Sun Belt Conference Football news and notes

From the Sun Belt Conference

Four Sun Belt Teams Open 2012 With Wins

Four Sun Belt Conference teams were victorious in the opening week of play and all ten teams will be in action in the second week of the season.

Four teams will play their 2012 home openers this week after starting the season on the road (Arkansas State, FIU, Troy and North Texas). Two teams, Middle Tennessee and South Alabama, will play at home for the second consecutive week.

Two league games are on tap for Saturday with Troy hosting Louisiana-Lafayette and Middle Tennessee hosting Florida Atlantic.

The Troy Trojans started the season with a win over in-state rival UAB backed by Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week Shawn Southward's performance. Southward rushed for a career-high 204 yards and scored three touchdowns. Troy has now beaten UAB in two of their last three contests.

Troy's win over UAB gives the Sun Belt Conference the early edge in games against Conference USA opponents this season. The Sun Belt Conference held a 5-2 advantage over Conference USA during the 2011 regular season. The next game versus a Conference USA opponent will be this Saturday as Arkansas State hosts Memphis. Additionally, future Sun Belt Conference member Texas State defeated Houston during the opening week 30-13.

Recent Results

August 30

McNeese State 27, Middle Tennessee 21 (ESPN3) - 6:30 p.m.

August 31

Florida Atlantic 7, Wagner 3 (ESPN3) - 7 p.m.

September 1

Troy 39, UAB 29 - 11 a.m. (Fox College Sports)

Texas-San Antonio 33, South Alabama 31 (ESPN3) - 1 p.m.

Western Kentucky 49, Austin Peay 10 (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.

Duke 46, FIU 26 (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.

Louisiana-Lafayette 40, Lamar 0 (Cox4/ESPN3) - 6 p.m.

#3 LSU 41, North Texas 14 (ESPNU) - 6 p.m.

#5 Oregon 57, Arkansas State 34 (ESPN) - 9:30 p.m.

Upcoming Games

September 8

WKU at Alabama (SEC Network/ESPN3) - 2:30 p.m.

Nicholls State at South Alabama (ESPN3) - 4 p.m.

Akron at FIU (ESPN3) - 5 p.m.

* Louisiana-Lafayette at Troy (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.

Memphis at Arkansas State (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.

(1) Arkansas at Louisiana-Monroe (ESPNU) - 6 p.m.

Texas Southern at North Texas (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.

* Florida Atlantic at Middle Tennessee (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.

Week One Sun Belt Conference Football Players of the Week – As selected by the Sun Belt media panel

Offensive Player of the Week

Shawn Southward (Troy, Sr., Running Back)

The 2009 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Shawn Southward put on an impressive display in Troy's season opener as he rushed for 204 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries in Troy's 39-29 victory over UAB. Southward averaged 7.3 yards per carry and his rushing total was the sixth most in a game in Troy history. His three rushing touchdowns are one shy of the school record and moved him into fourth place on the Troy career rushing touchdown record. Southward's longest run of the afternoon was a 55-yard burst. He became the first Trojan since 2010 to rush for over 100 yards and the first since 2009 to break the 2009 plateau. Southward's rushing total on Saturday was equal to 37 percent of his total from all of 2011. Southward's rushing total was the fifth most in the NCAA over the weekend.

Defensive Player of the Week

De'Von Terry (Troy, Sr., Linebacker)

Playing in his first football game since 2007, walk-on senior linebacker De'Von Terry had an interception, recovered a fumble and had five tackles in Troy's 39-29 victory at UAB on Saturday. Terry's first big play came as UAB was about to score its first points of the game, but the linebacker pounced on a fumble at the Troy 2-yard line. With Troy leading 25-23 in the fourth quarter, Terry intercepted UAB quarterback Jonathan Perry at the Troy 48-yard line; two plays later Troy found the end zone and put the game out of reach.

Special Teams Player of the Week

Brett Baer (Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., K/P)

Baer picked right up from where he left off, connecting on a career-high 4 field goals (52, 40, 39 & 32 yards) and converting all four extra points as part of a record-setting day. Baer set the school record for consecutive field goals made with 15 (old record 14 by Mike Shafer in 1994) and tied the school mark for points in a game by a kicker with 16 (Rafael Septien in 1974 & Mike Lemoine in 1989). Baer's 52-yard field goal to open the scoring was the longest of his career and tied for the seventh longest in school history. In addition, Baer punted three times for 125 yards (41.7) with a pair of punts downed inside the 20 and none of the three punts returned.

