Highlights: CSJ FBS Group of Five Top Five Games and Recap of Week 4

Nate Snyder (36) kicks a 53-yard field goal to lift UL Lafayette to a 20-18 win over Georgia Southern in the Ragin’ Cajuns home opener Saturday at Cajun Field. (Courtesy of Louisiana Athletics)

This week we got the news of the two previously called-off conferences of the Mountain West and Mid-American Conferences making a return to play this fall.

The Mountain West will follow what last week the Big 10 completed with a return to play on Oct. 24th and each school is intended to play eight games with a conference championship game played on Dec. 19th. There is one unknown, however, as Air Force is scheduled to play its armed forces rivals Army and Navy, with the Army game scheduled for Nov. 7th so it is unclear how this game will alter the announced conference-only slate.

The MAC, who was the first FBS league to cancel its fall schedule nearly two months ago was the last FBS league to come back to play. The MAC will follow more with the Pac 12 announced this week and will start on Nov. 4th and play six all-league games and will follow suite with a conference championship game on Dec. 18th or 19th. MAC teams are likely to only play on weeknights for the month of November before switching to a Saturday schedule in December.

For the Group of Five conferences and independents currently playing, it was a great set of action.

Big Game of the Day

The big game of the week was Army at Cincinnati and it did not disappoint in a very defensive game where the Bearcats mustered up enough offense for a 24-10 victory over the Black Knights. Both teams game into the game as AP Top 25 ranked squads.

The game started out dicey for Cincinnati with QB Desmond Ridder mishandling a pitch, which was tipped and returned for an Army touchdown on the Bearcats first offensive possession. Ridder also threw an interception in the first quarter and the Bearcats’ offense that is typically strong in the rushing game only had 6 yards rushing in the first half.

The Cincinnati defense kept the team in the game in holding Army to just 94 yards passing and 182 yards rushing. The offense got a little momentum in the second half, eventually pulling away and winning the game.

Getting to 3-0 to Start the Season

The first FBS team to get to 3-0 was likely a big surprise to most college football experts. UTSA, which was selected near the bottom in the Conference USA’s West Division thought did just that.

And it was also suprising the opponent they played this week this Friday. The Roadrunners were slated to host the AAC’s Memphis but the Tigers were forced to cancel the game due to the team having many COVID 19 outbreaks.

Instead, UTSA scheduled conference foe Middle Tennessee State in a game that would count in the C-USA standings.

Backup QB Josh Adkins threw for 233 yards and a touchdown, RB Sincere McCormick rushed for 82 yards and two scores, and UTSA held off the Blue Raiders 37-35. The 3-0 start made new head coach Jeff Traylor the first coach in program history to start his career with three wins.

The Blue Raiders ) had a chance to tie it but failed on a two-point conversion attempt with 1:04 left to play, keeping the Roadrunners undefeated.

A day later, Louisiana joined the 3-0 club but had possibly an even tougher time to get there in its home opener versus Georgia Southern.

The Ragin’ Cajuns looked on the way to their first loss when Eagle QB Shai Wertz hit Khaleb Hood with a 28-yard touchdown pass and then Dalton Anderson with a two-point conversion with 54 seconds left to give the Eagles an 18-17 lead with just over a minute left in game.

Louisiana QB Levi Lewis completed three passes for 47 yards in a desperation final drive, including an 18-yarder to RB Trey Ragas to the Eagle 36.

From there Nate Snyder, who hit a 25-yard field goal late in the third quarter to tie the game but missed a 34-yarder at the end of the first half. Overall, Snyder had missed three of his four collegiate field goal attempts in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ first two games.

But Snyder did not miss the most important kick of his collegiate career as he nailed a 53-yard attempt as time expired to give Louisiana a 20-18 victory and the 3-0 start, its first since 1988.

The Ragin’ Cajuns have had a knack in rallying for victories this year. They rallied from behind for a third straight game after trailing Iowa State at halftime and going into overtime before downing Georgia State last weekend. 

Heavy Weights Deliver

Early in the season, the two best teams in the Group of Five just might be UCF and BYU based on their lone games played coming into this week. Those two teams might also have the best to quarterbacks in the Group of Five as well.

Those two squads showed further evidence why they might be considered the top of the Group of Five this year with their outcomes Saturday in helping their respective squads to 2-0 marks.

