Everything went as expected this week for the teams of Conference USA.
On 43rd anniversary of the devastating plane crash that nearly wiped out the entire Marshall football program, the 2013 Thundering Herd took the field against Tulsa. Marshall, who were wearing #75 helmet decals to commemorate the 75 people that passed away on the fateful day, seemed to be heading for a blowout victory but costly turnovers allowed the Golden Hurricane to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. The Thundering Herd, however, rallied behind star quarterback Rakeem Cato and went on to score the final two touchdowns of the game to earn the victory 45-34.
Many believed that this would be a week that Southern Miss could end their long losing streak as they took on Florida Atlantic in Hattiesburg, but it just wasn’t in the cards. The Owls jumped all over the struggling Golden Eagles as they ran out to a 41-0 lead through three quarters. Florida Atlantic rushed for 333 yards and only attempted 12 passes in the eventual 41-7 victory over USM, as the Owls kept their bowl hopes alive with a record of 4-6. The Golden Eagles have two more opportunities this season to end the streak as they face Middle Tennessee on Senior Day and then travel to lowly UAB to finish the season.
Speaking of the Blazers, UAB was on the road this week as they traveled to Greenville to face East Carolina for the final time as Conference USA foes. This game was one to forget for UAB, though. The high-powered offense of ECU was hitting on all cylinders again as QB Shane Carden threw for 347 yards and 5 touchdown passes as the Pirates throttled the Blazers 63-14. If Marshall can defeat FIU next weekend, the stage will be set for the Pirates to face the Thundering Herd in Huntington for the right to represent the East in the Conference USA title game.
After more than two weeks off, Rice returned to the field on Saturday as they hosted Conference USA newcomer Louisiana Tech. The Owls appeared well-rested as they completely dominated the rebuilding Bulldogs and earned the easy victory 52-14. Louisiana Tech must win their remaining games in order to become bowl eligible.
UTEP was trying to earn their first conference win of the season on Saturday as they faced off against lowly FIU in El Paso. The Miners have struggled all season with their quarterback play, so they relied on their rushing attack early and often in the game against the Golden Panthers. UTEP ran the ball 53 times while only attempting 7 passes to earn the much needed victory, 33-10.
Saturday was set to be the day that Old Dominion would face off with future Conference USA foe Charlotte, but because of a scheduling disagreement the Monarchs instead faced off with Campbell. The Fighting Camels would lead this game 7-0 early but that would be the last lead the non-scholarship FCS program would have, as the Monarchs accumulated nearly 500 yards of total offense to run away with a 42-14 victory. Charlotte defeated this same Campbell squad in their inaugural game 52-7.