Bailey Zappe has done it.
After completing one of the most impressive rises we’ve seen out of a quarterback, transferring from Houston Baptist to Western Kentucky under offensive coordinator Zach Kittley, Zappe has found himself in the record books.
He’s set multiple school and conference records throughout the season, but he hit a really big one on Saturday. Zappe completed 33-of-47 passes for 422 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions in the 59-38 Boca Raton Bowl win over Appalachian State. Those 422 passing yards and six touchdowns culminate to a season total of 5,967 passing yards and 62 touchdowns—the most in one season by a quarterback in FBS history. Zappe finishes out his college career (five years with four years of playing time) with a completion percentage of 64.6%, some 14,433 passing yards, 135 touchdowns, and 40 interceptions on 1,897 passing attempts.
Regardless of what kind of offense a quarterback plays in or how much talent he has around him, that makes a statement. It’s also important to note that even while 40 interceptions over a career can look like a lot at first glance, with the number of times he is throwing the ball, the math comes out to show that he’s throwing an interception on just 2.1% of his attempts in a pass-happy offense.
And while Zappe does have some good pieces around him like standout wide receiver Jerreth Sterns, Zappe’s numbers are a product of what he himself brings to the table and others doing their jobs. It sounds like a broken record at this point to say that it’s clear to see that Zappe has a high football IQ and understands what’s going to happen on a play before the ball is ever snapped. But if you take the time to sit down and watch some of his film—even after hearing over and over again how quickly he gets the ball out—it’s still almost unreal-looking to see just how little time elapses between the snap, the pass, and the reception. The ball practically leaps off the screen at you as it flies off his hand.
This comes from years upon years of repetition and execution—which is exactly what the Air Raid offense is based upon—and a deep understanding of a WKU offense that requires quarterbacks to have a strong understanding of protections. After a while, it becomes more instinctual than anything else and Zappe’s play illustrates that perfectly.
The only thing Zappe has really been knocked for by some analysts is “lack of arm strength,” though that doesn’t really show to be an issue on tape. Zappe’s deep ball is one of the best in the draft and he’s obviously had no problem pushing the ball downfield at will.
Heading on to the next level of his career, Zappe is more than just a success story and a record-breaker, he’s an inspiration to every small-school quarterback in the country and a testament to the elite level of passers the Air Raid offense produces.