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Three Things We Learned From Week 1 Conference USA Football

Week 1 was a major success for CUSA thanks to Southern Miss’ performance in Jay Hopson’s debut.

Southern Miss v Kentucky Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Southern Miss is going to be just fine with Jay Hopson

Although picked to win CUSA West, many were still skeptical about whether Jay Hopson could continue where Todd Monken left off. For about a half into the season opener against Kentucky they had every reason to be.

Nick Mullens didn’t look the same, tossing three first half interceptions. The defense appeared to be punching out of their weight class as they couldn’t stop Kentucky’s air attack.

The Golden Eagles could have performed the same way under Todd Monken, but they weren’t, this was Jay Hopson’s team, a team that didn’t look good enough to be on the same field as Kentucky.

Then it happened. The offense clicked. The defense got stops. The special teams did what was needed. Trailing 35-10 before halftime, Southern Miss would score the game’s final 34 points to defeat Kentucky 44-35.

That’s the type of explosion and resiliency we would have expected if Monken was on the sidelines. The fact Southern Miss defeated Kentucky for their first win over an SEC opponent since 2000 is a shock to no one, according to Vegas they were only a seven point underdog. What was shocking was the manner in which they came away with a win.

A 25-point comeback, their largest since 2009 according to Southern Miss’ website. Conference USA was in desperate need of a win over a P5 school after being dubbed the worst FBS conference last year.

Thanks to the conference’s flagship school, CUSA appears to be right on track to clean up their reputation on the field.

With Jay Hopson, Southern Miss won’t be taking any steps backwards this year.

Western Kentucky’s offense is going to be amazing again

After seeing their best quarterback in school history leave - and make an NFL roster - it would have been fine if the Hilltoppers took a step back offensively.

When expected starter Nelson Fishback went down with a season ending injury in the offseason it was all but certain that WKU’s offense would take a step back.

Against Rice those proclamations were put to bed as USF transfer Mike White passed for 517 yards with three touchdowns, and zero turnovers. WKU racked up 649 total yards of offense for the game and cruised past the Owls for a 46-14 win.

Taywan Taylor and Nicholas Norris both finished the game with over 100 yards of receiving and nine different Hilltoppers recorded a catch. I expected WKU’s offense to be great again but thought they would do damage on the ground. Not through the air.

Jeff Brohm has had to hear all offseason about whether his prolific passing offense could be the same without Brandon Doughty and at least through one game, it appears the naysayers will be wrong.

Aaron Jones is back

After suffering a season-ending injury early in the season last year, Aaron Jones came back with a bang to begin the 2016 season as he rushed for 249 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. That’s eight yards per rushing attempt! Jones’ longest run was 75 yards.

He scored UTEP’s first touchdown of the season with a 37-yard run. The Miners’ offense looked eons ahead of last year as they beat rival New Mexico State 38-22. UTEP’s offense scored over 30 points just once last season, a 50-47 overtime win over NMSU early in the season.

Last night UTEP’s offense had an identity against NMSU and a large part of that is because the best running back in CUSA has returned to their backfield.

You would have thought Sean Kugler would ease Jones into the workload but the fact he gave him 31 carries assures us that Jones is 100 percent ready to put the offense on his back again.

With Jones back, UTEP remains a dark horse to win CUSA West.