Around the Sun Belt Conference

Arkansas State Red Wolves

The Red Wolves host Memphis this week in their home opener. ASU has played Memphis more than any other opponent in school history, and Saturday's game will mark the 57th meeting all-time between the two schools since 1914. Memphis leads the all-time series 28-22-5, but ASU picked up a 47-3 victory over the Tigers last season in Jonesboro.

A-State has won its last seven home openers at ASU Stadium, dating back to the 2005 campaign. The Red Wolves stand 27-11 all-time in home openers at AUS and are also 14-6 in such games since moving Division I-A (FBS) in 1992. ASU has posted an actual on-field winning record at ASU Stadium the last six seasons dating back to 2005, holding a 24-7 record over that span.

Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin set new school records for career total offense (9,075 yards) and passing yards (7,720) during the Red Wolves' game against No. 5 Oregon. Aplin also became just the third player in Sun Belt Conference history to record over 9,000 yards of total offense.

Senior wide receiver Josh Jarboe caught a career-high 13 passes against the Ducks, which also tied the school record for a single game.

Senior linebacker Nathan Herrold recorded a team-high 11 tackles versus Oregon, tying the second most of his career and marking the fourth time he's posted double-digit stops.

The Red Wolves piled up 530 yards of total offense, the 21st most in the nation, against Oregon. A-State recorded over 500 yards of total offense in four games last season.

Florida Atlantic Owls

Florida Atlantic University's football team ushered in the 2012 season, the first under the direction of Carl Pelini, with a 7-3 victory over Wagner College. The victory marked the first home season opening victory since 2007 with current NFL quarterback Rusty Smith under center versus Middle Tennessee. Pelini, just the second head coach in the program's 12-year history, became the first Owl head coach to earn a victory in his debut. The Owls sporting a new look spotted Wagner a second quarter field goal, a 30-yarder, but it was the last points the Seahawks would put on the board. The Seahawks reached the red zone just three times and were held to the lone field goal. The defensive attach included a second quarter interception by FAU sophomore D'Juan Smith. Smith's end zone INT stalled a third and seven attempt to reach the FAU end zone. Senior linebacker David Hinds led the Owls with 10 tackles, the sixth double digit game of his career. Hinds had one tackle for a loss and forced the Seahawks to punt from their end zone after chasing down Wagner's qb who throw it away on third and 11 from the five. Cory Henry and Randell Johnson each recorded a sack on the night. Offensively, FAU started redshirt sophomore Stephen Curtis who gave way to senior Graham Wilbert, who started the second half. Wilbert's second half efforts included a 126 passing yards performance, 10-13-0, including a 39-yard pass to fellow senior Byron Hankerson. Hankerson led the six receivers used with 93 yards, his longest reception the scoring reception, also was his first collegiate touch down. The ground attach was led by newcomer Martese Jackson, who recorded 99 yards in his FAU debut. The junior tallied 21 carries and averaged 4.7 per carry.

FAU will open the Sun Belt Conference season this Saturday when the Owls travel to Murfreesboro for a 7 p.m. matchup. The game will be the 10th meeting between the schools with the last FAU victory coming in 2007, a 27-14 September 1 win. The game will mark the first road game for the new coaching staff and be the first meeting between Carl Pelini and Rick Stockstill. The contest will be carried on ESPN3 and will air on ESPN760 and

FIU Panthers

Saturday night's game marks 11th home-opener for the FIU football program and the eighth home-opener as an FBS member.

The Panthers look to create a winning streak in home-openers after defeating North Texas, 41-16, in last season's opening contest.

After opening 2012 against a school celebrating its 100th anniversary (Duke), the Panthers now face Akron, who is in its 112th year playing football (since 1891).

Being honored on Saturday, will be the members of FIU's inaugural 2002 team. Over 80 former Panthers will be back to take part in the 10th anniversary celebration, including a halftime presentation, pre-game golf tournament and tailgate.

Head Coach Mario Cristobal begins his sixth home campaign on Saturday. FIU's longest tenured coach in seasons (6) and games (63), has an equal 14-14 record at Alfonso Field at FIU Stadium since 2007.

Junior running back Kedrick Rhodes had a record-outing at Duke last Saturday, moving up several career charts and becoming the first Panther to have a 100-yard rushing and receiving game.

In his debut as FIU's full-time starting quarterback, sophomore Jake Medlock threw for a game-high 348 yards against Duke with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Senior receiver Wayne Times notched his first 100-yard receiving game with a career-best nine catches for 114 yards.

