Around the Group of 5: Week One

posted September 9, 2021 in CommRadio, Sports by Mathew Scalzo

College Football is back! While there is plenty to talk about with the Power 5 conferences, there was a lot of action in the Group of 5 and the Independents. There were upsets and nail-biters, so let’s dive in.

Over in the American Athletic Conference, it got off to a hot start with a thriller in Orlando when UCF defeated Boise State, 36-31

After trailing 21-0 early in the second quarter, junior Dillon Gabriel cut the halftime deficit to only 10 with a pair of touchdown passes, 24-14. After another pair in the second half, Gabriel finished the game with four touchdowns and 318 yards.

It was a barn-burner between Tulane and No. 2 Oklahoma. The game was supposed to be played in New Orleans, but because of Hurricane Ida, it was moved to Norman. The Green Wave outscored the Sooners 21-3 in the second half, but ultimately fell, 40-35.

Quarterback Michael Pratt threw for 296 yards, three touchdowns, and added another touchdown on the ground.

The other games saw No. 8 Cincinnati dismantled Miami (OH), 49-14, quarterback Desmond Ridder threw for four touchdowns. The top performer this week was Oklahoma transfer Tanner Mordecai, who threw for seven touchdowns in SMU’s win over Abilene Christian, 56-9.

It was a strong week for the independent schools as well. With the top independent schools in Notre Dame, Army, BYU, and Liberty all picking up wins.

Army ran for 258 yards in a dominating win over Georgia State, 43-10. It was a team effort for the Liberty Flames as they trounced Campbell 48-7. Finally, BYU adjusted to life without Zach Wilson as they topped Arizona in Las Vegas, 24-16.

The Fighting Irish traveled down to Tallahassee for a matchup against Florida State. A Seminole comeback sent the game to overtime, a 41-yard field goal by Johnathon Doerer gave Notre Dame the win, 41-38. Jack Coan threw for 366 yards and four touchdowns in his Irish debut.

In Conference USA, it was the theme of upsets, both Charlotte and UTSA took down Power 5 opponents.

The 49ers welcomed Duke to Jerry Richardson Stadium and it came down to the wire. With 33 seconds left Chris Reynolds hit Shadrick Boyd for an 11-yard touchdown and it gave Charlotte their first win over a Power 5 team.

As for UTSA, they went into Champaign, Ill. and handed the Illini their first loss in the Bret Bielema era, 37-30. Frank Harris led the way with two total touchdowns.

In the Mountain West, it was a strong week, with Nevada getting the marquee win.

Top quarterback prospect Carson Strong charged a Wolfpack comeback against Cal. After the first quarter, it was 14-0 Cal, Nevada then scored 22 unanswered points and won, 22-17. Strong finished with 322 yards and two touchdowns.

This coming week it is a big matchup between service academies as Air Force (1-0) travels to take on Navy (0-1), both teams will debut special uniforms for the contest.

Down in the Sun Belt, both No. 22 Coastal Carolina and No. 23 Louisiana got their seasons going, but the two teams had differing results.

The Chanticleers built off their strong campaign last year as they rolled past The Citadel, 52-14. Sophomore quarterback Grayson McCall threw for 266 yards and a touchdown, while Shermari Moore and Reese White both ran for a pair of touchdowns.

The Ragin' Cajuns were in Austin for a top-25 matchup with No. 21 Texas, but they struggled, falling 38-18. Billy Napier’s squad will look to bounce back against Nicholls this weekend.

Finally, in the MAC, the top teams from last year, Ball State and Buffalo continued their winning ways, as well as an upset in Atlanta.

Ball State, last year’s MAC Champions, got off to a strong start with a win over Western Illinois, 31-21. Quarterback Drew Plitt fueled the Cardinals with two passing touchdowns. This week, Ball State travels to Happy Valley for a matchup against No. 11 Penn State.

The Buffalo Bulls started the season on the right foot running all over a lesser Wagner team, 69-7. Similar to last year with Jaret Patterson, it was the running game for the Bulls, as they ran for seven touchdowns and 312 yards.

Finally, down in Atlanta, it was Northern Illinois with a shocking win over Georgia Tech, 22-21. Michigan State transfer quarterback Rocky Lombardi threw for two touchdowns, including the game-winning two-point conversion, Harrison Waylee also added 144 yards and a touchdown on the ground.


Matthew Scalzo is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

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Matt Scalzo

Third Year / Broadcast Journalism

Matthew “Matt” Scalzo is a third-year from Ridgefield, Connecticut majoring in broadcast journalism. Matt is a Basketball Insider, broadcaster and writer for the sports department. With CommRadio he has called football, hockey, basketball, baseball, volleyball and lacrosse games. Matt has called matches for Penn State Women’s Volleyball on both TV and radio. He has written countless articles and appeared on podcasts, live shows and is a host of the Chi-Town Sit-Down with Thomas English, which covers everything Chicago sports. Matt spent the 2022 summer as the Drector of Broadcasting & Media for the Sanford Mainers in the NECBL. If you want to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).