Sun Belt Conference Football news and notes

From the Sun Belt Conference

Upcoming Games

November 26

* Troy at Western Kentucky - 11:30 a.m. (Sun Belt Network)

* FIU at Middle Tennessee - 2:30 p.m.

UAB at Florida Atlantic - 3 p.m.

Louisiana-Lafayette at Arizona - 3 p.m.

All times Central (CT) and subject to change; * denotes Sun Belt Conference game; TV carrier in parenthesis

Recent Results

November 19

* Arkansas State 45, Middle Tennessee 19 - 2 p.m. (ESPN3)

* Troy 34, Florida Atlantic 7 - 2:30 p.m.

* FIU 28, Louisiana-Monroe 17 - 4 p.m.

* Western Kentucky 31, North Texas 21 - 6 p.m. (Sun Belt Network)

Sun Belt News and Notes

ASU Accepts Bowl Invite - Red Wolves are 9-2

Following its 45-19 victory at Middle Tennessee Saturday afternoon that clinched at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference title, the Arkansas State Red Wolves football team officially accepted an invitation to the Bowl.

The game will be played Jan. 8 in Mobile, Ala., pitting ASU against a representative from the Mid-American Conference.

Elsewhere around the league, Louisiana-Lafayette has called a 5:30 p.m. press conference for Monday afternoon to unveil its postseason bowl landing spot. The Cajuns are currently 8-3 and have finished Sun Belt play for the season.

WKU All-American running back Bobby Rainey now leads the nation in rushing yards on the heels of his season-high 214 yard effort in WKU's 31-21 win Saturday night at North Texas. The win upped WKU's record to 6-5 and made the Hilltoppers bowl eligible for the first time since the program's transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision. Rainey needs just 82 yards this week to become WKU's all-time leading rusher. He can also become just the eighth player since 2000 to rush for 1,500 yards in back-to-back seasons.

FIU improved its record to 7-4 on the year. The seven wins ties for the most ever by the Panther program in a season and is the best mark ever in the regular season. The Panthers are bowl eligible for the second consecutive season.

Sun Belt Players of the Week (Selected by Media Panel)

Offensive Player of the Week

Bobby Rainey (WKU, Sr., RB)

Bobby Rainey rushed for a season-high 214 yards and a touchdown against North Texas, helping the Hilltopper get bowl eligible with a victory over the Mean Green. The senior All-American also caught four passes for 48 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown reception in the first half. He finished the game with a 262 all-purpose yards, accounting for 54 percent of WKU's yards from scrimmage. Rainey's second 200-yard rushing game of the season also moved him into second behind Oregon's LaMichael James in rushing yards per game in 2011 as he is now averaging 133.5 yards on the ground. He enters this week's finale against Troy needing just 82 yards to become WKU's all-time leading rusher.

Defensive Player of the Week

Jonathan Cyprien (FIU, Jr., S)

Jonathan Cyprien had his most productive game of the season, racking up nine tackles, five of them unassisted, and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown. The pick-six all but sealed the game for FIU as it put the Panthers up 28-7 with just under three minutes to play in the first half.

Special Teams Player of the Week

Luther Ambrose (Louisiana-Monroe, Sr., KR)

Luther Ambrose wrote himself into the ULM and Sun Belt record books with a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against FIU. Ambrose finished with 162 all-purpose yards after returning a pair of punts for 33 yards and adding a 30-yard kickoff return before FIU began to kick away from him. Ambrose, an All-American in the 100m dash, became the fifth player in Sun Belt Conference history and first in ULM history to return two kicks for a score in a season. He moved into second place in Sun Belt history with his third career kick-off return for a touchdown and first in ULM history. Ambrose returned a kick 100 yards for a score at North Texas earlier this season and one 91 yards for a touchdown at Arkansas State in 2008.

Arkansas State News and Notes

Arkansas State accepted an official invitation to compete in the Bowl in Mobile on Jan. 8, 2012. The last time ASU competed in a bowl game was 2005 when it played in the New Orleans Bowl.

Arkansas State secured at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship.

ASU holds its best record through 11 games since 1986 when it was 9-1-1.

ASU now holds its first ever 7-0 record as a member of any conference.

ASU has its first seven-game conference winning streak since 1985-86.