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

The 40-0 victory over Lamar marked the first shutout for the Cajuns since a 6-0 win at Florida Atlantic on Oct. 18, 2006, a span covering 69 games. Going even further back, the last shutout by the Cajuns at Cajun Field came 54 home games ago in a 34-0 win over UAB on Sept. 14, 2002.

The longest play of the 2012 season to date did not result in any points when Jamal Robinson caught an 86-yard pass from Blaine Gautier to set up an Effrem Reed two-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. The completion tied for the fourth-longest in school history and it was the longest non-scoring pass. It bested the old record when Michael Desormeaux completed an 82-yard pass to Richie Falgout vs. FIU in 2008.

The Lamar game proved to be the Cajun debut for sophomore Terrance Broadway, who entered the Lamar game late in the second quarter and received the lion's share of the snaps in the second half. Broadway, who sat out the 2011 season after transferring from Houston, was six-for-nine passing for 61 yards.

The win over Lamar on Saturday extended the Cajuns' home winning streak to six, the fourth-longest in Cajun Field history. It equals the six straight wins during the 2003-04 seasons. The Cajuns started the streak by going 5-0 at home in 2011, the third undefeated season at home in Cajun Field history and first since 1987. The record is 11 games, set from 1976-77, and there are also streaks of seven (1994-95) and nine games (1987-88).

Senior kicker Brett Baer started his senior season out on the right foot, connecting on four field goals and four extra points as part of a record-settting performance in the win over Lamar. Baer made field goals from 52, 40, 39 & 32 yards in the first half to extend his string of consecutive field goals made to 15 (including the last 11 in 2011). He broke Mike Shafer's record of 14 set in 1994.

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

Head Coach Todd Berry begins his third season at the helm of the Warhawk football program. ULM, after being off opening weekend, kicks off the 2012 season as it travels to Little Rock, Ark., for a match-up with the Arkansas Razorbacks (Sept. 8). The battle with the Razorbacks marks the fifth consecutive season that ULM opens a campaign with a ranked opponent.

The Warhawks will travel to Auburn, Ala., to face the Auburn Tigers Sept. 15 before hosting Baylor in the home opener. The battle against the Bears will take place at Malone Stadium Friday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.

Wide receiver Brent Leonard earned Second Team All-Sun Belt honors a year ago after leading the Warhawks in receptions (69), receiving yards (751) and touchdown receptions (4).

In 2011, Quarterback Kolton Browning was named Second Team All-Louisiana honors by the Louisiana Sports Writer's Association. Browning started all 12 games and finished with a 114.43 efficiency rating after completing 244 passes (419 attempts) for 2,483 yards and 13 touchdowns. He posted 2,926 yards of total offense, which ranks third most in a single-season in school history.

Running back Centarius Donald returns for his junior season after missing the final five games of 2012 after suffering a knee injury at North Texas

In 2011, the Warhawk defense finished ranked number one in the Sun Belt in both rushing defense (100.0 ypg) and total defense (326.2 ypg). The 100.0 rushing yards per game was a new Sun Belt record and it marked the third season in a row that ULM led the conference in rush defense. The club finished tied for third in the conference in sacks with 28. In the final NCAA rankings the Warhawk defense finished eighth in rushing defense and 21st in total defense (326.2 ypg). The squad also finished 47th in total sacks (2.08 per game). A total of four defensive players (Ken Dorsey, Darius Prelow, Jason Edwards and Troy Evans) earned All-Sun Belt honors.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Middle Tennessee set a new single-game school record in kickoff return yards with 241 against McNeese on six returns. That broke the previous mark of 220 yards set against Louisville in 2006.

Middle Tennessee had six players make their first starts as a Blue Raider on Thursday night against McNeese State. Offensively, LT Darius Johnson, WR Christian Collis, and TE Jacob Corbaley all made their first starts. On defense, the first timers were SS JaJuan Harley, FS Kevin Byard, and RC Khari Burke.

Redshirt freshman Kevin Byard registered 11 tackles in his first collegiate game against McNeese. Byard's double digit stops led the Blue Raiders and were a game-high.

Senior Anthony Amos turned in a career performance in the 2012 season opener. Amos led the Blue Raiders with a career-high eight receptions and a touchdown. Amos' previous high was seven against WKU in 2011.

Middle Tennessee's 97-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter went down as the third longest under Rick Stockstill. Overall, the Blue Raiders own 12 scoring drives of 90 or more yards in the Stockstill era. The Blue Raiders had four in 2011.

North Texas Mean Green

North Texas opens the home season on Saturday against Texas Southern. It is the first meeting between the schools and only the second time the Mean Green has faced a team from the SWAC.

