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Sun Belt Conference Football news and notes

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From the Sun Belt Conference

MT Slams Georgia Tech; ULM Routs Tulane; Sun Belt Sets Record

This past Saturday's action was highlighted by another Sun Belt Conference team defeating a team from a BCS-AQ conference. It was Middle Tennessee's turn this weekend as the Blue Raiders defeated Georgia Tech by three touchdowns at the Yellow Jackets home field. It marked the third time that the Blue Raiders have defeated a team from the ACC as they had previously beaten Maryland twice.

 

Louisiana-Monroe continued to shine this week, having little problem in defeating Louisiana-Monroe 63-10. Kolton Browning continues to lead a prolific Warhawk offense that is one of the best in the nation. Browning is ranked 11th nationally in total offense, seventh nationally in passing and ULM is 14th nationally in total offense as a team.

 

The two non-conference wins this week gives the Sun Belt Conference a new record for total non-conference wins in a single season. The Sun Belt has totaled 15 non-conference wins on the year, besting the previous record of 14 set in 2008. Additionally, the league's three wins versus BCS-AQ conferences ties the previous mark of 3 set in 2007.

 

In conference play, Western Kentucky won the marquee matchup of the week in its game against Arkansas State. WKU is 11-2 in its last 13 games, with the only two losses coming to LSU (Nov. 12, 2011) and Alabama (Sept. 8, 2012). Both teams were ranked #1 in the nation at the time of the game.

 

Louisiana-Lafayette won its second conference game of the year to move to 2-0 in league play and 3-1 overall.

 

Currently, the league has two teams with a 3-1 record (Louisiana-Lafayette and Middle Tennessee and one team with a 4-1 record (WKU). This marks the first time that the league has ever had three teams with records of 3-1 or better.

 

Recent Results

 

September 29

Middle Tennessee 49, Georgia Tech 28 - 11:30 a.m.

Louisiana-Monroe 63, Tulane 10 (CST) - 2:30 p.m.

* Troy 31, South Alabama 10 (Sun Belt Network) - 2:30 p.m.

* North Texas 20, Florida Atlantic 14 - 4 p.m. (ESPN3)

* Louisiana-Lafayette 48, FIU 20 (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.

* WKU 26, Arkansas State 13 (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.

 

Upcoming Games

 

October 4

* Arkansas State at FIU (ESPNU) - 6:30 p.m.

 

October 6

Tulane at Louisiana-Lafayette (Cox4/ESPN3) - 4 p.m.

North Texas at Houston (CSS) - 6 p.m.

* Louisiana-Monroe at Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt Network) - 2:30 p.m.

 

October 11

* Western Kentucky at Troy (ESPNU) - 6:30 p.m.

 

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

 

Offensive Player of the Week

 

Benny Cunningham (Middle Tennessee, Sr., RB)

Benny Cunningham has made his presence felt since returning from his injury this season and his performance on Saturday lifted Middle Tennessee to a 49-28 victory over ACC foe Georgia Tech. The Nashville native set several career-highs including rushing for 217 yards, scoring five touchdowns, carrying the pigskin 27 times and running a career-long 60 yards. The touchdown was the longest since D.D. Kyles sprinted 74 yards against Louisiana in 2010. Cunningham also added a 23-yard touchdown in the third quarter. His five rushing touchdowns in a game are tied for second in school history with former Raider Phillip Tanner. Cunningham now has 18 rushing touchdowns for his career and 19 overall.

 

Defensive Player of the Week

 

Quanterus Smith (WKU, Sr., DL)

WKU senior defensive end Quanterus Smith recorded a career-high 3.5 sacks and a career-best 5.5 tackles for loss to help the Hilltoppers come back for a 26-13 victory at Arkansas State on Saturday. Smith finished with seven total tackles in the game – six of which came behind the line. He had a three-sack game earlier in the year at Alabama. Smith was able to pressure ASU quarterback Ryan Aplin on a number of occasions, helping WKU limit the Red Wolves to 123 yards after halftime and just 71 total yards until late in the fourth quarter. Smith already has 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in four games played in 2012. 