UCF’s QB Dillon Gabriel for a second straight week had no problem running their fast-tempo offense and rolling to big offensive totals. The sophomore signal caller threw for 408 yards and four touchdowns to help UCF beat East Carolina 51-28 and winning its AAC opener for the fifth straight season. This was the second road game to start the season for the Knights, who opened with a 28-point win at Georgia Tech while amassing 660 yards. 

BYU’s QB Zach Wilson threw for a career-high 392 yards and two touchdowns, leading No. 18 BYU to a 48-7 home victory over Troy. The junior’s previous career high was 317 passing yards against Western Michigan in the 2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Against Troy, he completed 23 of 28 passes and rushed for a pair of touchdowns while helping the Cougars pile up 664 total yards on offense. This follows the Cougars dismantling of Navy 55-3 on the road to begin their season.

Give Me Liberty

Liberty is now another 2-0 squad. The Flames edged Florida International this week 38-36 in their home opener.

QB Malik Willis threw two touchdown passes and accounted for 370 yards of offense to lead Liberty. Willis was injured late in the 4th quarter and FCS Maine grad transfer Chris Ferguson had to come in as his replacement with the Flames leading by what would be the final score.

Ferguson led the Flames across mid-field but the drive stalled and Liberty was forced to punt.

But in a game that featured over 800 yards of offense by both squads, the Liberty defense came up big in the end to seal the victory. On 4th and 13 for FIU, on their own 22 with less than 2 minutes in the game, DE Jayod Sanders was able to come around the edge for the sack to seal the Flame victory.

Call out to UTEP

I will to be honest that I did not see a 3-1 start for the Miners in predicting the Conference USA this year. UTEP had not even won three games in the last three seasons but UTEP’s only defeat in 2020 was at AP Top 25 ranked Texas.

This week, UTEP played a near flawless first half in rolling to a 24-0 lead, then continued to keep Louisiana-Monroe at bay in a 31-6 road victory.

The Miners are now off to their best start in 10 years. The team this week also had a 300-yard passer (Gavin Hardison-302 yards), 100-yard rusher (Deion Hankins-118), and two 100-yard receivers (Justin Garrett-120 and Jacob Cowing-102) for the first time since 2009 at SMU.

UTEP now gets into conference action in what looks like a topsy-turvey C-USA potentially from what the predictions were.

Hard Luck Losers

Texas State has to be the unluckiest team in college football so far this season. The Bobcats sit at 1-3 overall right now but the team very well could be 4-0 if luck were on its side.

Texas State defeated Louisiana-Monroe two weeks ago but lost its opener to SMU in dramatic fashion to end the game and also lost in OT to rival UTSA and this week might be the most heartbreaking in a chance to win at a Power Five school in Boston College.

Texas State led 21-7 late into the third quarter but let Boston College score the games last 17 points including a last second field goal to win the game 24-21.

More COVID 19 Cancellations

Just like the first three weeks, there were more games canceled or postponed in the Group of Five due to COVID 19 reasons.

This week, there were several games called off or deleay. These include the following:

GameDateNew Date
Memphis at UTSASept. 25Canceled
Georgia State at CharlotteSept. 26TBD
North Texas at HoustonSept. 26TBD
Tulsa at Arkansas StateSept. 26TBD
South Florida at FAUSept. 26TBD
Temple at NavySept. 26Oct. 10

And Rice has already announced its postponement of its two C-USA games on Oct. 3 and 10 against Marshall and UAB. It is unclear to be honest if Rice will play at all this season. Right now, Rice is slated to start its season on Oct. 24th against Middle Tennessee State.

Across town, Houston has also not yet played a game with all of its first five (if you count the Pac 12’s postponement of Washington State) contest. Houston is right now scheduled to open its season against AAC foe Tulane on Oct. 8th.

But this 2020 season, this is the norm amidst a global pandemic. It has happened in the professional sports and a similar ratio of games in college football to be honest is to be expected.

Top 5 Games of the Week

Below are my top five Group of Five games of the week with highlights and a full recap of the game in the hyperlink.

1. Louisiana 20 Georgia Southern 18 (Lafayette, La.)

2. UTSA 37 Middle Tennessee State 35 (San Antonio, Tex.)

3. Liberty 38 Florida International 36 (Lynchburg, Va.)

4. Cincinnati 24 Army 10 (Cincinnati, Ohio)

5. Boston College 24 Texas State 21 (Chestnut Hill, Mass.)

BONUS HIGHLIGHTS

UCF 51 East Carolina 28 (Greenville, N.C.)

BYU 48 Troy 7 (Provo, Utah)

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