Unfortunately, week four saw multiple games in Conference USA lost due to cancellation. Charlotte, Florida Atlantic and North Texas all having their scheduled games postponed due to COVID-19 testing protocols.
Two C-USA teams (Florida Atlantic & Rice) have yet to play a game this season, while two others (FIU & Charlotte) have only played one game. As a result, we’ll be revisiting a few teams from earlier editions of this series.
Let’s take a look at the three things we learned from the weekend’s action - and lack thereof.
Coaches are starting to get frustrated by COVID
As the season began, virtually every college football coach in America sang the same tune about football and COVID-19. It sounded something to the effect of the following: We’re just happy to have football back and the virus is something we’ll have to deal with, but our top priority is keeping the players safe.
While that may be true, college football coaches thrive off being able to control the surroundings of everything that goes on within their football program. For the past month, Willie Taggart has prepared his team to play a football game - only to have the contests canceled.
“Think positive, test negative,” Taggart said to Reese Furlow of the Palm Beach Post following the news of the cancellations. “Tested (Wednesday morning) and was all negative.”
Charlotte had their game against Georgia State canceled on Friday morning, just before the team was set to travel to Atlanta. Georgia State announced that due to positive test results and contact tracing, they were forced to call off the game. Fast forward 48 hours and Georgia State Athletic Director Charlie Cobb announced that the positive tests for COVID-19 were misread and the game could have been played.
Healy’s frustration to David Scott of the Charlotte Observer was palpable.
“Scientific and medical professionals across the country are fighting their rear ends off to be as accurate as possible,” said Healy. “The frustrating part is that it was incorrect information given. We have to be able to convince our players that we have accurate information and that we are going to protect you.”
This is going to be the reality for the foreseeable future and expect more coaches to have similar frustrations.
In his first two seasons at UAB, Spencer Brown established himself as the top running back in Conference USA. Over 2,500 yards rushing and 25 touchdowns helped mark Brown as a premier talent among Group of Five players.
However, last season his production dipped across the board, with the 6-0, 220-pound Kimberly, Alabama native rushing for only 566 yards and five scores. Entering this season, Brown made an effort to drop some of the added bulk he put on to handle another 200-plus carry workload in 2019.
That decision, along with him being fully healthy, has given the Blazers the version of Brown in 2017 & 2018 back. He’s rushed for 306 yards and five scores in the first three games, including 105 yards and three touchdowns in UAB’s 42-10 victory over South Alabama.
While multiple quarterbacks have been at the helm of the Blazers’ offense over the past four seasons, the latest being Bryson Lucero on Saturday - Brown remains the constant.
If Bill Clark’s team is going to contend for the C-USA title, his running back will be a key catalyst.
Coming out of El Paso’s Parkland High, Deion Hankins multiple Power Five programs vying for his services. However, the 6-0, 215-pound back decided to commit to UTEP as the Miners were coming off an 0-12 season.
Hankins held firm to that commitment during his senior year of high school, watching first-year head coach Dana Dimel go 1-11 in 2018. He redshirted during his first collegiate season, a year that would see UTEP again finish 1-11. Despite multiple players choosing to transfer out of the program, Hankins has chosen to remain loyal to his hometown - and is now leading the rebuild process in El Paso.
He’s rushed for 265 yards and five touchdowns, including a career-high 118 and three scores in UTEP’s 31-6 win over Louisiana-Monroe - the Miners third win of 2020 - eclipsing their win total in the past three seasons combined.
Dimel’s team enters Conference USA play with a chance to show if they’re legitimately on the track to success.