Conference USA News and Notes

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EAST CAROLINA: The Pirates (9-2, 6-1) continued their dominance as they stepped out of conference play to defeat NC State, 42-28, in Raleigh. The victory gave ECU wins over North Carolina and NCSU in the first time in the same season in program history. Justin Hardy also had a milestone day as his eight catches for 83 yards gave him the school record for receiving yards in a single-season. Shane Carden threw for 255 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for two short scores. Vintavious Cooper rushed for 148 yards on 22 carries. ECU's defense only allowed one touchdown through the first 54 minutes of action before the Wolfpack tacked on two more late in the fourth quarter. The Pirates will battle Marshall at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Friday for the East Division title.

FIU: The Panthers (1-10, 1-6) were upended once again as they suffered a 48-10 loss to Marshall in their final game at FIU Stadium of 2013. The team took a 3-0 lead into the second quarter, but allowed the Thundering Herd to score 34 unanswered points to put it out of reach. Freshman tight end Jonnu Smith led FIU with three catches for 46 yards to continue his streak as the lone Panther with a reception in all 11 games this season. E.J. Hilliard completed 15-of-29 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown, but was sacked seven times and intercepted once. Lamarq Caldwell tallied 56 yards on 16 carries while FIU was limited to 97 rushing yards and just 2.2 yards per carry. Coach Ron Turner's first season with the program will come to an end on Friday when the team visits Boca Raton to play Florida Atlantic.

FLORIDA ATLANTIC: The Owls (5-6, 4-4) kept their postseason hopes alive with a 55-10 rout of New Mexico State at home in their non-conference finale. Jaquez Johnson threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns on 15-of-22 efficiency while only being intercepted once. He also added a team-high 79 yards on the ground while Jay Warren rushed 14 times for 61 yards and a score. Lucky Whitehead registered one rushing and one receiving score, while Daniel McKinney paced the Owls with 138 receiving yards on five catches. Nexon Dorvilus reeled in a pair of touchdown receptions as well. FAU's special teams helped the cause late in the opening frame as Randell Johnson blocked a punt and Damian Fortner recovered the loose ball in the end zone. The Owls amassed 585 total yards of offense and 23 first downs. NMSU was limited to only 278 yards and 15 first downs. The win was the third in a row for FAU, which will host FIU on Friday.

LOUISIANA TECH: Ryan Higgins was sacked six times and threw four interceptions as Louisiana Tech (4-7, 3-4) lost, 24-14, at home to Tulsa. The setback ended the Bulldogs' hopes of reaching the postseason and marked their second loss in a row. Playing without star running back Kenneth Dixon, who was sidelined with an injury, Tevin King ran for 111 yards on 21 carries. Tony Johnson had a solid game on the defensive side of the ball with 13 tackles and an interception. Louisiana Tech's first five drives to start the game resulted in three-and-outs and it turned the ball over on downs on its next possession. It amassed only 22 yards through the first 15 minutes of action. All four of Higgins's picks came after halftime. The Bulldogs will close out their season at Texas-San Antonio on Saturday. Although they cannot make the postseason, they can help Tulane win the Division if they can defeat the Roadrunners.

MARSHALL: After being held scoreless in the first quarter, the Thundering Herd (8-3, 6-1) caught fire and pulled away for a 48-10 victory over FIU in Miami. Rakeem Cato completed 15-of-31 passes for 241 yards and connected with Gator Hoskins for three of his four touchdown passes. Hoskins finished with 137 yards on six receptions. Tommy Shuler also made six grabs for 74 yards and a score. Six different players contributed to the running attack as Marshall gained 270 yards on 31 carries. Backup quarterback Blake Frohnapfel compiled a team-high 78 yards on four carries and Steward Butler broke away for a 72-yard touchdown run. The Herd trailed 3-0 at the game entered the second quarter, but they took a 34-3 lead into the final frame. MU racked up 558 total yards of offense and limited the Panthers to only 264 total yards. The Herd will take on East Carolina on Friday with the winner being awarded a berth in the C-USA Championship game.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE: The defense recorded a pair of pick-sixes and Middle Tennessee (7-4, 5-2) compiled 418 total yards of offense as it dispatched Southern Miss, 42-21, at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Logan Kilgore completed 11- of-25 pass attempts for 172 yards and a touchdown. Shane Tucker contributed 103 yards on 19 carries. The Blue Raiders amassed 246 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Marcus Henry led Middle Tennessee with four catches and 53 yards. Kevin Byard anchored the defensive unit with eight total tackles and a 51 interception return for a score. MT now has four touchdowns on interception returns to break the previous mark of three set in 1970 and again in 1994. The Blue Raiders will return to Murfreesboro to host Texas-El Paso for their regular-season finale on Saturday.

NORTH TEXAS: The Mean Green (7-4, 5-2) had their hopes of winning the West Division title come to an end as they were defeated, 21-13, by Texas-San Antonio at home on Saturday. Derek Thompson finished 26-of-46 passing for 229 yards with one touchdown and an interception while under center for UNT. Darnell Smith made 13 receptions for 115 yards and Brandin Byrd tallied 52 yards on 12 rushing attempts. Lairamie Lee anchored the defense with 12 total tackles. The Roadrunners amassed 458 yards of total offense and limited UNT to 334 total yards. The loss snapped the Mean Green's five-game winning streak and gave them their second C-USA loss. They will close out their regular-season slate at Tulsa on Saturday.

