ODU 28

Devin Singletary is what’s up.

After 26 carries for 194 yards and two touchdowns, Singletary now has 592 yards and 10 touchdowns in the Owls last four games. Oh yeah, and Greg Howell, Jr. has another 372 yards and two touchdowns in that stretch.Oh, and JASON DRISKEL RAN FOR ANOTHER 92 YARDS AND FOUR TOUCHDOWNS yesterday!

I think you sense a theme, no? The Owls have rushed for over 1,400 yards and gone 3-1 in their last four games, and they appear to have found something that works. Sure, they’ll still pass if they have to in order to keep the defense honest, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Speaking of broke, where the hell did Old Dominion’s defense go? It was ugly but understandable to get romped by UNC and Virginia Tech to the tune of a combined 91-23, but to have a conference game where they open with a goal-line stand and still lose by four touchdowns is worrisome. Sure Jeremy Cox finally got untracked to the tune of 202 yards and two touchdowns, but that was almost entirely torpedoed (in terms of having a chance of catching up) by Steven Williams’ four interceptions.

Blake LaRussa and Jordan Hoy weren’t the answer, but I don’t think Steven Williams is either. He most certainly will be in the future, but I think the Monarchs are going to take a lot of lumps, especially if their defense can’t even manage to hold an opponent under 40 points. ODU will face a slightly less potent offense next week in Marshall (maybe, who knows, or they’ll make Chase Litton look like Peyton Manning); FAU will face off against UNT in what has quickly approached game of the week territory.

Marshall 14, Charlotte 3

Charlotte continues to struggle, as a 42-yard pass on the only scoring drive of the game accounted for 20% of their yardage for the game, and they could only muster another scoring drive that ended with a missed FG with about five minutes left to play. Trace has the whole write up for you here.

Army 49, Rice 12

Rice beat UTEP earlier this season, but they might actually be a worse team. They managed to defeat the Miners 31-14, but in their other five games, they’ve been outscored 149-7 in the first half alone. Hell, their defense kept FIU off the scoreboard for the entire first quarter, the entire second half after an opening field goal, and they still couldn’t find a way to win.

Shocking, then, that they had zero answers for Army’s triple-option attack. Defeating a team that can rush for 300+ yards without breaking a sweat hard enough, but that will turn even worse when you commit six turnovers and repeatedly give that offense a short field. The Owls had a pick-six in a span of six plays in the first quarter, and a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter put the game out of reach at 28-0.

Not to downplay Army at all; Kell Walker and Ahmad Bradshaw didn’t exactly carry the ball 23 times for 242 yards and five touchdowns by accident or simply because Rice’s defense is that bad. We knew this would be a lopsided matchup, but Rice’s turnover issues put this one to bed even earlier than expected. Rice will now likely hit the road to get another whupping from an angry UTSA team, while Army heads home to take on Eastern Michigan.

Southern Miss 31, UTSA 29

UTSA fans can now most certainly confirm for you that driving inside your opponent’s 30-yard line seven times and only producing three touchdowns and three field goals is a recipe for a loss, especially when your defense surrenders seven plays of 20+ yards. Ito Smith broke loose in the second half for an 89-yard touchdown sprint on his way to 178 yards on only 17 carries, and the addition of an efficient Keon Howard and a strong red-zone defense for the Eagles was enough to take the win.

We now have a better feel for the Roadrunners after their first three games were spent dominating three terrible teams. They’re not bad, but they’re not “dominate the division” good, either. A strong passing offense can heal a lot of wounds, but the defense needs to cut down on the big plays if they’re going to avoid another loss next week on the road against North Texas.

The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, have hopefully demonstrated that the ugly loss against North Texas was more of an anomaly than we thought, and they’ll get a nice chance to keep the momentum up against UTEP next week before traveling to Louisiana Tech for another tough divisional road game.

Western Kentucky 15, UTEP 14

So… Mike Price, huh?

The good news for the Miners is that they took a Western Kentucky offense that has been inconsistent all season and shut them down for nearly an entire game. The bad news is that the 125 yards and 15 points the Hilltoppers racked up on their two best drives of the day was still enough to take home the victory against a UTEP team that has finally started to produce yards and drives on offense but now is suddenly struggling to finish them off.

In their first five games, the Miners were rarely anywhere near the red zone but managed to punch it in when they got there. Today they drove inside the Western Kentucky 30 yard line five times and came away with only two touchdowns and three missed field goals to show for it. The worst part of it is that this was probably the worst offense the Miners will face the rest of the season, so the offense will have to start converting those opportunities they’re now producing if they want any hope of avoiding a 0-12 season.

Western Kentucky should have an easier time next week against an even more inept Charlotte offense, but this week’s game has given me pause. Meanwhile, UTEP will do their best to put on another strong showing against Southern Miss.

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