There was a time not too long ago where Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe was largely an unknown, but that time has long passed.
Zappe, the first quarterback to accept an invite to the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl this year, has quietly been performing at an elite level for some time now but his spotlight seemed to increase at a higher rate when head coach Tyson Helton called him the best quarterback he had ever worked around—putting him ahead of even Sam Darnold at USC.
He’s stayed hot this year, as his nation-leading 4,640 passing yards would suggest. So far this season, he’s completed 381-of-532 passing attempts for (71.6%) with 48 touchdowns and nine interceptions—a low total of misfires for that amount of attempts.
Zappe is currently on pace to break the FBS single-season records for both passing yards (421.8 per game) and touchdowns (4.36 per game). He remains in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy, though the odds have him on the outside looking in going up against more well-known names like Bryce Young, Matt Corral, and Kenny Pickett.
In his most recent showing, a 52-17 rout of FAU, Zappe completed 39-of-49 passes—that’s nearly 80%—for 470 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. This comes just one week after he was close to that 500-yard mark as well, when he completed 34-of-42 passes (81%) for 482 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.
Zappe has received plenty of praise for his deep ball, high level of mental processing, extensive understanding of protections, and ability to masterfully operate both the traditional Air Raid offense as well as WKU’s modified version that features a more elaborate run game piece and places a lot of emphasis on quarterbacks knowing protections deeply.
There seems to be a common (and oftentimes incredibly wrong) notion when it comes to players in the Air Raid offense or some form of the pass-happy scheme that quarterbacks are appearing to do well or inflating their numbers with short and simple throws that just about anyone could make. While those easy passes are a part of the offense (and a lot of different offenses for that matter), several quarterbacks within the scheme like Zappe have more than shown they can make all the throws, including an impressive deep ball.
He’s been described as a quarterback who already knows what’s about to happen in a play before the ball is ever snapped and operates with a quickness nearly impossible to stop. All of this has shown up in the film all season and continued to be present in Saturday’s win over the Owls—in which he earned an Earl Campbell Player of the Week Award Honorable Mention for this week.
Zappe will look to finish out the regular season on a high note as he and the Hilltoppers take on the Marshall Thundering Herd, who also sit at 7-4 on the year, this Saturday.