Five defensive starters for North Texas made their first career starts against LSU, including all four members of the secondary. Defensive tackle Richard Abbe, as well as cornerbacks Hilbert Jackson and Zac Whitfield and safeties Marcus Trice and Lairamie Lee made their first Mean Green start.

North Texas scored its first touchdown of the game on an 80-yard pass from Derek Thompson to Brelan Chancellor in the second quarter. It was only the second touchdown the Mean Green had ever scored against LSU in five meetings, with the other coming in a 49-7 loss in 1995.

Derek Thompson's 80-yard touchdown pass to Brelan Chancellor against LSU was a career-long reception for Chancellor and the second-longest pass for Thompson ever.

The 80-yard touchdown pass tied for the seventh-longest passing play in North Texas history

Redshirt freshman cornerback Zac Whitfield recorded his first career interception when he halted a Tiger scoring drive with a pick at the Mean Green 1-yard line.

The 14 points North Texas scored was the most it has ever scored against LSU in a game and the most it scored vs. a top-five opponent since 1987 when it scored 14 vs. No. 1 Oklahoma.

Seven different Mean Green defenders either tied or set career-highs in tackles against LSU.

Aaron Bellazin and Hilbert Jackson each recorded their first career sacks against LSU.

South Alabama Jaguars

In falling to Texas-San Antonio Saturday 33-31, the Jaguars dropped their season opener for the first time in four years of competition. It also marked the program's second straight loss after falling to Cal Poly in the 2011 finale.

For the second time in as many meetings with the Roadrunners, sophomore Demetre Baker led the Jaguars in rushing after gaining 63 yards on 12 carries. Baker supplied the first points of the year with an 11-yard touchdown run less than three minutes after the opening kickoff, capping an eight-play, 75-yard march.

Making his Division I debut, CB Tyrell Pearson finished with five total tackles — which included one for a loss of three yards — an interception and another pass defensed. The junior-college transfer returned the pick, the only takeaway posted by the USA defense, 28 yards to set up a one-yard Kendall Houston touchdown run that put the Jags ahead 24-20 with just under 13 minutes remaining in the contest.

T.J. Glover did not play during the 2011 campaign, but the team leader in all-purpose yards the prior season returned to record a game-high 145 against the Roadrunners. His 48 yard return of a kickoff late in the first quarter was USA's longest play of the day, while he ran back a punt 37 yards in the fourth quarter that led to Jeremé Jones' 34-yard scoring reception that put the Jags up 31-30 with less than three minutes to go.

Senior PK Michel Chapuseaux converted a 43-yard field-goal attempt for the only points from either team in the third quarter; it was the first he has made since hitting from 22 yards in a 56-0 victory over Pikeville (Ky.) on Sept. 4, 2010, as well as the longest of his career. Chapuseaux also averaged nearly 61 yards per kickoff, with three of his six efforts resulting in a touchback.

Jake Johnson and Enrique Williams shared game-high honors for the Jag defense with eight stops apiece. It was the seventh time since the start of last season that one of the two has been the team's leading tackler, with Johnson accomplishing the feat on six occasions...In his first game as a tight end — he made the switch from wide receiver in the spring — Greg Hollinger matched a career high with two receptions in the UTSA contest. His block late in the second period also led to a 32-yard pickup for the Jaguar offense, as Glover gained 17 yards on a reception with 15 more tacked on after a personal foul call.

Nine newcomers played in their first game as a Jaguar against UTSA, but Cameron Broadnax was the only true freshman among that group.

Last fall, Jag opponents converted on 36 percent of their third downs, but in this year's opener the USA defense allowed the Roadrunners to move the chains just twice in 12 occasions (16.7%).

USA will face Nicholls State Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, in what will be the second match-up between the two schools. The Jaguars earned a 39-21 victory over the Colonels on Sept. 18, 2010, in their first-ever game against a Division I opponent.

Troy Trojans

Troy improved to 15-7 in season openers under Larry Blakeney with a 39-29 victory over UAB at Legion Field on Saturday.

Shawn Southward rushed for 204 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Troy offense; his rushing total was good for the sixth best in school history while his touchdown total was one shy of his one school record.

Chip Reeves had six catches for 125 yards and a touchdown in his first action since 2010.

Troy's 262 rushing yards were the most since torching Middle Tennessee for 296 yards in 2009. Southward became the first Trojan since 2010 to top the century mark on the ground and first since 2009 to hit the 200-yard level.

De'Von Terry recovered a fumble and had an interception in his first football game since 2007.

