NEW ORLEANS – Former league Players of the Year and current NFL stars highlight the Sun Belt Conference's Ten Year Anniversary Football Team, while last minute wins and non-conference victories highlight the Sun Belt's list of Top Ten Moments and Top Ten Plays as all three lists were released Monday.
Each category was selected by fan voting over the course of the season as well as voting from the Sun Belt Conference head coaches and media panel. All nominations came from the Sun Belt institutions.
Sun Belt Conference Tenth Anniversary Football Team
Rusty Smith (Florida Atlantic, Quarterback)
Tyrell Fenroy (Louisiana-Lafayette, Running Back)
Patrick Cobbs (North Texas, Running Back)
Casey Fitzgerald (North Texas, Wide Receiver)
Jerrel Jernigan (Troy, Wide Receiver)
Jason Harmon (Florida Atlantic, Tight End)
Matt Mandich (Arkansas State, Offensive Line)
Chris Fisher (Louisiana-Lafayette, Offensive Line)
Brandon Westbrook (Middle Tennessee, Offensive Line)
Nick Zuniga (North Texas, Offensive Line)
Dion Small (Troy, Offensive Line)
Alex Carrington (Arkansas State, Defensive Line)
Jeff Littlejohn (Middle Tennessee, Defensive Line)
Brandon Kennedy (North Texas, Defensive Line)
Demarcus Ware (Troy, Defensive Line)
Frantz Joseph (Florida Atlantic, Linebackers)
Cardia Jackson (Louisiana-Monroe, Linebackers)
Boris Lee (Troy, Linebackers)
Tyrell Johnson (Arkansas State, Defensive Back)
Charles Tillman (Louisiana-Lafayette, Defensive Back)
Chris Harris (Louisiana-Monroe, Defensive Back)
Leodis McKelvin (Troy, Defensive Back)
Josh Arauco (Arkansas State, Placekicker)
Joel Stelly (Louisiana-Monroe, Punter)
Leodis McKelvin (Troy, Return Specialist)
Tenth Anniversary Most Outstanding Offensive Player: Patrick Cobbs (North Texas)
Tenth Anniversary Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Brandon Kennedy (North Texas)
Tenth Anniversary Most Outstanding Head Coach: Larry Blakeney (Troy)
Sun Belt Conference Tenth Anniversary Football Top Ten Moments
As part of the Sun Belt Conference's Ten Year Anniversary of football, fans, coaches and members of the media combined to select the Top Ten Moments in the history of the Sun Belt Conference. Below are the results of the voting in no particular order. Nominees were submitted by each institution.
Motor City Bowl Makes Owls Back-to Back Bowl Champs
FAU was chosen to travel to Detroit where they would serve as host to Central Michigan. It would be billed as an offensive game with two of the country's best quarterbacks. However, it was the defense that dominated the game and defense that gave FAU the 24-21 victory over CMU. Rusty Smith was honored as the game's MVP. Frantz Joseph as the game's Defensive MVP and both celebrated as Head Coach Howard Schnellenberger and Lloyd Carr exchanged the championship trophy. It was the second bowl celebration in as many years for the Owls with each holding a different meaning. The first was accomplishment, the second relief that they had truly lived up to expectation and would become the players that earned the Sun Belt Conference back-to-back bowl victories, the first time in the league's history. The back-to-back victories in 2007 and 2008 also noted FAU as the only team in the state of Florida to earn bowl victories in both 2007 and 2008.
Cajuns beat Big XII Kansas State on 48-yard field goal with 0:32 left
The Sun Belt has had its share of upsets, but not many as memorable as the Cajuns' victory over Kansas State. ULL led 14-2 at the half, but trailed 15-14 with 8:08 remaining on the clock. A late drive inched the Cajuns closer, but rookie kicker Tyler Albrecht faced a 48-yard field goal with 32 seconds remaining to win the game. If that wasn't enough pressure, add a wet surface and the fact that it was Albrecht's first career field goal attempt. None of it mattered, as his kick sailed through the uprights giving the Cajuns the win.