ASU is just the third school to ever win its first seven Sun Belt Conference games.

Arkansas State recorded over 500 yards of total offense for the fourth time this season.

ASU has now scored 30 points in a game seven times this season, including the last five in a row. The last time ASU scored 30-plus in at least 7 games was 1951 (10 times).

Ryan Aplin recorded 25 completions, giving him 578 to break his own school record for completions in a season. Aplin passed for over 200 yards for the 10th time this year and 20th time of his career.

Sr. WR Dwayne Frampton recorded his 5th TD reception this year, moving him into a tie for the 6th most in school history for a single season. He now has 11 TD receptions for his career, which ties the 4th most in ASU history. Frampton broke the school record for single-season receptions, ending the game with 10 receptions to give him 80 for his career.

Florida Atlantic News and Notes

Senior Alfred Morris entered the game needing two touchdowns to become FAU all-time rushing TD leader surpassing Charles Pierre (2004-08) who had 23. He tied the mark at 23 with 0:35 remaining in the first quarter. Morris is the first non-quarterback listed in touchdowns responsible for and total offensive yards. Morris is the first non-kicker on FAU's all-time points scored list.

Alfred Morris entered the Troy game needing 56 yards to become FAU's all-time career leader in all-purpose yards. He moved past the mark deep in the second quarter.

Mickey Groody became FAU's all-punt attempt leader surpassing Andy Rosas (2001-03) who had 199. Groody had a career game high 11 punts. His 11th punt of the game, with 10:33 in the fourth quarter, tied the program's previous team game high of 11 set at Troy in 2002.

David Baptiste recorded his first collegiate interception in the second quarter versus Troy.

Martin Wright had his second forced fumble of his career and first of the 2011 season. Curtis Cross recorded his second fumble recovery and the first of 2011 with 0:19 remaining in the first.

Senior Kevin Cyrille recorded a sack on Troy's first drive of the second quarter to move into the fourth spot among FAU's career sack leaders with 8.5 sacks.

FAU will next play host to UAB. The game will complete four-game series with FAU holding a 2-1 advantage. The Owls captured the win last season by blocking a kick with no time on the clock. The game will mark the third Alabama team FAU has faced this season.

FIU News and Notes

FIU set a program-record with its seventh regular season victory, upending the ULM Warhawks 28-17. It was FIU's first win in Monroe since 2005.

Senior quarterback Wes Carroll was pressed into action after starter Jake Medlock left the game after just two plays with a shoulder injury. The fifth-year senior responded with one of his best performances of the season, throwing three touchdowns and 213 passing yards.

Senior T.Y. Hilton once again showed why he is considered one of the most dangerous offensive players in the country as he burned the Warhawks for a 58-yard touchdown. It was Hilton's FIU and Sun Belt Conference-record breaking 23rd career receiving touchdown. Hilton also surpassed his previous season-high for receptions as he now has a personal-best 61 catches this year.

Playing in his home state, sophomore Glenn Coleman had the best game of his young FIU career as he caught his first-career touchdown.

Another Panther, Colt Anderson, also caught his first-career touchdown, a 13-yard reception, which put FIU up 7-0 early.

Kedrick Rhodes became only the second Panther ever, and the first in FIU's FBS history, to reach the 1,000 rushing yard plateau for a season, rushing for 78 yards against ULM to give him 1,004 for the season. Rhodes was also a weapon in the passing game for FIU, catching five passes for 74 yards.

Jonathan Cyprien had his most productive game of the season, racking up nine tackles, five of them unassisted, and one interception, which he returned for a touchdown. The pick-six all but sealed the game for FIU as it put the Panthers up 28-7 with just under three minutes to play in the first half.

Louisiana-Lafayette News and Notes

The Cajuns will look to equal a school-best nine wins this weekend when they head to face Arizona in Tucson in a 3 p.m. kickoff.

Punter Brett Baer leads the nation in career field goal percentage going 22-24 (91.7%) and ranks third in the FBS on the season (88.2%).

The Ragin' Cajuns will receive their first bowl invitation in 41 years on Monday snapping the fourth longest active streak in the country and the eighth longest in NCAA history.

Ladarius Green needs four touchdowns to tie Brandon Stokley for the Louisiana career receiving touchdown record.

