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W Kentucky Michigan St FootballBailey Zappe

Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe has thrown for 4,640 yards and 48 touchdowns this season.

HUNTINGTON — One look at Western Kentucky’s offensive numbers may cause someone to do a double-take.

Those numbers are that good.

Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe and wide receiver Jerreth Sterns are each putting up video game-type numbers in the 2021 season.

Zappe has thrown for 4,640 yards and 48 touchdowns with only nine interceptions.

His favorite target has been Sterns, who has 123 receptions for 1,511 yards, both of which lead FBS. Sterns, who has 12 touchdown catches on the year, is 33 catches ahead of the next closest player in FBS.

Marshall head coach Charles Huff left no doubt when speaking of the strength of the Hilltoppers’ top combo, which the Thundering Herd (7-4 overall, 5-2 Conference USA) will try to contain when Western Kentucky (7-4, 6-1) comes calling at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium with the C-USA East Division title and a trip to the conference championship game on the line.

“I think right now, they are playing as consistent as any quarterback-receiver duo in the country,” Huff said.

The chemistry built between the two leads back to their days at Houston Baptist, where they also put up big-time numbers.

The success at Houston Baptist was predicated by Zach Kittley, the offensive coordinator whose modified Air Raid offense took Houston Baptist to new heights.

Western Kentucky head coach Tyson Helton brought Kittley to his staff after a 2020 season in which the Hilltoppers struggled to get any offense going, out of the norm for a Helton-led attack.

As Kittley made his way to Bowling Green, Zappe followed and, soon after, Sterns and his brother Josh did also, along with fellow Houston Baptist receiver Ben Ratzlaff.

It was thought that the additions would bolster the Western Kentucky offense. Instead, Zappe and Sterns’ mastery of Kittley’s system and the chemistry they’ve built together have taken over the nation’s top passing and receiving marks. As a result, both have been in discussions for All-American status and national awards.

“I think people are taking notice to that, and we have several more games to play,” Helton said. “The challenge they have is to continue that conversation with their play.”

This week, Zappe and Sterns will lead Western Kentucky against a Marshall pass defense that has been the best in Conference USA, making for an exciting matchup to decide the C-USA East Division crown in Huntington.

Zappe is 415 yards from Western Kentucky’s all-time single-season record set by Brandon Doughty in 2015, when he threw for 5,055 yards. Sterns is 219 receiving yards away from the program record of 1,730, set by Taywan Taylor in 2016. The likelihood is that both players will end the 2021 season with those records.

The question is whether or not it will happen on Saturday in Huntington.

Grant Traylor is the sports editor of The Herald-Dispatch and covers Marshall athletics for HD Media. Follow him on Twitter @GrantTraylor.