Our top four takeaways from the college football weekend:
Conference USA offense turned a corner this weekend.
The league boasts three of the Top 10 passers in FBS — Louisiana Tech’s Ryan Higgins (fourth with 3,167 yards passing), Western Kentucky’s Mike White (fifth with 3,057) and Middle Tennessee’s Brent Stockstill (ninth with 2,801). And that doesn’t include Nick Mullens, the all-time leading passer in Southern Miss history.
It also features four of the Top 10 receivers in FBS — Louisiana Tech’s Trent Taylor (first with 1,308 yards receiving) and Carlos Henderson (fourth with 1,168), Western Kentucky’s Taywan Taylor (third with 1,174) and Middle Tennessee’s Richie James (seventh with 1,172). And that doesn’t include Allenzae Staggers, who set a Southern Miss single-game record with 282 yards against Rice on Oct. 1.
Turns out C-USA teams can run the ball, too.
Charlotte’s Kalif Phillips rushed for a season-high 183 yards in a 38-27 victory against Southern Miss. And his total was only fourth best in C-USA on Saturday.
Old Dominion’s Ray Lawry rushed for a season-high 209 yards in a 38-14 victory against Marshall as the Monarchs became bowl eligible for the first time. But even Lawry wasn’t first in C-USA rushing on this weekend.
Neither was UTEP’s Aaron Jones, who gained 228 yards on only 14 carries in less than three quarter of a 42-10 victory against FCS Houston Baptist.
Even Jones, who needs 68 yards to become UTEP’s all-time leading rusher. was left in the dust by Devin Singletary (top and above). Florida Atlantic’s freshman running back gained a school-record 252 yards in a 42-25 victory against Rice.
“That was nice,” said Singletary, who duly credited his offensive line. “The linemen were getting a lot of movement, coaches making the right calls, and everybody doing their job. Even on the perimeter, the receivers were making good blocks. All I had to do was just run.”
And run he did. And run and run and run. Nicknamed “Motor” for his refusal to be tackled, Singletary broke Alfred Morris’ FAU record of 198 yards against UAB in 2011. Singletary’s 252 yards were the 12th most in FBS this season.
He had nine carries of 10 or more yards and nearly doubled his season total. He has 547 yards on the season.
Singletary also set the school record with 283 all-purpose yards, surpassing Anthony Jackson’s mark of 231 against Marist in 2001.
“Motor had an amazing day,” said Owls head coach Charlie Partridge.
Singletary’s father gave him the nickname, which a high school opponent confirmed last year: “He had a motor. He stayed low and he didn’t go down on the first (hit). He kept moving his feet. He’s a running back a lot of coaches would love to have.”
Singletary set single-game (302 yards) and career (4,975 yards) rushing records at American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla. He had scholarship offers from Florida State and Miami (Fla.) and verbally committed to Illinois. But he ended up signing with FAU in February.
“FAU showed me love,” Singletary said. “When I went there it was like family.”
Based on Singletary’s performance Saturday, FAU could end up one happy family.
Old Dominion became Conference USA’s fourth bowl-eligible team, joining division leaders Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky (both 7-3) and Middle Tennessee (6-3).
“History was made for Old Dominion tonight,” Monarchs head coach Bobby Wilder said after beating Marshall at home for their sixth win this season. “When you’re a startup program and your historic moment happens at home it’s really hard to describe. I don’t even have any words to describe what the locker room just felt like. Wow is all I can say.”
— American Sports Net (@LiveOnASN) November 6, 2016
Meanwhile, four other teams are on the cusp of eligibility for one of C-USA’s seven bowl tie-ins: Southern Miss and UTSA are at 5-4 and Charlotte and North Texas at 4-5. If eight teams are bowl eligible, the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl Dec. 30 on ASN is a possibility.
Southern Miss faces Old Dominion, North Texas and Louisiana Tech while UTSA has Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M and Charlotte. Meanwhile, North Texas also plays Western Kentucky and UTEP Charlotte also takes on Rice and Middle Tennessee.
That should make for a fantastic finish.
Speaking of fantastic finishes, the MAC West Division title could be at stake when Toledo faces Western Michigan on Nov. 25 in their regular-season finale.
While 9-0 Western Michigan has been rowing the boat to national prominence this season, the Rockets have quietly put together a 7-2 record. With one conference loss, they trail the division-leading Broncos by one game heading into Wednesday’s contest against Northern Illinois at the newly christened Guarantee Rate Field in Chicago.
But the Rockets, who lead the MAC in total offense (553 yards per game) and are second in scoring (40.3 points per game), hope they don’t fizzle against NIU. They’ve lost six consecutive games to the Huskies, who have won two consecutive games after a 1-6 start.
“They’re starting to hit their stride,” said Toledo head coach Jason Candle. “We’ll have our hands full for sure.”
Toledo is coming off a 48-17 victory against Akron in what head coach Jason Candle called “our closest thing to a complete game this year.” Kareem Hunt rushed for 136 yards and one touchdown and Logan Woodside passed for 327 yards and three TDs.
Woodside leads the MAC with 3,042 yards passing and FBS with 34 touchdown passes and Hunt is No. 3 in MAC rushing. They fuel the Rockets’ high-powered, balanced offense while the defense is allowing only 22.8 points per game.
“In years past, Northern’s done a great job of creating some turnovers and taking the ball away from us,” Candle said. “Not only taking the football away but creating points off of turnovers, which is the hidden statistic. So we have to take care of the football, we gotta match their physicality.”
If the Rockets beat NIU on Wednesday night and Ball State next week and Western Michigan beats Kent State on Tuesday night and Buffalo next week, get ready for some fireworks. In that scenario, the winner on Nov. 25 will advance to the MAC Championship game.
FCS POLL STORY
Liberty clinched a share of its record eighth Big South championship with a 16-0 victory against Presbyterian on Saturday and on Monday earned its first ranking this season in the STATS FCS Top 25.
Defending Big South champion Charleston Southern dropped from eighth to No. 14 after a 17-10 loss to Gardner-Webb Saturday on ASN. The Buccaneers and 25th-ranked Flames are among the 14 teams from the ASN family of schools in the Top 25.
Sam Houston State remained No. 1 and Jacksonville State stayed No. 2 with Southern Conference leader The Citadel back at No. 5. Chattanooga, a game behind The Citadel in the SoCon, was No. 7. Samford at No. 22 was the third SoCon team ranked.
James Madison moved up to No. 6 after a 47-43 CAA Football victory against Richmond, which dropped from sixth to No. 8. Villanova at No. 9 gives CAA Football three teams in the Top 10 while the league’s New Hampshire was 21st.
Central Arkansas, tied with Sam Houston State for first in the Southland Conference at 7-0, jumped from No. 17 to No. 13 after a 34-14 victory against Stephen F. Austin Saturday on ASN. The Bears play again Saturday on ASN against third-place Nicholls.
Patriot League leader Lehigh at No. 23 and Ivy League leader Harvard at No. 24 also remained in the Top 25.