At 8-3, head coach Mark Hudspeth has the most wins by any ULL first year head coach eclipsing Sam Robertson's seven wins in 1980.

Junior quarterback Blaine Gautier has thrown at least one touchdown in the last five games and leads the conference in pass efficiency.

Linebacker Lance Kelley just needs one tackle to reach the century mark for the season leading the Cajuns with 99 tackles including 53 solo on the season.

Louisiana-Monroe News and Notes

Kolton Browning made his 23rd consecutive start at quarterback. Browning has started every game of his ULM career under center. Browning moved into third place in completions (228) and sixth place in total offense (2,691 yards) in a single season. He also led the Warhawks in rushing for the 9th time in his career, a ULM record among quarterbacks. With his 101 yards rushing, Browning became the first ULM quarterback to surpass the 100-yard rushing plateau since Kinsmon Lancaster gained 126 yards on the ground Nov. 8, 2008 at Middle Tennessee.

The Warhawks have now forced a punt or a turnover on its first defensive drive in nine of 11 games.

Luther Ambrose's 98-yard kickoff return touchdown in the second quarter was the third of his career and the fourth-longest in ULM history. It was the longest return that did not cover 100 yards. Ambrose is the fifth player in Sun Belt Conference history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in a single season.

Brent Leonard moved into a tie for third place in single-season receptions (66) after hauling in a team-high six catches for 43 yards. Leonard also crossed the career 100-reception mark and now has 102 grabs at ULM.

ULM has now held an opponent under its rushing yardage average in 25-of-35 games under defensive coordinator Troy Reffett. FIU was held to 115 yards on the ground after entering the game with a 151.9 team average.

The 59 team pass attempts were tied for the most by the Warhawks in the Todd Berry Era. ULM logged 59 attempts against Western Kentucky earlier this season (Oct. 29).

Linebacker Jason Edwards recorded his sixth double-digit tackle performance of his senior season. Edwards' 11 stops also marked the sixth game this season he has led the Warhawks in total tackles.

Middle Tennessee News and Notes

With 5 points against Arkansas State, senior place-kicker Alan Gendreau tied former Arkansas State kicker Josh Arauco as the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leader in points scored by a kicker. Gendreau now has 288 total points to equal Arauco's mark and needs one more for the record. Gendreau is also tied with Arauco for second place on the SBC's all-time scoring list and is just seven shy of becoming the all-time points leader in league history.

Middle Tennessee's safety it recorded due to the blocked punt in the first quarter was the first since 2007. The Blue Raiders registered two safeties in the 2007 game at North Texas.

Kyle Griswould, who has been used as a running back and receiver this season, has been worked hard the past two games. During that span, Griswould has caught 14 passes for 162 yards, including a career-high seven grabs against Arkansas State.

Junior Jeff Murphy got his second career start and responded with personal best marks in completions and attempts. Murphy completed 28 of 48 passes for 219 yards for his second career 200-yard passing game. The 28 completions tied for the sixth most in a single game.

North Texas News and Notes

Western Kentucky earned its first victory in the series with North Texas, although NT still leads the all-time series 4-1.

North Texas had forced a turnover in 15 straight games, but failed to force a turnover against the Hilltoppers. NT entered the game ninth in the nation in turnover margin at +9.

Running back James Hamilton hauled in a second-quarter highlight-reel catch off of his shoulder pads that also happened to be his career long. The senior's grab went for 23 yards, topping his 22-yarder at Troy last week, and set up a 20-yard touchdown pass two plays later.

After tonight, Lance Dunbar needs just 140 yards to surpass Patrick Cobbs as the leading rusher in North Texas history. Dunbar needs just 89 yards to become only the sixth player in NCAA history to have 4,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards.

DB Steven Ford racked up a career-high 12 tackles against WKU, topping his previous high of seven against Arkansas State earlier this year.

Punter Will Atterberry, who entered the game ranked fourth among all FBS punters with 23 punts dropped inside the opponent 20 yard line, landed his first attempt of the evening at the WKU five-yard line - his 12th inside the opponent 10 in 2011. Atterberry landed two punts inside the WKU 20 in the game.

