What We Learned From Week Four in Conference USA

Old Dominion ain’t dead yet…

My goodness, what a game, especially when you juxtapose that against their season opener.

The Monarchs were given $1.38 million by Liberty to be the first team to travel to Liberty, the first team to accept Falwell money, and the first team to get absolutely steamrolled by the Flames in their inaugural FBS season.

The next week they stayed home to face Florida International, raced out to a 17-0 lead… and lost 28-20 in a game where they scored no points in the second half

The next week, they faced a Charlotte team that had only beaten one of their last 16 FBS opponents, and lost by three in a game where they missed an extra point and had two failed two-point conversions.

So they go on the road against #13 Virginia Tech and get plastered, right?

This Monarchs squad had to turn to their backup quarterback on their second offensive series, and he proceeded to throw for 495 yards and four touchdowns in a game that ODU never trailed by more than a touchdown, and never trailed at all in the fourth quarter.

I think it’s safe to say that Old Dominion is starting to bounce back, and if Blake LaRussa is for real, they might even creep into a bowl game.

…But UTEP might be already

Not that the Miners were expecting huge things this season. A year with a couple of wins and a bunch of close losses would have been enough to show drastic improvement in Dana Dimel’s return to coaching. It would also have been enough to silence the sea of doubters about his original hiring.

It looks like neither of those things is liable to occur.

Four games into the season, the Miners have only been outscored 17-3 in the fourth quarter, but they’ve been outscored 116-54 in the three quarters prior to that.

They went out at home against an unexpectedly inept New Mexico State offense and couldn’t do enough to get a win, and after combining that with a loss to FCS Northern Arizona, it’s hard to see where the next victory will come from.

They get their four hardest remaining opponents at home, but they’re so far behind UNT, UAB, MTSU and USM competitively that such an advantage is nonexistent. Much like last year, the offense is a mess that is holding them back.

The offensive line has been bad, but a lot of that has been injuries and subsequent positional roulette. But Kai Locksley has done the team few favors under center. He is a dynamic runner but a train wreck as a passer, completing only 45.8% of his passes at a 4.94 yards per attempt clip.

UTEP has Quardraiz Wadley, who has been an absolute terror in space because of his speed and agility, but he’s hardly getting used properly.

Late in the first half against Northern Arizona he had a 32-yard touchdown run and a 26-yard reception that he almost scored on. He was only given three carries the entire second half, and he hasn’t caught a pass since.

Against UNLV, he rushed for 41 yards on his very first carry, and a 22-yard touchdown on his last carry… but only five carries for 33 yards the entire rest of the game.

Maybe his 20 carries for 111 yards are an indication that UTEP is finally going to simplify the game plan to “have the ball in the hands of your two most dynamic players much as possible.”

But even in that scenario, at this point they’ll be fortunate to get a win at UTSA this weekend or at Rice later on. Things aren’t going to get better fast under Dimel, and I can’t say I’m surprised.

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