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10 Conference USA Football Games of 2019 to Watch

Looking for content to help get you through the loss of sports - look no further.

Miami v Florida International Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

A luxury item is defined as one that is “not usual and always available” by the Merriam Webster dictionary.

Sports fans are currently facing the unexpected reality that the games we love are susceptible to falling into that category, as the COVID-19 outbreak has brought athletics to a halt worldwide.

As we try to pass the time until live sports grace our television screens, let’s take a look back at games in Conference USA that you may - or may not have seen from last season.

In no particular order, here’s a look at 10 contests worth watching to prepare yourself for when football resumes.

Note: All of the following games can be found here

Week 10: Old Dominion vs UTSA

A late-season contest between two teams with losing records doesn’t seem like it would make for the most entertaining game. However, the week 10 game between Old Dominion and UTSA didn’t lack plotlines.

ODU head coach Bobby Wilder proclaimed that the Monarchs were “The best 1-5 football team in America” following the team’s loss to Marshall in October.

Unfortunately for Wilder, his team would go on to drop the next four games, leaving them at 1-8 entering the UTSA game.

A glimmer of hope came the week prior in the form of true freshman quarterback Hayden Wolff, who earned his first start at FIU and performed admirably against one of the nation’s top pass defenses.

For the Roadrunners, they traveled to Norfolk knowing they would need to win three out of the final four games to become bowl-eligible.

Sincere McCormick rushed for a game-high 137 yards in the UTSA win.
Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Embattled head coach Frank Wilson needed a victory against an ODU program that UTSA had never beaten in school history.

The game would see Wolff engineer the top passing output of the season to that point for ODU and Wilder’s club held a two-score lead entering the fourth quarter.

Led by C-USA Newcomer of the Year winner Sincere McCormick, UTSA stormed back to score two fourth-quarter touchdowns and get their first victory over the Monarchs.

Week 10: Middle Tennessee vs Rice

2019 was a season of highs and lows for Rick Stockstill’s Blue Raiders.

As was expected, there would be an adjustment with the graduation of quarterback Brent Stockstill, who left Murfreesboro as the program’s all-time leader in every major passing category.

However, the emergence of the younger Stockstill’s back-up into one of the top weapons in C-USA was unexpected.

Asher O’Hara became the first quarterback to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 since former UAB signal-caller Joe Webb in 2009. His dual-threat abilities were on display against Rice, as he threw for a career-high 339 yards while adding 79 on the ground.

For the Owls, despite entering the game looking for their first victory, they were formidable opponents throughout the season, having suffered four defeats by eight points or less.

North Texas v Rice
Tom Stewart led Rice to their first win of the season in their upset of MTSU.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Their perseverance resulted in the first breakthrough of the season against MTSU. Three Tom Stewart touchdown passes helped the Owls jump out to a 17-point halftime lead.

Despite O’Hara leading a furious comeback in the second half, Mike Bloomgren’s Owls held on for a three-point victory.

Week 2: FIU vs Western Kentucky

Florida International and Western Kentucky couldn’t have asked for a worse start to their 2019 season. The Panthers entered the year with legitimate C-USA East division title hopes after having won a program-record nine games the season prior.

Those title hopes weren’t irrevocably damaged in week one - but they took a major hit due to a major flaw from the 2018 campaign.

Butch Davis’ Panthers allowed 350 yards rushing in a 42-14 throttling at the hands of Tulane on opening night.

They returned to South Florida in desperate need of winning their home opener against Western.

For first-year head coach Tyson Helton, week one was supposed to serve as a way to ease into the rebuilding job for the Hilltoppers.

Instead, what it amounted to was a second-straight season-opening loss to an FCS opponent, as the Tops blew a 21-point lead in a 35-28 defeat at the hands of Central Arkansas.

Despite entering the game as an eight-point underdog, Western’s defense stifled the Panther offense as the only FIU score came on a leaping, one-handed pick-six by cornerback Rishard Dames.

The Tops took a 14-7 lead into the half and followed that up by knocking FIU quarterback James Morgan out of the game in the third quarter.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 27 FIU at Western Kentucky
Steven Duncan would lead WKU to victory with 241 passing yards.
Photo by Steve Roberts/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

WKU would add two field goals, while FIU found their first offensive score on a Napoleon Maxwell rushing TD to make it a 20-14 game late in the final period.

On the Panthers’ final drive, after backup QB Kaylan Wiggins was injured and with third-stringer Caleb Lynum warming up, Morgan limped onto the field to fire two passes into the endzone in hopes of connecting for the game-tying score.

