The second week of play in Conference USA saw the league go 7-7 with only three of those contests decided by one score or less. The toughest losses of the weekend were undoubtedly FIU’s overtime defeat at the hands of Texas State, Houston’s thrashing of Rice and Western Kentucky falling to Army in West Point. While week one provided optimism for C-USA fans, week two may have provided some clear-cut storylines to keep an eye on going forward.
Let’s take a look at the three things we learned from the week in C-USA.
When Tyson Helton decided to bring on former Houston Baptist offensive coordinator Zach Kittley and quarterback Bailey Zappe, it was crystal clear that Helton was all-in on a change in offensive philosophy and to an extent — his team’s identity. Through two games, the offense has put up gaudy numbers through the air, as Zappe has gone 56-of-75 passing for 859 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. The rushing numbers have taken a dip from previous years — something that’s expected in the Air Raid system.
However, it’s worth noting that since 2010, no team has won Conference USA without rushing for at least 154 yards per game (2015 Western Kentucky). During Kittley and Zappe’s time together at HBU, the Huskies' highest rushing output was 128.3 yards per game. It’s only a two-game sample size, but the Tops have only rushed for 75.5 yards per contest. Yes, that number is sure to improve, but with teams like FAU, UTSA, UAB and others that have dynamic rushing attacks, Army may have put forth the best formula to combat the high-powered Air Raid offense.
Following Florida Atlantic’s 35-14 loss to Florida in Gainesville on week one, N’Kosi Perry sent out a tweet that read in part “This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”
Someone told me that Saturday’s game was the happiest they’ve ever seen me on the field.— N’Kosi Perry (@ko_live5) September 6, 2021
I have to agree with them because this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. #Grateful pic.twitter.com/Z2O1KYSHNJ
After four seasons as a Miami Hurricane that saw Perry emerge to look like the future of the Hurricanes’ program, followed by a diminished role and finally being entrenched as a backup last year, Perry took his talents 50 miles North to Boca Raton this offseason. In Saturday’s 38-6 drubbing of Georgia Southern, Perry very much looked the part of a quarterback who is the second-highest rated in C-USA history, according to 247’s high-school rankings.
He went 19-of-27 passing for 332 yards with two touchdowns in the Owls’ victory and was named C-USA Co-Offensive Player of the Week, sharing the award with Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe. Under his guidance, FAU didn’t have a single three-and-out drive all afternoon. If Perry is able harness his talent — and maintain his level of happiness, he’s more than capable of giving Owls’ fans the presence at quarterback that they lacked last season.
Mike Bloomgren came to Rice in 2018 with a history of offensive success stemming from his five-year stint as Stanford’s offensive coordinator. The Cardinal averaged no fewer than 26.3 points per game during his time leading the offense, giving Owls’ fans reason to believe that an offensive identity would be established in Houston. To an extent, it has been. Bloomgren’s tagline of “Intellectual Brutality” caught on quickly at Rice, with a power running game being at the center of the philosophy. Unfortunately, the quarterback position has been a revolving door. Former Texas Christian signal-caller Mike Collins appeared to be the answer last season, throwing for 10 touchdowns with only two interceptions in the team’s five-game season in 2020. However, while no official word was given, Collins chose to walk away from football, with it believed that the cause was injury-related. Bloomgren’s passing attack has gone back to being unstable, at best, in 2021.
In two games, have gone 26-of-54 passing for 313 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions under transfer Luke McCaffrey and redshirt sophomore Wiley Green. Since Bloomgren’s arrival, Rice hasn’t ranked higher than 100th in points per game and two of the three seasons averaged less than 20 points per contest. If the team isn’t able to put more points on the scoreboard, it’s going to be a struggle for Bloomgren’s Owls all season long.