Keeping up with C-USA: Charlotte, UTSA steal Power Five wins

Wyatt Sparkman, Football reporter

Conference USA has begun the 2021 football season with an 10-5 record. The little-conference-that-could has already racked up a pair of Power Five wins and nearly stole two others in the first two weeks of college football action.

C-USA East 

Charlotte 49ers 

Charlotte (1-0) hosted its in-state rival the Duke Blue Devils (0-1) Friday night. The 49ers came away with a thrilling, back-and-forth 31-28 win over Duke, the program’s first ever win against a Power Five opponent. 

Redshirt junior quarterback Chris Reynolds connected with junior running back Shadrick Byrd for the game-winning touchdown pass with 33 seconds left in the game. Reynolds finished the game 19-for-30 with 324 yards and three touchdowns. 

Florida Atlantic Owls 

The Owls (0-1) stayed in-state, traveling to Gainesville, Florida to play the No. 13 Florida Gators (1-0) on Saturday night. The Gators controlled the game throughout, winning 35-14. 

The Owls allowed 400 yards on the ground to the Gators. FAU quarterback N’Kosi Perry went 19-of-33 for 261 yards and a touchdown.

Florida International Panthers 

FIU (1-0) hosted the FCS Rhode Island Rams (0-1) Thursday night, turning in a dominant 48-10 win to open its season. Senior running back D’vonte Price led the team with an absurd 165 yards on just five carries with three touchdowns. 

Marshall Thundering Herd

The Thundering Herd (1-0) traveled to Annapolis, Maryland, Saturday afternoon, crushing the Navy Midshipman (0-1) 49-7 in their home stadium. Freshman running back Rasheen Ali rushed for four touchdowns while redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells threw for 333 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. 

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders 

MTSU (1-0) hosted the FCS Monmouth Hawks (0-1) on Saturday night. The Blue Raiders won in convincing fashion 50-15. Redshirt junior quarterback Bailey Hockman threw for 215 yards and three touchdowns.  

Old Dominion Monarchs

Old Dominion (0-1) traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to play the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (1-0) Friday night. The Demon Deacons trounced ODU 42-10. Wake Forest redshirt sophomore Sam Hartman threw for 188 yards and three touchdowns compared to the Monarchs’ passing game that totaled just 127 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.  

C-USA West 

Alabama-Birmingham Blazers 

UAB (1-0) traveled to the Crampton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, for a neutral site game against the FCS Jacksonville State Gamecocks (0-1). The Blazers shut out the Gamecocks 31-0 as they only allowed 154 yards of total offense. UAB redshirt senior quarterback Tyler Johnston III went 17-for-21 for 320 yards through the air and two touchdowns.       

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 

La Tech (0-1) opened its season Saturday afternoon at the Mississippi State Bulldogs (1-0) with a heartbreaking 35-34 loss. Louisiana Tech opened up a 17-point lead after a pick-six by senior linebacker Trey Baldwin with 1:50 left in the third quarter. Mississippi State stormed back in the fourth quarter, taking a 35-34 lead with 3:37 left in the game. 

La Tech graduate quarterback Austin Kendall completed a 13-yard pass to wide receiver Isaiah Graham to set up redshirt freshman kicker Jacob Barnes. Barnes missed the game-winning 46-yard field goal after his attempt was tipped at the line of scrimmage.    

North Texas Mean Green 

The Mean Green (1-0) hosted FCS Northwestern State (0-1) in its season-opener Saturday night. North Texas separated itself from a 24-14 halftime lead to a convincing 44-14 win. The Mean Green offense rushed for 345 yards, including senior running back Deandre Torrey’s 244-yard, three-touchdown performance.   

Rice Owls 

Rice (0-1) traveled to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to play the Arkansas Razorbacks (1-0) Saturday afternoon. The Owls lost their season opener 38-17 after being outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter. Rice led 10-7 at the half before entering the fourth quarter with the game tied at 17 apiece. 

Rice redshirt sophomore quarterback Wiley Green threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter, two of which led to Arkansas touchdown drives. Green finished the game 12-for-25 with one touchdown and three interceptions.   

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles 

USM (0-1) traveled to Mobile, Alabama, to play the South Alabama Cougars (1-0) on Saturday night. The Cougars dominated the Golden Eagles 31-7, forcing USM’s redshirt sophomore quarterback Trey Lowe to complete just 45% of his passes and throw two interceptions. 

Freshman running back Frank Gore Jr., son of NFL running back Frank Gore, rushed for 81 yards on 19 carries.      

Texas-El Paso Miners 

UTEP (2-0) hosted Bethune-Cookman (0-1) in its second game of the season. The Miners jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead and never looked back, winning 38-28. UTEP redshirt sophomore quarterback Gavin Harrison threw for three touchdowns while the rushing attack produced 300 yards on the ground.  

Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners 

UTSA (1-0) faced off against the Illinois Fighting Illini (0-1) Saturday night in Champaign, Illinois. The roadrunners pulled off a 37-30 upset win over the Fighting Illini in thrilling fashion. Illinois sophomore quarterback Arthur Sitkowski threw a hail mary as time expired, but sophomore wide receiver Casey Washington came up with the ball out of bounds. 

The win marked the first-ever UTSA victory against a Big Ten opponent in school history. Roadrunner junior running back Sincere McCormick rushed for 127 yards on 31 carries while senior quarterback Frank Harris threw for 280 yards and one touchdown.

Football reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @wyattsparkman3.