WKU completed 9-of-16 third-down conversions against North Texas, which are the most by an opponent this year. The previous high was 8-of-13 by Arkansas State.

WKU's Bobby Rainey rushed for 214 yards against NT, which is the most by a North Texas opponent since Daniel Thomas of Kansas State racked up 269 yards in the 2010 season finale.

Troy News and Notes

Justin Albert's 36-yard punt return in the second quarter was Troy's longest return of the season. The previous long came in the season opener against Clemson when Albert returned a punt 14 yards. Albert's 112 punt return yards are the most for a Trojan since Leodis McKelvin picked up 136 against Oklahoma State in 2007.

Jacoby Thomas' first-quarter sack of Stephen Curtis was Troy's first sack since the third quarter of the FIU game, a span of nearly 10 full quarters without a sack.

Troy's 17 points in the second quarter tied the season high for points in a quarter. Troy also scored 17 points in the third quarter against Middle Tennessee on September 24. Troy would match the 17-point output in the fourth quarter.

Troy held a 17-7 lead at halftime and is now 1-2 when they lead at halftime.

Eric Thomas caught two TD passes on the day, giving him nine on the season which ties the Troy FBS record set by Heyward Skipper in 2001, Troy's first FBS season.

Corey Robinson's 396 passing yards were the second most in his career, falling just eight yards shy of his career-high of 404. After throwing just three TDs in the previous five games, Robinson has now thrown seven in the last two games.

WKU News and Notes

With the win, the Hilltoppers are bowl eligible for the first time since becoming an eligible Football Bowl Subdivison member in 2009. WKU is the fourth Sun Belt Conference team to become bowl eligible, joining Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Florida International.

WKU earned its first-ever win over North Texas. The Mean Green had won the meeting each of the past four seasons.

Casey Tinius' 42-yard field goal on WKU's opening possession was a season long. Previous long was 41 in the season opener against Kentucky.

The 63-yard scoring pass from Kawaun Jakes to Tyler Higbee was WKU's longest play from scrimmage this season. It was also Higbee's first career reception, and first career touchdown.

Kawaun Jakes threw a career-high three touchdown passes. He is the first WKU quarterback to throw for three touchdowns in a game since Justin Haddix did so against Florida International exactly six years ago on Nov. 19, 2005.

Jack Doyle's eight receptions were a career high. Previous high was seven against South Florida in 2010 and Louisiana-Lafayette earlier this season.

Bobby Rainey rushed for a season-high 214 yards — his second 200-yard rushing game of the season. He ran for 206 earlier this year against Louisiana-Lafayette. The 214 yards were the most rushing yards allowed by the Mean Green this season. Rainey needs just 82 yards this week to become WKU's all-time leading rusher. He can also become just the eighth player since 2000 to rush for 1,500 yards in back-to-back seasons.

WKU's offense held the ball for 39 minutes and 45 seconds in the contest — its most time of possession this season.

Coming in 2012 - South Alabama News and Notes

Andre Broadous accounted for 179 yards and two scores, and Mark Rodgers added 117 rushing yards and a touchdown as Cal Poly defeated the University of South Alabama 41-10 in a non-conference football game Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, handing the Jaguars their first loss in 20 all-time contests at home while spoiling Senior Day festivities.

Charles Harris and Johnson each posted 14 total stops to share game-high honors, while Enrique Williams collected eight tackles and Montavious Williams a career-high-tying seven for USA. Ken Barefield, Randon Carnathan and Clifton Crews were each credited with six stops, and Logan Bennett, Desmond LaVelle and Gabe Loper all made five tackles.

C.J. Bennett was 22-of-40 passing for 216 yards, setting career highs for completions and attempts. Lamontis Gardner led the Jaguars with seven receptions for 78 yards — both career-best figures — and Bryant Lavender supplied six catches for another 65 yards. J.J. Keels posted 33 yards on four carries, with Kendall Houston adding 22 on seven attempts.

USA will open the 2012 season — its final one before earning full-fledged NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision status — on Sept. 1 at home against Texas-San Antonio. The Jaguars will also face Nicholls State in Mobile and both North Carolina State and Mississippi State on the road in the opening month of the campaign, will have contests against eight Sun Belt Conference opponents and are slated to end the year with a trip to take on Hawaii.