However, Western’s defense held strong for the red zone stand and picked up their first win of the Helton’s head coaching career.

Week 8: Charlotte vs North Texas

Will Healy’s arrival in Charlotte brought an infusion of energy and excitement to the 49er football program following Brad Lambert’s tenure.

However, following a 2-1 start to the season, the Niners were in the midst of a four-game skid as they welcomed one of the top quarterbacks in C-USA history in Mason Fine and North Texas to Jerry Richardson Stadium.

Seth Littrell’s Mean Green were suffering through their own disappointments as they traveled to Charlotte.

The consensus media pick to win the Conference USA’s West division entering the season, UNT came in with a 3-5 record, having lost four of their previous six contests.

Littrell’s team jumped out to an early 14-0 lead on two long-distance Fine touchdown strikes and would lead by as many as 14 points in the game’s penultimate quarter.

Staring at the prospect of a fifth straight loss, Charlotte sparked a furious fourth-quarter comeback, starting with two Benny Lemay scores.

Marshall v Charlotte
The duo of Chris Reynolds and Victor Tucker may be the best QB-WR tandem in C-USA entering 2020.
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

After a North Texas field goal that made the score 38-33, the Niners went 75 yards on six plays, culminating with a game-winning touchdown pass from Chris Reynolds to Victor Tucker.

Week 7: Florida Atlantic vs Marshall

After starting the season with two decisive losses at the hands of heavyweights Ohio State and UCF, Lane Kiffin’s Owls responded with four straight victories and appeared to be finding their stride entering week seven.

Quarterback Chris Robison was exceptional during the four-game stretch, throwing for 12 touchdowns and only one interception during the win streak.

Most significantly, the Owls entered the contest against Marshall with a chance to take command of the top spot in the East division.

Marshall v Florida Atlantic
Brenden Knox scored the go-ahead TD to give Marshall the win.
Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Doc Holliday and the Thundering Herd arrived at the midway point of the season still searching for an identity.

After nearly pulling off the upset of a top-25 team at Boise State, Marshall squeaked past Ohio, followed by two straight losses and then had a less than convincing win against Old Dominion.

Fortunately, during the seesaw start to the year, the Herd discovered that Brenden Knox was indeed the answer at the running back position.

Midway through the 2018 season, Knox wasn’t even listed on the depth chart. However, he started down the stretch and would assume the starting position from Tyler King in 2019.

The contest against FAU would serve as Knox’s breakout performance with the redshirt sophomore rushing for a career-high 220 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.

Marshall would need every bit of his performance as they fought back from an early 11-point deficit to take the lead with 36 seconds left on Knox’s second touchdown of the evening, securing an upset 36-31 victory.

Week 11: FIU vs Miami (Fla.)

Week 11 saw college football return to one of the most historical landmarks in the history of the game. FIU and Miami played their crosstown showdown at the home of the MLB’s Miami Marlins, Marlins Park.

However, from 1937 to 2008, those grounds were home to the Miami Orange Bowl, which hosted five Super Bowls and five Miami Hurricanes’ national championship teams.

The final of the Hurricane teams to win a national championship was built by current FIU head coach Butch Davis.

Following a successful six-year stint at Miami, Davis would return to South Florida at FIU and took a three-touchdown underdog into the late-season contest against his former team.

Following a 30-point loss against rival FAU in the Panthers’ prior game, there was little reason to think that they stood a chance against a Power Five opponent.

FIU cornerback Stantley Thomas-Oliver III intercepted Miami quarterback Jarren Williams on the opening drive and set the tone for the Panthers. Their stifling defense held Miami scoreless till the 1:52 mark in the game’s penultimate quarter.

Miami trailed by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter following Tony Gaiter IV’s 13-yard touchdown reception from James Morgan, but tried to mount a comeback by cutting the lead to six points with 3:10 remaining.

The Panthers were booed entering the field for their final “home” game, but they had the last laugh.
Photo by Samuel Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

However, running back Anthony Jones would put the game away on his 37-yard scamper to the endzone. The victory made FIU bowl eligible and was the biggest win in program history.

Week 9: Western Kentucky vs Florida Atlantic

One of the biggest Cinderella stories of the 2019 Conference USA football season was undoubtedly the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

After a 9-16 two-year stretch under former head coach Mike Sanford II, Tyson Helton managed to rebound from an opening week upset loss to Central Arkansas and lead the WKU to a first-place tie in the East division entering week nine.

Led by Arkansas transfer Ty Storey at quarterback, running back Gaej Walker, and star defensive end DeAngelo Malone, the Hilltoppers were looking to take control of the division by beating the team tied with them, Florida Atlantic.