RICE: The Owls (8-3, 6-1) overcame a pair of turnovers and a strong UAB effort to down the Blazers, 37-34, in overtime on Thursday at Legion Field. After Rice's defense held UAB to a field goal in the first part of the extra session, Luke Turner punched it in from a yard out to conclude the game. Charles Ross gained 50 yards on 10 carries before suffering an injury from which he did not return. Jowan Davis filled in to tally a career-high 130 yards on 19 rushing attempts. Taylor McHargue finished the night throwing for 139 yards and two touchdowns on 10-of-19 passing, He added 20 rushes for 92 yards, but lost a fumble late in the fourth quarter which nearly cost the Owls the game. Rice controls its own destiny in its pursuit of the West Division title and will punch its ticket to the C-USA Championship with a victory over Tulane in Houston on Saturday.

SOUTHERN MISS: The misery continued for the Golden Eagles (0-11, 0-7) as they were downed, 42-21, by Middle Tennessee at M.M. Roberts Stadium for their 23rd consecutive loss. Nick Mullens led USM with 289 yards and three touchdowns on 27-of-47 efficiency, but he was also guilty of a pair of pick sixes. Jalen Richard tallied 69 rushing yards on 11 attempts. Markese Triplett led all receivers with 101 yards and six receptions. Dylan Bradley registered 13 tackles including one for loss to pace USM's defensive unit. The Golden Eagles converted only a quarter of their 16 third-down opportunities. Coach Todd Monken will have one more chance to win his first career game this season as USM finishes off its campaign on Saturday at UAB.

TEXAS-EL PASO: The Miners (2-9, 1-6) were held out of the end zone for the first time this season as they were dismantled in a 45-3 loss to Tulane. Freshman signal caller Mack Leftwich finished with 128 yards and an interception on 13-of-24 passing. UTEP was limited to just 1.5 yards per attempt on 33 carries. Eric Tomlinson tallied 71 yards on four catches. Blaire Sullivan had a rough outing as he lost two fumbles and lost five yards on his five carries. Dashone Smith led the defense that surrendered 482 yards of total offense to Tulane's struggling attack. UTEP gained only eight total yards on its first four drives. The Miners will end their season on Saturday at Middle Tennessee.

TULANE: In their final home game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Green Wave (7-4, 5-2) left their longtime home on a positive note as they completed a 45-3 rout of Texas-El Paso on Saturday. The loss snapped a two-game losing slide for the team. Nick Montana threw for 171 yards with two of his three touchdown passes going to Ryan Grant, who finished with 104 yards on eight receptions. Orleans Darkwa racked up 137 yards and a score on 17 rushing attempts. Tulane was the first team in 2013 to prevent the Miners from scoring a touchdown. The contest was the final time the Green Wave call the venue home as they will move back to campus to the newly constructed Yulman Stadium in 2014. Tulane still has a shot at winning the West Division title, but it will need to defeat Rice and hope Louisiana Tech can win at Texas-San Antonio. The Green Wave's tilt versus Rice will be their final C-USA regular season game as they are set to depart for the American Athletic Conference in 2014.

TULSA: Trey Watts ran for 189 yards and three touchdowns and Tulsa (3-8, 2-5) earned its first victory in over a month as it bested Louisiana Tech, 24-14, at Joe Aillet Stadium. Dane Evans completed 12-of-22 pass attempts while under center for the Golden Hurricane but was intercepted three times. Ja'Terian Douglas picked up 58 yards on 13 carries. Tulsa claimed 34:22 of possession time in the game, almost ten minutes more than its opponent. The Golden Hurricane also picked up 10-of-19 third-down conversions. Watts sealed the victory for the Golden Hurricane five minutes into the last quarter with a five-yard touchdown score that extended the team's lead to 10 points. Shawn Jackson had a monster performance with 10 total tackles, four sacks, 3.5 TFL and one of the team's four interception. Darnell Walker had two INTs. The Golden Hurricane will try to end their season on a winning streak as they host North Texas on Saturday.

TX-SAN ANTONIO: Eric Soza passed for 274 yards and rushed for two touchdowns to lead the Roadrunners (6-5, 5-2) to a 21-13 victory over North Texas at Apogee Stadium. Soza completed 30-of-49 pass attempts and was intercepted once. Evans Okotcha added a season-high 104 yards on 16 carries and his brother Bennett intercepted a UNT pass on the final play of the game to secure the victory. Since UTSA is in its second-season at the FBS level, it will only be bowl eligible if there are not enough bowl-eligible teams around the country to fill the 70 spots in 35 bowls. The Roadrunners still have a chance of representing the West Division in the C-USA Championship. They will need to defeat Louisiana Tech on Saturday and hope Tulane can defeat Rice.

UAB: The Blazers (2-9, 1-6) overcame a 10-point deficit in the final four minutes of regulation before falling, 37-34, to Rice at Legion Field on Thursday. Jonathan Perry had a solid showing under center for UAB as he completed half of his throws for 195 yards and a score while also rushing for 60 yards and a score on 16 carries. Jamarcus Nelson made five receptions for 127 yards and Darris Reaves produced a pair of rushing touchdowns. Jordan Petty came up with a huge play in the fourth quarter to give UAB a chance to win the score by forcing Rice's Taylor McHargue to fumble at the Owls' 33-yard line. Ty Long tied the score with 27 seconds remaining with a 24-yard field goal and put UAB ahead with a 43-yard field goal in the first part of overtime. However, the Blazers' defense then allowed a game-ending touchdown to the Owls. UAB will try to snap its five-game losing streak on Saturday when it concludes its regular season against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.