Troy opens Sun Belt Conference play next week when it hosts ULL at home; Troy is 21-0 in home openers under Larry Blakeney.

WKU Hilltoppers

WKU is 1-0 to start a season for the first time since 2005 after a 49-10 win over Austin Peay Saturday night at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium. Ironically, the 2005 campaign was also the last time the Hilltoppers opened a season at home.

WKU's 39-point victory was its largest winning margin since defeating Murray State 50-9 at home on Sept. 20, 2008. The Hilltoppers scored 35 points in the first half of the victory – the most points scored before halftime during the Willie Taggart era at WKU. It was also the most first-half points since scoring 35 at North Texas on Oct. 31, 2009.

WKU finished the game with 596 yards of total offense, the most since racking up 620 yards in a 63-3 win over West Virginia Tech in the 2005 season opener.

Senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes set new career highs with 296 yards passing and four passing touchdowns. In fact, he tied his previous career highs before halftime with 276 yards and three passing TDs. Jakes also moved into fourth on WKU career list for touchdown passes as his four TD strikes gave him 33 for his career. That moved him past both Jimmy Feix and current head coach Willie Taggart on that list. Justin Haddix (2003-06) holds the record with 50 career touchdown passes.

Three Hilltoppers — tight end Tim Gorski, wide receiver Boe Brand and freshman running back Leon Allen — each scored their first career touchdown in Saturday's victory.

WKU limited Austin Peay to just 11 passing yards, the fewest allowed by a Hilltopper defense since 1998 when Indiana State was held to zero passing yards.

Antonio Andrew's 70-yard punt return for a touchdown was the longest punt return for a Hilltopper since Antonio Veals had an 86-yards TD return against Nov. 30, 2002 in the first round of the I-AA playoffs against Murray State.

Georgia State Panthers (Coming in 2013)

Georgia State faces its third FBS program and its second from the powerful Southeastern Conference in three years as the Panthers travel to Tennessee Saturday for a 4 p.m. contest at Neyland Stadium.

The Panthers (0-1) opened the season with a disappointing loss to South Carolina State, 33-6, last Thursday in the Georgia Dome, despite 120 yards rushing by Donald Russell.

The Volunteers (1-0) are coming off an impressive 35-21 win over NC State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, played last Friday in Georgia State's home venue, the Georgia Dome. UT quarterback Tyler Bray passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns, and Cordarrelle Patterson scored two touchdowns on a 41-yard catch and a 67-yard run.

Georgia State is facing Tennessee for the first time, but GSU head coach Bill Curry has earned five victories against the Volunteers in his career, including four straight from 1986-89 while coaching at Georgia Tech and Alabama. His overall record against the Volunteers is 5-11-1 in 17 seasons at Tech, Alabama and Kentucky.

Running back Donald Russell opened his senior season by rushing for 120 yards on just 12 carrries against South Carolina State, his second straight 100-yard effort and third in a GSU uniform. Last season, the transfer from Kentucky became the first 100-yard rusher in school history when he gained 136 yards against South Alabama. He added a career-high 146 yards in the 2011 finale against Campbell. Against SCSU, Russell raced 52 yards on his first carry of the season. That is his longest run for the Panthers but not the longest of his career; he had a 79-yard scamper as a freshman at Kentucky in 2009. Russell led the Panthers with 665 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011.

Texas State Bobcats (Coming in 2013)

In its first official game as a member of the FBS, the Texas State football team beat Houston, 30-13 Saturday night at Robertson Stadium in Houston. Marcus Curry led the Bobcats offensively with a career-high 131 yards rushing and three total touchdowns.

The Bobcats' 24 first half points against Houston were its most by halftime since scoring 35 against Lamar last season.

The Bobcat defense held Houston to just 13 points. That is the Cougars' lowest total since Sept. 18, 2010 against UCLA. Last season the Cougars scored at least 28 points in every game.

Offensively the Bobcats held the ball for 43:09 compared to just 16:51 for Houston.

Shaun Rutherford's 26-yard run in the first quarter was the longest of his career. Rutherford began the game 7-of-8 passing and finished the game with a career-high 18 completions and had a career-high 75.0 completion percentage (18-of-24).

Marcus Curry's 73-yard run was his career-long, surpassing a 54-yard effort last year. It was the longest run by a Bobcat since Terrence Franks had an 82-yard run against Northwestern State last year. Curry broke the 100-yard mark on the first play of the 2nd quarter. It was his third 100-yard game at Texas State. Curry's two rushing touchdowns were the most during his time at Texas State. Curry's 21-yard TD reception matched his total from last season, when he had one against Nicholls State.