ULM's 21-14 Victory at Alabama
ULM stunned the nation and a crowd of 92,000 fans inside Bryant-Denny Stadium when the Warhawks defeated Alabama 21-14 on Nov. 17, 2007. The Warhawks held Alabama without a touchdown over the game's final 42 minutes and forced four Crimson Tide turnovers in what is Alabama's last loss at home (heading into the 2010 season). Calvin Dawson rushed for 91 yards, Kinsmon Lancaster completed 14-of-24 pass attempts and Quintez Secka intercepted a pair of John Parker Wilson passes – Secka was awarded a helmet sticker by the ESPN College GameDay Final crew. It was ULM's third victory over a Southeastern Conference school, but easily the biggest victory in the school's Division I history.
Blue Raiders win over Vanderbilt in 2001
In Middle Tennessee's first-ever game as a Sun Belt member it traveled a short distance to take on the SEC's Vanderbilt Commodores. The Blue Raiders picked up the conferences first-ever win as the combination of Wes Counts and Dwone Hicks was too much for the Commodores. Counts completed 27 of 36 passes for 308 yards while Hicks added 203 yards and four touchdowns on the ground to give MT a 37-28 victory. It went down as the Blue Raiders' first-ever win against the SEC.
Dwight Dasher 2009 New Orleans Bowl MVP
Quarterback Dwight Dasher became the first bowl Most Valuable Player since the Blue Raiders joined the FBS ranks in 1999 with a record-setting performance in the Louisiana Superdome on national television. Dasher accounted for 81 percent of the team's offense with 363 total yards and four touchdowns to lead MT to a 42-32 win over Southern Miss. Along with 162 yards passing, Dasher rushed for a career-high 201 yards to set a new New Orleans Bowl rushing record. His 201-yard effort also went down as the most rushing yards by a quarterback in NCAA bowl history by breaking Vince Young's mark of 200 yards set against USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.
Final Drive at Maryland in 2009
Even though he would prefer it be called "the Blue Raider Drive", there's no doubt who was in command of Middle Tennessee's stunning game-winning drive on the road against Maryland in 2009. Needing a field goal to win, quarterback Dwight Dasher took the Blue Raiders 73 yards in eight plays with no timeouts to set up Alan Gendreau's game-clinching three-pointer. Dasher was a perfect 4-for-4 through the air for 65 yards, including a beautiful 35-yard strike to Chris McClover along the left sideline to key the come-from-behind win. It marked the second straight upset of the Terps and the first time the Blue Raiders have ever defeated an ACC team on the road.
North Texas Wins 2002 New Orleans Bowl
North Texas claimed its second consecutive invitation to the New Orleans Bowl in 2002. Not content on just playing in the game, the Mean Green defeated Conference-USA co-Champion Cincinnati for the their first Bowl win since 1946.
National Rushing Champs
With Patrick Cobbs and Jamario Thomas, North Texas became the first school in NCAA history to have two national rushing champions play in the same backfield. Cobbs won the NCAA rushing title in 2003 and Thomas in 2004.
"The Miracle in Murfreesboro"
Down 20-7 at Middle Tennessee with less than three minutes to play and the season in the balance, Omar Haugabook leads the Trojans on a pair of TD drives, sandwiched around a successful onside kick.
Trojans Upset Missouri
The goal posts at Movie Gallery Stadium come down after the Trojans 24-14 victory over 19th ranked Missouri.
Sun Belt Conference Tenth Anniversary Football Top Ten Plays
As part of the Sun Belt Conference's Ten Year Anniversary of football, fans, coaches and members of the media combined to select the Top Ten Plays in the history of the Sun Belt Conference. Below are the results of the voting in no particular order. Nominees were submitted by each institution.
Leonard-to-Jones Touchdown Gives Red Wolves Win at Texas A&M
Arkansas State ushered in the era of the Red Wolves with arguably its biggest victory ever when quarterback Corey Leonard connected with wideout Kevin Jones from 15 yards out to put ASU on top of Texas A&M 15-14 with 4:39 to play, in what would eventually be an 18-14 Red Wolves victory.
