Hilltoppers Place 10 on All-CUSA Teams, Malone Earns First Team Honors for Third Time
DALLAS, Texas — WKU Football had 10 selections to the All-Conference USA Teams, as selected by the league’s 14 head coaches, it was announced Tuesday. The 10 total representatives ranked second in the league to UTSA (11), while the Hilltoppers’ six on the First Team tied with the Roadrunners for most.
WKU also had six players on the C-USA First Team in both 2015 and 2016. The Hilltoppers had eight on the Second Team in 2016 to make the program’s record mark of 14 total.
On the First Team were: quarterback Bailey Zappe, wide receiver Jerreth Sterns, offensive tackles Mason Brooks and Cole Spencer, defensive end DeAngelo Malone and defensive back Beanie Bishop. On the Second Team were: offensive guards Quantavious Leslie and Boe Wilson, wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley and kicker Brayden Narveson. WKU also had 11 Honorable Mention choices and one All-Freshman Team representative.
Malone became the first WKU player in the program’s FBS Era to earn conference First Team honors. He is the first since offensive lineman Buster Ashley, who was All-Gateway Football Conference First Team in 2002, 2003 and 2004. This season, Malone tied for the C-USA lead with 16.5 tackles for loss and ranked second with eight sacks. He ranked 12th in C-USA with 88 total tackles, although that number leads the nation among defensive linemen. The Atlanta, Ga., native is tied for the league lead with four forced fumbles, which is also ninth among all FBS defenders.
Bishop became only the second Hilltopper defensive back (safety Branden Leston in 2016) to earn First Team distinction since the program moved to C-USA. The Louisville native recorded 41 tackles – including 6.5 tackles for loss – along with three interceptions, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. He was voted the league’s Defensive Player of the Week after his two-interception game vs. Middle Tennessee; in which one of his picks was returned for a 43-yard touchdown. Two weeks later vs. Florida Atlantic, Bishop had a career-high three tackles for loss, his third interception of the year and a pass breakup. The redshirt sophomore also earned a spot on the Honorable Mention list as a kick returner, with 25 returns for 609 yards overall this season.
Zappe and Sterns led C-USA in every conceivable passing and receiving category, and Tinsley was not far behind. Zappe’s 69.2% completion rate on 442-of-639 attempts, 5,545 yards, 56 touchdowns and 167.55 passing efficiency rating led all league quarterbacks; with the next closest being Marshall’s Grant Wells’ 67.0% completion rate on 280-of-418 attempts (+2.2% with 221 more attempts) and 3,456 yards (+2,089), Charlotte’s Chris Reynolds’ 26 touchdowns (+30), UTSA’s Frank Harris’ 153.62 passing efficiency rating (+13.93).
Sterns 137 receptions, 1,718 yards and 14 touchdowns led all league receivers, while Tinsley had 80 catches for 1,299 yards and 12 scored. The next-closest numbers behind Sterns were Tinsley’s 80 receptions (+57) and 12 touchdowns (+2), as well as UTEP’s Jacob Cowing’s 1,343 yards (+375). Cowing (67 catches for 1,343 yards and seven scores) and UTSA’s Zakhari Franklin (73 catches for 938 yards and 11 scores) made the First Team ahead of Tinsley, who ranked seventh in FBS with 1,299 yards, tied for sixth with 12 touchdowns and tied for 17th with 80 receptions.
Brooks, Spencer, Leslie and Wilson made up one of the best offensive lines in the nation. According to PFF College, the Hilltoppers earned a pass-block rating of 91.2 to lead all FBS teams; the next-highest in C-USA was Marshall, ranked No. 20 with a 74.8 mark. WKU allowed only 16 sacks, which ranked tied for 13th in the nation despite the offense attempting 651 passes. Spencer’s 90.7 pass-block rating led the league, Wilson’s 87.9 ranked second, Leslie’s 82.7 ranked third and Brooks’ 75.6 ranked fifth. Center Rusty Staats earned a spot on the Honorable Mention list, as all five of the Hilltoppers’ offensive linemen were recognized.
Narveson has made 22-of-27 field goals this season and 64-of-64 extra points for a total of 130 points scored. The 130 points scored set WKU’s single-season program record and led all FBS kickers this year. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native tied a career-long and matched the third-longest field goal in Hilltopper history with a 53-yard make at Marshall. He was 17-of-17 on attempts under 40 yards, with his only five misses being 53, 53, 57 and 43 yarders. The redshirt sophomore earned C-USA Special teams Player of the Week twice on the campaign and scored nine-plus points in 10-of-13 games.
In the rest of the C-USA East Division, Marshall had seven total players on the First and Second Teams, Middle Tennessee had five, FIU had three and Old Dominion had one, while Charlotte and Florida Atlantic had zero.
C-USA’s superlative awards will be announced by the league office on Wednesday, Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. Hilltoppers have won six such awards since joining the league in 2014: Most Valuable Player Brandon Doughty in 2014 and 2015, Newcomer of the Year Mike White in 2016, Newcomer of the Year Ty Storey in 2019, Defensive Player of the Year DeAngelo Malone in 2019 and Coach of the Year Tyson Helton in 2019.