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Conference USA Week 1 Haiku: Dawson’s peak ends SEC losing streak

David Stephenson/Associated Press

Haikus always make life more interesting. This is why each week, Conference USA coverage will dissect the major story lines via the five-seven-five syllable format.

Southern Mississippi 44 Kentucky 35

Dawson spurns old team

Thirteen straight SEC L’s

Ends in Lexington

Southern Miss shunned an SEC affiliate for the first time following 13 tries and it couldn’t have been a sweeter victory for Golden Eagles offensive coordinator, Shannon Dawson. Kentucky’s former offensive guru drew up one heck of a game plan versus the team he was coaching for only a season ago.

Quarterback Nick Mullens was far from perfect — 18-for-28 with three picks; the balance was vital, however. Running back Ito Smith dashed all around the Wildcats’ front seven in transit to 173 yards on 36 carries. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has fallen victim to lapses down the latter half of the schedule the last two seasons. On Saturday, he opened up the campaign with a loss to the Conference USA.

“Coach Dawson and all that he’s gone through, I am happy for him,” Stoops told the Courier-Journal. “Obviously, I want our team to play better, but he did a heck of a job and they kept us off balance.”

Charlotte 14 Louisville 70

Lamar Jackson’s legs

Plus flags still on the field

What’s up, Murphy’s Law?

Either Louisville is very, very good, or Charlotte’s auditioning for a dip back down to the FCS… or it’s a bit of both.

Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson hit the B button, flipped the analogs, and after 119 rushing yards, 286 more through the air, and eight total touchdowns in the first half, he lent the video game controller to teammate Kyle Bolin for post-halftime mop-up duty.

September 1, 2016: Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs the ball during the 1st half of the NCAA football game between the Louisville Cardinals and the Charlotte 49ers at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, KY. Louisville won 70-14. (Photo by David Blair/Icon Sportswire)

September 1, 2016: Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) runs the ball during the 1st half of the NCAA football game between the Louisville Cardinals and the Charlotte 49ers at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, KY. Louisville won 70-14. (Photo by David Blair/Icon Sportswire)

It’s difficult to measure Charlotte’s complete identity when matched against a team like Louisville, on the road, in its Week 1 opener. However, head coach Brad Lambert had to have had a sour feeling coming out of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

A field that was decorated in red and black meshed with a yellow tint all evening due to consistent blunders on the visiting side. A 39-yard reception by T.L. Ford into Louisville territory late in the opening quarter went for naught following a Kevin Olsen intentional grounding later in the drive. False start calls by the zebras echoed into Kentucky sunset. There was no rhythm whatsoever. Charlotte better gaze helplessly into the mirror before Conference USA play unravels.

Rice 14 Western Kentucky 46

White pulls the trigger

Who’s this ‘Doughty’ you speak of?

‘Tops don’t skip a beat

Anyone who believed Western Kentucky would need some time to gel with a new quarterback was misguided. Hilltoppers quarterback Mike White settled in early versus Rice, posting 335 yards in the first half to spring his offense to a 23-point lead heading into the half. It was smooth sailing from there — Western Kentucky didn’t appear to be fazed by a semi-new feel.

Hilltopper boxscores will be Hilltopper boxscores will be Hilltopper boxscores. Senior wideout Taywan Taylor notched a game-high 165 receiving yards, Nicholas Norris chipped in with 147 of his own, and White and his supporting cast started the season where they left off in 2015.

“It was just a little extra chip on our shoulder because all summer we’ve been hearing ‘we won’t be the same team after losing a couple of guys,'” Norris said. “So we just had a little extra chip on our shoulder to show them we can still do the same thing as last year.”

Louisiana Tech 20 Arkansas 21

Three-score underdogs

SEC club nearly falls

Close but no cigar

Had the Bulldogs turned the tables on Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks, chants of “C-U-S-A! would’ve rung out all over the weekend. Despite smoothing over the kinks in Week 1, Arkansas’ struggles with Louisiana Tech may confirm skeptical views regarding the depth — or lack thereof — in the SEC.

Indiana 34 Florida International 13

Here, take our money

And wait, have some turnovers!

Gift-wrapped IU win

Florida International gave Indiana a run for its money in Bloomington last season — not so much on Thursday. The Golden Panthers paid the Hoosiers $200,000 for the return trip down south and alongside its cache for traveling, picked off three Alex McGough passes, two of which were taken to the house.

SMU 34 North Texas 21

Untapped potential

Seth Littrell sticks to game plan

Texas team loses

Alec Morris attempted 39 passes and Mason Fine added another 11, but slinging the rock around the field generated only 21 points for the Mean Green offense. The Texas tussle meant one team from the Lone Star State had to take an L — but what a weekend for FBS programs from Texas, nonetheless.

SIU 30 FAU 38

Palm trees and pipe dreams

FAU squeaks out a win

Where are all the fans?

Crisis averted for FAU, which slipped by with a win over the Southern Illinois Salukis after the defense surrendered 24 first-half points. Unfortunately, the Boca Raton residents were perhaps soaking up the rays on the beach — only 14,887 attended the game.

Alabama State 13 UTSA 26

Sturm earns starting nod

Portillo can’t find his mark


UTSA head coach Frank Wilson finally pleaded the fifth and threw out Dalton Sturm — who had been jousting with transfer quarterback Jared Johnson — to lead the Roadrunners. Sturm looked extremely composed, and the Roadrunners could have tacked on a few more had it not been for a couple of PAT blunders courtesy of Daniel Portillo.

The new-look UTSA defense also swarmed.

Alabama A&M 0 Middle Tennessee State 55

Points keep piling up

But so do the injuries

Next receiver up

The Blue Raiders were as good as advertised behind Brent Stockstill. He, at one point, had completed 22 consecutive passes. Middle Tennessee didn’t shimmy past Alabama A&M unscathed, however. Wide receiver Demetrius Frazier and defensive end Chris Hale both made early departures. According to The Daily News Journal, head coach Rick Stockstill may be without his two seniors for the remainder of 2016.

New Mexico State 22 UTEP 38

Rebirth for Greenlee

Jones slices Aggies defense

Take it while you can

Transfer quarterback Zack Greenlee enjoyed a fine night with 229 yards and three scores despite a 55-percent completion clip. Running back Aaron Jones added 249 on the ground with two touchdowns of his own. Nice job, UTEP! Good luck in Austin taking on the Oregon Ducks offense Longhorns next week!

Hampton 21 Old Dominion 54

Old Dominion rolls

Never trust a hotel school

Lawry back on track

Old Dominion played like FCS Old Dominion. You know, the program that incinerated scoreboards ages ago.

Running back Ray Lawry got back to where he left off in 2015, notching 110 yards on only 14 carries in the Monarchs’ opener. Hampton could have been a sneaky-good upset pick prior to kickoff, but teams who are also named after prestigious hotels are 0-83 against FBS schools since 1964, according to Gullible.com.

Conference USA Week 1 Haiku: Dawson’s peak ends SEC losing streak

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