Keeping up with C-USA: UTSA fends off Southern Miss, Marshall loses grip on division lead


UTSA Athletics

UTSA narrowly escaped defeat at the hands of the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles on Saturday, pulling out a 27-17 victory to remain undefeated.

Jake Moore, Sports Editor

There are two weeks of Conference USA football action remaining before the winners of the east and west divisions duke it out for the 2021 Conference USA Championship.

WKU is in the driver’s seat in the east thanks to its win over Rice and UAB’s victory over Marshall. A WKU win and a Marshall loss this weekend will clinch the Hilltoppers’ first divisional title since 2016.

Alabama-Birmingham Blazers vs Marshall Herd

UAB (7-3, 5-1 C-USA) struck a blow to Marshall’s (6-4, 4-2 C-USA) east division title hopes by outlasting the Herd 21-14 in Huntington, West Virginia on Saturday.

Marshall had a shot to knot up the score in the fourth quarter, but UAB safety Grayson Cash intercepted a pass from the Herd’s Grant Wells to kill Marshall’s momentum and seal the win.

UAB scored all three of its touchdowns on the ground, two coming from running back DeWayne McBride and one from quarterback Dylan Hopkins. Marshall came into the game as the nation’s eighth-best offense in yards-per-game average (474.3), but the Blazer’s defense held the Herd to just 269 total yards.

Marshall’s loss handed WKU sole possession of the east division lead and complicated the Herd’s hopes for a place in the conference championship. Up next, Marshall will hope to stay alive in the division race against Charlotte and UAB will try to hand UTSA its first loss of 2021.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs Charlotte 49ers

LA Tech (3-7, 2-4 C-USA) upset the 49ers (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) 42-32 at home on Saturday to put an end to a five-game losing streak.

Bulldog running back Marcus Williams Jr. scored four times on 29 carries, ending the day with 131 yards and doubling his season total of touchdowns in one outing. LA Tech quarterback Aaron Allen chipped in a pair of scores of his own, going 21-for-26 for 324 yards and a lone interception.

49ers quarterback Chris Reynolds and wideout Keith Pearson Jr. did their best to keep Charlotte in the game. Reynolds threw for 448 yards on 25-of-41 attempts, good for two scores and a pick. He connected with Pearson six times for 150 yards and two scores, but it was not enough.

Charlotte out-gained the Bulldogs in total yardage to the tune of 548-504 but a pair of unsuccessful drives late in the fourth quarter doomed the 49ers to the loss.

LA Tech has a chance to build a winning streak this week against Southern Miss while Charlotte will face Marshall in hopes of reaching bowl eligibility.

Old Dominion Monarchs vs FAU Owls

ODU’s (4-6, 3-3 C-USA) 30-16 defeat of FAU (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) saw one of football’s strangest scores. The Monarchs were trailing 3-2 in the second quarter, already a strange occurrence, when FAU quarterback N’kosi Perry was called for intentional grounding in the end zone, giving the Monarchs a safety and a 4-3 lead.

ODU took a 11-3 lead into the break and never looked back. Kicker Nick Rice booted in a trio of field goals in the second half to give the Monarchs a nine-point boost.

Monarch quarterback Hayden Wolff went 21-of-33 for 289 yards and a score, good enough to get the job done. FAU’s Perry struggled all day, finishing 12-of-22 for 187 yards and a lone TD.

ODU will face MTSU this week while the Owls will head to Bowling Green for a clash with the Hilltoppers on Saturday.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders vs Florida International Panthers

MTSU (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) blew out the hapless Panthers (1-7, 0-6 C-USA) by forty points in a 50-10 victory at home on Saturday.

Three different Blue Raiders rushed for scores and quarterback Nick Vattiato went 20-of-24 with two scores and no picks. MTSU totaled 414 yards of offense to FIU’s 155, a staggering difference.

FIU’s Max Bortenschlager had a rough day at work, tossing two interceptions and compiling just 68 yards through the air on 9-of-20 attempts. His Panthers are still looking for their first C-USA win of 2021.

MTSU will face ODU this weekend while the Panthers are 10-point underdogs against North Texas.

UTSA Roadrunners vs Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

The perfect No. 15 Roadrunners (10-0, 6-0 C-USA) had a close call with Southern Miss (1-9, 0-6 C-USA), eking out a 27-17 victory on Saturday.

The game was tied 17-all entering the fourth quarter, but 10 unanswered Roadrunner points prevented Southern Miss from pulling off the titanic upset. 

UTSA quarterback Frank Harris had a disappointing outing, going 17-for-30 for just 227 yards with two touchdowns and two picks. Running back Sincere McCormick chipped in 90 yards of offense and a score of his own.

The Golden Eagles caught the Roadrunners off guard by starting running back Frank Gore Jr. under center. He compiled 123 yards on the ground and a score and completed two of his three passing attempts for 33 yards. 

UTSA, along with Georgia and Cincinnati, are the last remaining undefeated teams in FBS. UTSA will face off against UAB this week and Southern Miss is scheduled to face LA Tech down in Louisiana.

North Texas Mean Green vs UTEP Miners

The Mean Green (4-6, 3-3 C-USA) continued its late season resurgence with a 20-17 win over UTEP (6-4, 3-3 C-USA) thanks to a clutch field goal from kicker Ethan Mooney with seven seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

UNT has won its last three games following a six-game losing streak and still has a chance to reach bowl eligibility.

North Texas quarterback Austin Aune threw for a score and ran in another on his own, finishing the day 15-of-33 for 240 yards and no interceptions. UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison did his best to keep the Miners in the game, but his 273 yards and a score were not enough.

UTEP will try and shake off the loss against Rice at home and UNT will try to keep its bowl hopes alive with a trip to Florida to play FIU.

Sports Editor Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.