Sun Belt news and notes

Sun Belt Conference Recent Results

Oct. 3

#13 Iowa 24, Arkansas State 21 (ESPN2)

* ULM 48, FIU 35 (Sun Belt Network)

Wyoming 30, Florida Atlantic 28

Sun Belt Conference Upcoming Games

Oct. 6

Middle Tennessee at Troy (ESPN2) - 7 p.m.

Oct. 10

* North Texas at ULL (Sun Belt Network) - 6 p.m.

* FIU at WKU - 6 p.m.

Oct. 13  

* Arkansas State at ULM (ESPN2) - 7 p.m.

Sun Belt Conference News & Notes  

Sun Belt Attendance on the Rise

Teams from the Sun Belt Conference helped the league to a new all-time single season attendance record for both overall and per game average attendance last year.  Last season's numbers were also the largest increase in average in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision.  The league also averaged nearly 2,000 more fans per game than the Mid-American Conference.

Sun Belt Conference Team News & Notes

Arkansas State Red Wolves

ASU finished with 216 passing yards, its second most of the season, against an Iowa defense that was giving up an average of 171.5 passing yards per game and was ranked 32nd in the nation in pass defense heading into the game.

ASU's 21 points scored were the most allowed by Iowa this season.  Iowa's opponents were averaging just 11.5 points per game, ranking Iowa 8th in the nation in scoring defense at the start of the game.

Corey Leonard threw his third and fourth TD passes of the season against Iowa and now has 44 for his career, leaving him four shy of tying the school record.  Leonard completed a season-high 22 passes (3 short of his career high), topping his previous season high of 12 set against Troy the week prior.  Leonard threw his first interception of the season, ending his streak of consecutive passes without an interception at 79.  He threw for a season-high 216 yards as well, giving him 6,569 yards for his career and moving him past Brian Lindgren (Idaho, 2001-03) for the fourth most yards in Sun Belt Conference history.

ASU scored two of three times when inside the red zone and has now scored on 13 of its 14 trips inside the red zone for the entire season.

Brandon Thompkins recorded his second TD reception of the season against Iowa.  Both of his TD's came over the last two games and he now has five for his career.  Thompkins set a new career high for receptions with eight.  He now has 12 receptions for 158 yards and 2 TD's over last two games.

ASU will play its second straight nationally televised game when it plays ULM on ESPN2 on Oct. 13.

ASU has played ULM 30 times, which is the fifth most in school history among all opponents . . . ULM leads the all-time series with Arkansas State 16-14 since the first meeting in 1959. As Sun Belt foes, ASU leads the series 5-3 after winning 37-29 last season at ASU Stadium

Florida Atlantic Owls

FAU jumped on the scoreboard less than a minute into the game on just three plays culminating in a 36 yard run by Chris Bonner, his first career rushing TD.

Wyoming responded with a game tying 11 play drive, but then saw Tavious Polo grab his first interception of the 2009 season and the first against the Cowboys in 2009 giving FAU a 14-7 lead.

FAU went into the half down by a field goal scored with less than a minute remaining in the half.

Alfred Morris and Darian Williams each scored in the second half but it wasn't enough for the Owls to hold on to the victory.   Morris rushed for 81 yards, his fourth game of 2009 with 80+ yards. Williams led all receivers with 64 yards and the only receiving touchdown.

In all, eight Owls had receptions on the day including Cortez Gent who recorded four. His first reception put him over the top as FAU's all-time leader in receptions.

The Owls took better care of the ball as quarterback Rusty Smith has not thrown an interception in his last two games. The Owls lost just one fumble during the game and recovered the Cowboys lone gift.

FAU will have a bye week this week and will return to action October 17 at North Texas, a game that will air on the Sun Belt Network.

FIU Golden Panthers

The Panthers came up on the short end of a shootout in Monroe last week as FIU fell 48-35 to the ULM Warhawks.

FIU's quarterback Paul McCall completed passes to a career-best nine receivers, racking up 314 yards and three scores. T.Y. Hilton set a new career best with 11 catches, which tied the FIU school record shared with Chandler Williams and Sam Smith. Hilton amassed 117 yards and one TD for the game. Hilton also extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one reception to 15 games and games scoring or throwing a touchdown to nine. Sophomore RB Darriet Perry ran the ball 12 times for 31 yards and two scores.

