Up went Bailey Zappe’s already-rising draft stock and down went the Marshall Thundering Herd as Western Kentucky got the 53-21 victory on the road on Saturday.
The quarterback who leads the FBS in passing yards (4,993), completed 25-of-48 passes for 328 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions, helping his team secure an appearance in the C-USA title game where they’ll face the UTSA Roadrunners on Friday evening.
The Thundering Herd, which have gotten some praise for their defensive efforts at times this season, did a decent job of containing Zappe in the first half, as the quarterback completed 14-of-30 passing attempts for 118 yards—an average of just 3.9 yards per attempt. But it definitely didn’t stay that way, as Zappe lit it up in the final two quarters, completing 11-of-18 passes for 210 yards, an average of 11.7 yards per attempt, with four touchdowns.
Speaking of touchdowns, Zappe leads the FBS in that category with 52 scoring passes, including this one.
Zappe has done a phenomenal job this year of rallying the troops as this marked the Hilltoppers’ seventh consecutive win to close out the regular season after starting off the year with a dismal 1-4 overall record. They now close out 2021 with a chance to take home the title and a plenty respectable overall record of 8-4.
Zappe seems to be too far on the outside looking in where the odds are concerned when it comes to the Heisman Trophy but has embodied the definition of the award all season long. Hilltoppers offensive coordinator Zach Kittley spoke highly of Zappe in relation to the Heisman conversation after the win over Marshall.
“The Heisman Trophy goes to who’s the most important player to the team... I don’t think there’s a more important football player in the whole country than Bailey Zappe is to this football program and this team,” Kittley said. “And I think if you ask our players they’ll say the same thing.”
There’s plenty that shows in the film as far as what Zappe brings to the table. He can throw it accurately at all levels of the field and it’s clear he’s well in control of the offense and knows what is going to happen before it ever does—that’s one of the qualities head coach Tyson Helton has spoken so highly of.
Looking at the stat sheet alone, it’s clear that Zappe is in a class of his own between his nation-leading passing yards and touchdown totals—he has 12 more scoring passes in the latter category than anyone else does. It will be interesting to see how Zappe uses the C-USA title game to continue building his campaign ahead of the upcoming draft and to see how much he continues to set himself apart in the Reese’s Senior Bowl in January—which will be big for him considering the biggest knock on quarterbacks like Zappe is the level of competition faced.