The Owls came into the contest looking to make a statement of their own.

Following a disappointing home loss to Marshall, FAU beat Old Dominion in convincing fashion but still were looking for a win against a C-USA team with a winning record.

After one period of play, it appeared that the Owls were in danger of being routed in Bowling Green. WKU jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead on a Lucky Jackson 54-yard touchdown catch from Storey, followed by a two-yard Storey TD run.

FAU would respond by scoring the next four touchdowns, taking a 28-14 lead late into the third quarter.

Florida International v Florida Atlantic
Chris Robison had a tremendous 2019 season.
Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Western cut the lead to four midway through the fourth, but Nick Tronti’s 22-yard touchdown following a Storey interception sealed the game for the visiting team.

Week 12: Charlotte vs Marshall

After a late comeback victory at UTEP, Charlotte had two chances left to secure their sixth victory and make the program bowl-eligible for the first time in its seven-year history.

Week 12’s game against Marshall would be their chance to clinch in front of a home crowd at Jerry Richardson Stadium.

The task wouldn’t be easy, welcoming a 7-3 Thundering Herd team to the Queen City who entered the game as seven-point favorites and were hoping to keep pace with Florida Atlantic in the East division.

Despite falling behind by ten points early on, Charlotte’s defense was dominant throughout the entire contest.

They held Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green to 6-of-17 passing for 86 yards and added two interceptions, in addition to holding Brenden Knox to just 92 yards on 22 carries.

The Niners’ stars led the way to victory with quarterback Chris Reynolds rushing for 145 yards, running back Benny Lemay had 100 on the ground, and receiver Victor Tucker hauled in 5 catches for 121 yards and a score.

Marshall v Charlotte
Alex Highsmith had double-digit tackles and a sack in the win over Marshall.
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Charlotte secured their first-ever bowl berth by beating the Herd 24-13 in front of a rain-soaked home crowd.

Week 5: Rice vs Louisiana Tech

While wins haven’t been a constant for Mike Bloomgren during his two seasons at Rice, there’s no doubt that the team has been competitive and is heading in the right direction.

Entering their week five contest against Louisiana Tech, the Owls were winless but coming off a near-upset of seventh-ranked Baylor.

One of the biggest bright spots for Bloomgren’s club was the play of the defense led by linebacker Blaze Alldredge, who had a 13-tackle performance in the close loss the week prior.

Louisiana Tech v Rice
J’Mar Smith eluded the Rice defense to score the winning touchdown in overtime.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After an opening week loss at Texas, Skip Holtz and his Louisiana Tech Bulldogs appeared to be finding their stride.

Week two saw Tech barely escape defeat at the hands of FCS Grambling State, but the team won in convincing fashion against Bowling Green and FIU the following weeks.

From the opening quarter, it was apparent that this game wouldn’t be the easy Louisiana Tech victory that many projected.

Rice opened the scoring on a six-play, 46-yard drive and led throughout the contest as both teams traded scores for the duration of the contest.

Bulldogs’ kicker Bailey Hale would hit a game-tying 31-yard field-goal with 1:10 left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 17.

The Owls took the lead in the extra period on a 36-yard field goal by Chris Barnes, however, Louisiana Tech would score a touchdown on the ensuing drive.

J’Mar Smith’s 12-yard touchdown run would be the game-winner, giving the Bulldogs the 23-20 victory.

Week 13: Marshall vs FIU

The final week of the Conference USA season saw a rematch of two teams who played each other in the last regular-season contest of 2018.

Marshall went to FIU and spoiled their division title hopes by upsetting the Panthers, giving the East crown to Middle Tennessee State instead.

Fast forward one year later and it was FIU who had the chance to play spoiler to the Thundering Herd as they still had an outside chance of winning the division - provided they beat the Panthers.

An overcast and chilly November day set the stage for a contest that was chippy throughout the entire game. Following a scoreless first quarter, Marshall would lead by as many as 10 points in the third quarter.

FIU quarterback James Morgan would leave the game on a questionable helmet-to-helmet hit that was ruled to be legal by the officiating crew. That play sparked a Panther rally, as they scored the next two touchdowns to take a 21-17 lead.

The game would go to overtime as Panthers’ kicker Jose Borregales nailed a 41-yard field goal with 21 seconds left, followed by FIU taking the lead in the extra period on a 35-yard kick by Borregales.

Marshall v Rice
Doc Holliday competed the season sweep of the Florida teams.
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

However, Marshall running back Brendan Knox scored from one-yard out to give the Herd a 30-27 victory.