On defense, Scott Bryant once again led the way with 14 tackles. He also added an interception and one sack. Anthony Gaitor's first quarter interception was his second of the year and gives him nine for his career, moving him into sole possession of second place on the all-time list, passing Lionell Singleton. Nick Turnbull is the all-time leader with 16.

FIU will look for its first win of the season next week as the Panthers travel to Bowling Green, Ky. for a meeting with the WKU Hilltoppers. Last season FIU beat WKU 27-3 in the Panthers' season finale.

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

The Cajuns (2-2) will enjoy their open date on Oct. 3 in preparation for eight straight conference games.

The four schools the Cajuns have faced this season hold a combined 12-4 record entering October.

Louisiana-Lafayette starts conference play against North Texas, who also has an open date Oct. 3.  The Cajuns are 3-5 in Sun Belt openers, while head coach Rickey Bustle is 23-23 in conference play.  Bustle is 0-2 after an open date when the team lost the week prior to their bye week.  The Cajuns are 3-5 against North Texas since 2001, but has won three of the last four meetings.

Through four games, three different players have started at free safety and three different players have started at strong safety for the Cajuns.

The Cajuns have put together nine drives greater than 60 yards this season. Seven of those drives resulted in a touchdown, while one other ended in a field goal.

Cajuns punter Spencer Ortego entered the season with 13 punts of 50 yards or more in 104 career kicks (12/5%).  In 2009, Ortego has six 50+ punts in 21 attempts (28.6%).

The Cajuns have five interceptions after four games, putting the team on pace for 15 this season.  UL had only nine picks in 2008, nine in 2007 and just six in 2006.

ULM Warhawks

ULM's 577 total offensive yards gained against FIU was the third most in the Weatherbie era.

The Warhawks have won the last four meetings against FIU by a combined 66 points and are 9-3 against both the Sun Belt Conference's Florida schools - Florida Atlantic (4-2), FIU (5-1).

2009 marks the first time in school history that the Warhawks have three wins through the first five games of the season with at least two of the three wins coming against a Division I-A (FBS) school.

The Warhawks are 20-9 under Charlie Weatherbie when scoring 27 points or more.

ULM's 48 points is the highest amount of points ever scored by the Warhawks in a Sun Belt Conference victory.

ULM's 24 points in the second quarter was the first time since Nov. 3, 2001 in which the Warhawks have scored 24 points in a quarter.

The Warhawks 304 rushing yards was the 19th time in the Weatherbie era that ULM surpassed the 200-yard mark. It is also the fourth highest mark during the Weatherbie era.

Frank Goodin's career-high 163 yards rushing moved him into sole possession of fifth place with 1,840 in his career. He is now 490 yards shy of tying fourth place all-time.   Goodin's career-tying three rushing touchdowns gives him 17 for his career, tying seventh place all-time.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee's win over North Texas ran its record to 3-1 on the season. The 3-1 start is the best beginning to a season for the Blue Raiders since they went 5-0 in 2001. It also marks the first time since 2001 the Blue Raiders won their conference opener that was on the road.

Junior quarterback Dwight Dasher registered his personal-best fourth straight 200-yard passing game when he completed 21 of 43 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Dasher has now thrown for 1,028 yards this season after four games. Dasher also added 75 yards on the ground and two rushing scores.

For the second game in a row, Middle Tennessee recorded a blocked field goal when Rod Issac rejected a Mean Green three-point attempt in the first quarter. It went down as the first career block for Issac and the ninth in the Rick Stockstill era. It also went down as the seventh blocked kick against North Texas and the 28th in the FBS era (since 1999). Overall in the FBS era, MT now has 11 blocked field goals, 9 punts, and 8 PATs.

Middle Tennessee's offense has been in high gear during its three-game winning streak. In the three games, the Blue Raiders have scored a combined 100 points for an average of 33.3 per game. MT has now scored 30 or more points in three straight games for the first time since 2006.

