Home | Sports | Football | Sterns brothers, Western Kentucky set to face UTSA in Conference USA title game Friday
Waxahachie grads Jerreth (left) and Josh (right) Sterns walk on the tarmac to depart for the Conference-USA championship. The game kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday on the CBS Sports Network. (Courtesy WKU Athletics)

Sterns brothers, Western Kentucky set to face UTSA in Conference USA title game Friday

KBEC Sports report

Jerreth and Josh Sterns transferred from Division-I FCS Houston Baptist University to Division-I FBS Western Kentucky University to leave their mark on a grander stage.

The Waxahachie graduates will have that opportunity Friday evening inside the Alamo Dome when the Hilltoppers take the field against UTSA in the Conference USA championship.

Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. The game can be watched or streamed online on the CBS Sports Network

HOW THE HILLTOPPERS GOT THERE

After losing to UTSA 52-46 on Oct. 9, WKU won seven consecutive games to earn the shot at redemption and an upset. 

UTSA climbed as high as No. 15 in the College Football Playoff rankings before falling to the University of North Texas 45-23 on Sat. Nov. 27. 

WKU enters the game 8-4 on the season and 7-1 in C-USA play. The Hilltoppers’ three non-conference losses came to Army (38-35), Indiana (33-31) and No. 16 Michigan State (48-31). 

STERNS IS OPEN

Wide receiver Jerreth Sterns is nipping at the heels of the all-time greats. Through 12 games, the 5-foot-9 junior and 2018 Waxahachie graduate has posted numbers comparable to Taywan Taylor’s 2016 season in which he set all-time records (98 catches for 1,730 yards, with 17 touchdowns) in 14 games. East Carolina’s Zay Jones set the FBS record with 158 receptions in 12 games in 2016, and Nevada’s Trevor Insley’s 2,060 yards in 11 games in 1999 is the all-time FBS mark.

Here is how Sterns’ numbers stack up:

    • Jerreth Sterns: 123 receptions for 1,511 yards, with 12 touchdowns
    • Taywan Taylor: 82 receptions for 1,392 yards, with 14 touchdowns
    • Trevor Insley (11): 134 receptions for 2,060 yards, with 13 touchdowns
    • Zay Jones: 158 receptions for 1,746 yards, with 8 touchdowns
Jerreth Sterns

In his collegiate career, Sterns has 347 receptions for 3,510 yards and 30 touchdowns in 39 games played at Houston Baptist (27) and WKU (12). He has 16 100-yard receiving games and 17 double-digit reception performances. 

The elder Sterns was also tabbed a 2021 Associated Press Midseason All-American and named to the 2021 Earl Cambell Tyler Rose Award Semifinalist and 2021 Biletnikoff Award Semifinalists lists. 

He will wear No. 8 on the field Friday, while his younger brother, Josh, will don No. 9. Josh, a freshman, has 15 catches for 114 yards on the season. 

Both have greatly benefitted from the stellar play of WKU quarterback Bailey Zappe. 

QB & NUMBERS TO WATCH

Through 12 games, Zappe has lit up opposing defenses through the air. Zappe is quickly approaching numbers posted by Brandon Doughty during his 2015 season, in which he set WKU’s all-time passing record (5,055 yards) in 14 games. Texas Tech’s B.J. Symons set the FBS record with 5,833 passing yards in 13 games in 2003, and LSU’s Joe Burrow’s 60 passing touchdowns in 15 games in 2019 is the all-time FBS mark.

Here’s how Zappe’s numbers stack up: 

    • Bailey Zappe: 406-of-580 (70%) for 4,968 yards, with 52 TD and 9 INT
    • Brandon Doughty: 322-of-444 (72.5%) for 4,184 yards, with 42 TD and 6 INT
    • Joe Burrow: 314-of-401 (78%) for 4,366 yards, with 44 TD and 6 INT
    • B.J. Symons: 429-of-666 (64%) for 5,336 yards, with 48 TD and 21 INT

With 52 touchdown passes already this season, Zappe is tied for 4th all-time in FBS with 2003 B.J. Symons, trailing 1990 David Klingler (54), 2006 Colt Brennan (58) and Burrow (60). Meanwhile, his 4,968 yards are 18th all-time in FBS, ahead of the likes of 2017 Mason Rudolph (4,904) and 2018 Dwayne Haskins (4,831).

A few additional WKU numbers to watch Friday night: 

  • 4,968 — Bailey Zappe leads FBS with 4,968 passing yards, 517 more than next-closest quarterback – Mississippi State’s Will Rogers (4,451). Zappe also leads FBS with 52 TD’s, 12 more than Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and Bama’s Bryce Young.
  • 3 — With a win, WKU would become the first C-USA football program to claim 3 title games. The Hilltoppers, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, UAB, UCF and Tulsa each have won 2 since the inaugural game in 2005.
  • 8-28 — Bailey Zappe’s record as a starting QB at HBU from 2017-20 – the Husky defense allowed 38.7 points per game. WKU is 8-4 this season with the Hilltopper defense allowing 27.
  • 27 — Turnovers forced by Maurice Crum’s defense in 12 games. In 25 games across the 2020 and 2019 seasons, WKU forced a total of 25 turnovers.

About Travis M. Smith

Travis M. Smith serves as the digital sports director for KBEC Sports. He is the former managing editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light, Midlothian Mirror and Glen Rose Reporter.

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