Eastern Kentucky, meet Houston Baptist. I’ll bet nobody has ever typed or said that before.
When it comes to the quarterback world, well … Parker McKinney … meet Bailey Zappe.
And in the head coaching realm? Walt Wells, meet Vic Shealy … Oh wait, you two already knew each other going back 30 years, and there’s a funny story attached to that.
That’s the kind of weekend we have on tap in the FCS Universe. Check that, that’s the kind of FALL we have on tap in the FCS Universe. Out of the blue? Central Arkansas is going to Fargo to play the FCS champs, NDSU. Abilene Christian is heading to West Point, N.Y. to play Army because, well, we all knew that would happen, right? And Jacksonville State heads down to Florida State with a legit chance to do damage.
And the No. 1 passing offense in America (Houston Baptist) heads to, well, Richmond, Ky. to play Eastern Kentucky because — hey, new blood vs. blue blood fits the narrative in the FCS Nation this year. It’s hardly a bad thing, and HBU and EKU can’t wait to meet. HBU has its last chance to pick up a victory after impressive offensive production against three Texas FBS programs and a near-win at Power Five Texas Tech (35-33 loss).
The Huskies have 18 all-time wins as a program since beginning play in 2013, and EKU has 610 all-time wins after beating a tough team at The Citadel last weekend. Yet, here they are … and it looks like an interesting matchup. HBU QB Bailey Zappe leads the Division I football world in passing (1,453 yards) after three FBS games, yet EKU held The Citadel’s well-known option attack to just 14 points, while McKinney asserted himself as EKU’s stud in the offensive backfield — with 274 yards passing, 4 TDs and gaining 89 rushing yards.
For the record? We asked … Zappe and McKinney have never crossed paths in the incestuous world of endless quarterback camps, etc. But … they sure do respect each other based on what they’ve seen and what they said this week during interviews. Both QBs drew huge praise from their two opposing head coaches, who know each other well (but we’ll get to that in a moment).
“It’s nice to get those compliments from a head coach like (EKU) Coach Wells,” Zappe told HERO Sports this week.
“They have a great quarterback (Zappe) and I think it could be one of those high-scoring games,” McKinney told HERO Sports during a Zoom remote session this week. “As an offense coming in? We’re going to have to put up more points than they’re putting up. We’re going to have to maximize our possessions.”
Shealy and Wells see this game the same way. Both programs opted to play their football in the fall and have opted out of playing the spring. HBU only has/had four games on the schedule, and this will wrap that slate. EKU has scheduled nine games for the fall of 2020, and hasn’t ruled out scheduling more.
Oh, and as mentioned above? Shealy and Wells go back three decades to the late 1980s when Wells was a player at Austin Peay and Shealy was an assistant coach.
“I was a knucklehead center, and he was the calm assistant coach … and we were in drills and somebody yelled ‘Hut’ and I snapped it and hit Coach Shealy square on where the sun doesn’t shine,” Wells said this week. “He cussed, but it wasn’t real bad, but you have to understand … Coach Shealy doesn’t cuss. You remember that kind of thing. But Coach Shealy is just a really good person, a really good football coach. He has made a lot of different stops as a coach and he has always gotten his kids ready to play.”
For the record? Shealy also coached current East Carolina and former James Madison head coach Mike Houston in college at Mars Hill. Shealy has quite the coaching resume, as did his father.
Shealy chuckled when reminded of Wells’ story above.
“Walter had something special about him, even back then,” Shealy told HERO Sports this week. “It’s just a coincidence that he and I knew each other, because we didn’t even have this game scheduled several weeks ago … That’s kind of how it played out. And I’m excited.”
As far as the QB matchup, take it from somebody who has studied the film of one, and has faced the other in practice — EKU defensive stud Matthew Jackson.
“My quarterback doesn’t run from anything, I know he has my back and we have his back,” Jackson told HERO Sports, when asked about McKinney — a former Class Mr. Football recipient in Tennessee. “He doesn’t shy away from anything, he’s going to bring it.”
If you’re curious about this rare FCS matchup, it is scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN+.