Middle Tennessee's 12 play, 98-yard scoring drive against North Texas went down as the second longest under Rick Stockstill. Since Stockstill took the reins in 2006, the Blue Raiders have put together five scoring drives of 90 or more yards with two coming in 2007, one in 2008, and now two this year. In 2007, the Blue Raiders had a 99-yard scoring drive at ULM and then a 91 yarder in the same game before putting together a 91-yard drive at Louisville. The 96 yarder against Memphis earlier this year went down as the longest under Stockstill at home and third longest overall.

North Texas Mean Green

Lance Dunbar broke loose for a 66-yard touchdown run, which was the longest by a North Texas player since Jamario Thomas scampered 77 yards against MTSU on Oct. 27, 2007. The run was also the longest allowed by Middle Tennessee this year.

Late in the third quarter Dunbar rumbled 18 yards for his second touchdown of the night. The score marked the first multiple touchdown night of his career.

QB Riley Dodge passed for a career high 313 yards, which is the 24th most in the history of North Texas football. His 54 attempts tied for the ninth most in school history, and his 35 completions are tied for the sixth most.

WR Jamaal Jackson caught 6 passes in the first half alone, which was a career high. He ended up grabbing 11 passes for 82 yards.

TE/WR Forrest Rucker lined up out wide and caught the first pass of his career in the second quarter.

MTSU's Rod Issac blocked a first-quarter 37-yard field goal attempt from Jeremy Knott. It was the first blocked kick allowed by the Mean Green this year.

Dwight Dasher's 50-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin Cunningham was the longest play from scrimmage allowed by North Texas so far this year.

Troy Trojans

ASU's Brandon Thompkins' 65- yard kick-off return to start the game was the longest return against Troy since Arkansas' Felix Jones returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown on September 1, 2007

Junior Tebiarus Gill led the Trojans in receiving for the second time in the first four games and posted a career high 10 receptions against ASU.  Gill also posted his first punt return of the year.

Through three games, only senior QB Levi Brown had attempted a pass for Troy. That changed against ASU when receivers Jason Bruce and Jerrel Jernigan both had pass attempts (both incomplete) as did backup QB Dantavious Parker. Parker's fourth quarter pass came on a third and one play as the Trojans worked to run out the clock. He completed the throw for an 18-yard gain to fellow sophomore Chip Reeves.

Freshman running back Shawn Southward's 16-yard reception in the second quarter was the first of his career. He became the 12th different Trojan with a catch thus far in 2009.

Sophomore Wes Henry, a walk-on long snapper, made his first major contribution for the Trojans early in the third quarter when he was credited with a forced and recovered fumble on a Troy punt. The turnover, one of two fumbled punts in the game for ASU, led to Troy field goal.

Troy had its own problems on punt returns early in the fourth quarter. Senior defensive back Justin Bray, playing on the punt return team, had a Ryan Wilbourn punt kick off his leg toward the Troy goal line, where it was recovered by ASU. The Troy defense held ASU to a field goal after the turnover, leaving the door open for the Trojans' come back win.

fsOne of QB Levi Brown's 33 completions in the game was a shovel pass to Dujuan Harris for an 11 yard gain. It was the first time this season the Trojans had shown that wrinkle in the offense

WKU Hilltoppers

The Hilltoppers return from a bye week to open their first season of Sun Belt Conference play this Saturday when Florida International visits Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.

The Hilltoppers will host FIU for the first time since a 56-7 win on Oct. 12, 2002.  The two teams have met three other times - all in Miami.

Over the first 42 conference seasons in its history, WKU has been able to get off on the right foot in its quest for a league title.  The Hilltoppers are 25-15-2 all time in league openers - a .619 winning percentage.  In nine of its 10 conference championship seasons (nine in the OVC and one in the Gateway), WKU won its first league game.

WKU has won 16 games in October under head coach David Elson.  That is more wins that in any other month.

For the second time this season, WKU will be involved in a game in which two of the youngest coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision will face off.  WKU's David Elson is fourth on that list, while FIU's Mario Cristobal - nearly one year and one month older - is fifth.  Tennessee's Lane Kiffin is the youngest coach in the FBS, followed by Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald and Washington's Steve Sarkisian