Leonard's Hail Mary Stuns Memphis
With the clock reading :00, Arkansas State receiver Patrick Higgins jumped high in the end zone among a throng of Memphis defenders to catch a 53-yard pass from quarterback Corey Leonard to lead Arkansas State to a come-from-behind 26-23 victory over the University of Memphis at the Liberty Bowl.
Albrecht's first career attempt, only from 48 yards and only beats K-State with 32 ticks left
Nerves of steel needed when your first career field goal attempt comes with 32 seconds remaining in the game, is from 48 yards, is on a wet surface, will either win or lose the game and has upset implications. Add in the fact that Tyler Albrecht nearly lost the starting kicker job to a redshirt freshman during fall camp and his game-winning field goal against Kansas State in nothing short of legendary.
Fenroy bursts through the line to claim his fourth 1,000-yard rushing season - just the 7th in history
Just six players in the history of college football had ever had four 1,000-yard rushing seasons, until Tyrell Fenroy became the seventh on Nov. 1, 2008. In doing so, Fenroy joined the most elite rushing list in NCAA history. Some of college football's most famous running backs – Archie Griffin, Bo Jackson, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders and Ricky Williams – do not appear on the list. Fenroy was the 16th player in NCAA history to have three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons to begin career during his junior campaign of 2007. In the post-game press conference, Fenroy entered sporting a red t-shirt with the words "Mr. 4000" across the chest.
James Truxillo Forced Fumble at Alabama
With ULM hanging on to a 21-14 lead over Alabama late in the fourth quarter, the Crimson Tide appeared as if they were going to tie the game as they were on a promising drive deep in ULM territory. After three plays that averaged 17.3 yards each brought the Crimson Tide down to the ULM 19-yard line, James Truxillo forced what will go down as one of the biggest fumbles in ULM history. With Alabama facing a 2nd-and-1, Truxillo ripped the ball out of running back Jimmy John's hands and Alabama native Darrius Battles fell on the ball to give the Warhawks possession with just 4:41 to play in the game. The Warhawks would go on to defeat the Crimson Tide 21-14.
Jeremiah Weaver blocked field goal at Vanderbilt in 2005
Middle Tennessee traveled to Vanderbilt to take on the 4-0 Jay Cutler led Commodores. The Blue Raiders led 17-15 and VU took over from its own 1-yard line with 2:47 to play. Cutler led the Commodores all the way to the MT 18-yard line with 3 seconds left and would attempt a 36-yard field goal. Senior Jeremiah Weaver came storming in from the right side to cleanly block the FG attempt and send Middle Tennessee to a dramatic victory.
Malcolm Beyah "Hail Mary" catch vs FAU in 2008
Trailing 13-7, the Blue Raiders started their final drive at their own 35-yard line with 1:15 left to play and no timeouts. QB Joe Craddock and freshman receiver Malcolm Beyah teamed to provide the "Murfreesboro Miracle" on a play called "Hope". Craddock threw the game-tying pass to Beyah in the right corner of the endzone with no time left to give the Blue Raiders an improbable victory on national television. It marked the first time in school history the Blue Raiders had won a game on the final play of regulation.
Alan Gendreau last second field goal at Maryland in 2009
Trailing 31-29 at Maryland with 1:30 to play, Middle Tennessee went 73 yards in eight plays with no timeouts left to set up a possible game-winning field goal. With :02 seconds left, Alan Gendreau came on and hit a 19-yard field goal as time expired to give the Blue Raiders a second straight upset of the Terps.
Louissaint's Rumbling Touchdown against Missouri
RB DeWhitt Betterson fumbled in the second quarter of the Trojan's nationally-televised showdown with the 19th-ranked Tigers. Fortunately, the ball landed in the hands of senior offensive lineman Junior Louissaint, who rumbled 63-yards for a touchdown to start a stretch of 24 unanswered points in Troy's 24–14 victory.
The Miracle in Murfreesboro – Hampton Upside-down Catch
Smokey Hampton lands on his head, making a 19-yard catch from Omar Haugabook on fourth down for a first down late in the fourth quarter of "The Miracle in Murfreesboro", setting up the game-winning score seconds later.