Zappe, Sterns, Malone honored with Conference USA superlatives

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Brittany Fisher

WKU quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) stands in the pocket during the Hilltoppers’ season-opening 59-21 win over UT Martin on Sept. 2, 2021. Zappe threw seven touchdowns, setting the single-game record for touchdown passes at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Wyatt Sparkman, Football reporter

Conference USA announced Wednesday that WKU quarterback Bailey Zappe was named C-USA’s Most Valuable Player while defensive end DeAngelo Malone and wideout Jerreth Sterns were named the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year, respectively. 

Zappe broke WKU’s all-time season record of passing yards and passing touchdowns in a single season. He lit the college sports world on fire this fall, throwing for a nation-leading 56 touchdowns and accumulating 5,545 yards while recording just 11 interceptions. 

Zappe helped turn one of the nation’s worst offenses into one of the best. WKU went from the 17th-worst passing offense in the nation into the best. He is just 288 yards and five touchdowns away from breaking the FBS record of passing yards and touchdowns in a season. 

He became just the sixth quarterback in FBS history to achieve a 5,000-yard and 50-touchdown season.

Sterns, who transferred over from Houston Baptist along with Zappe, led the nation with 137 receptions, 39 more than the second place, and 1,718 yards, both breaking program records in a season. He tallied 14 touchdowns, good for third best in the nation. He had nine 100+ yard performances this season.

Sterns is the third Hilltopper to win the newcomer award, joining quarterbacks Ty Storey and Mike White.

Malone came up with eight sacks in 2021, second in C-USA, and 16.5 tackles for loss, totaling 88 tackles, 12th in C-USA. He became WKU’s career all-time sack leader on Nov. 20 against FAU. 

This is Malone’s second C-USA Defensive Player of the Year honor, becoming the fourth athlete to win it twice in the conference’s history. 

All three were also named to the All C-USA First Team and are expected to play in the bowl game on Dec. 18 against Appalachian State.

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