 

Special Teams Player of the Week

 

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

Kicker Brett Baer continued his exemplary senior campaign, making field goals from 46 and 23 yards and converting all six extra points in the Cajun's 48-20 win over preseason Sun Belt favorite FIU. Baer also punted five times for 208 yards (41.6 avg.) with none of the five punts being returned. Finally, he kicked off 6 times for a 55.8 average with those kicks being returned for 105 yards (17.5 avg). Baer continues to lead the nation in field goals made this year, converting 10 of his 11 attempts, and he is 10th nationally averaging 11.75 points a game.

 

Team News and Notes

 

Arkansas State Red Wolves

ASU holds a 5-2 on-field record against FIU in a series that dates back to just the 2005 season . . . The Red Wolves claimed a 34-16 win in Jonesboro last season to snap a two-game skid against the Panthers . . . The Red Wolves eight-game home and eight-game Sun Belt Conference winning streaks came to an end last week with their 26-13 setback against Western Kentucky . . . The crowd of 25,160 for the ASU-WKU game was the largest to ever watch a Sun Belt Conference game in Jonesboro . . . Senior WR Taylor Stockemer became the sixth player in ASU history to record 100 career receptions, and he extended his streak of consecutive games played with a reception to 34 . . . Freshman WR J.D. McKissic has recorded at least six receptions in ASU's last four games, including three games with eight catches . . . Senior QB Ryan Aplin enters Thursday's game needing 143 yards to take pass Steven Jyles of ULM (2002-05) as the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leader in total offense . . . The ASU defense has not surrendered a point in six of its last eight quarters played . . . Senior defensive back Don Jones and senior linebacker Nick Nelms both recorded a new career high for tackles last game against Western Kentucky with 12 and nine stops, respectively . . . Jones posted double-figure tackles for the second time of his career.

 

Florida Atlantic Owls

Florida Atlantic University's football team returned home for the first time in nearly a month. Holding a 1-0 mark in 2012 home games the Owls aspired to move it to 2-0. Visiting Sun Belt Conference foe University of North Texas jumped on the scoreboard early holding a 10-0 advantage at the intermission. FAU returned to the field to post a touchdown in the third on an 11-yard run by junior Damian Fortner. The score is the third of the year for Fortner, second rushing. Mitch Anderson connected on the point after, his first of two on the night, capping off a nine-play 73 yard drive. Senior quarterback Graham Wilbert caught UNT off guard with an 11-yard touchdown run of his own pulling the Owls within three, 17-14, to open the fourth. UNT added a field goal following a drive that ate up more than seven valuable minutes. FAU fell to 1-4 on the year and 0-2 in league play.

 

Damian Fortner led the game with 63 yards rushing, seven more than UNT as a team. Fortner saw Jonathan Wallace add 37 and Martese Jackson 26 on a lone run. The receiving corps was led by William Dukes, who made a diving catch for 32 yards, to extend FAU's first scoring drive. Dukes had a total of 62 yards on six receptions. Defensively, FAU was led by junior transfer Adarius Glanton, who tallied 12 tackles, his second-consecutive double-digit performance. David Hinds had 11, including two for a loss of two yards. Keith Reaser had the defensive play of the night with an interception and a 13 yard return that led to the Owls second score.

 

FAU will have a bye week this week and will travel to ULM for an 8 p.m. kick, October 13..

 

FIU Panthers

The all-time series with Arkansas State started when FIU began playing a Sun Belt Conference schedule in 2005. The Red Wolves own the series advantage, 5-2, with FIU's two wins coming in 2008 and 2010.

 

FIU returns to Miami for its Sun Belt home-opener vs. the Arkansas State Red Wolves on Thursday, Oct. 4. Under Head Coach Mario Cristobal, FIU is 3-2 in Sun Belt Conference home-openers with wins in 2008, 2010 and 2011.

 

FIU stands at 7-5 all-time in non-Saturday played games since 2002, and 4-2 under Cristobal. FIU is 4-3 all-time on Thursdays and 1-0 under Cristobal.

 

FIU is in its eighth Sun Belt Conference schedule (since 2005), and sixth playing under

Since 2005, FIU is 21-32 (.396) vs. Sun Belt competition (however, three wins were vacated in 2005 for an actual 18-32 NCAA record). At home, FIU is an even 13-13 (.500) vs. the Sun Belt, while going 8-19 (.296) on the road.

 

FIU's senior offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann and Arkansas State's redshirt junior offensive lineman Steven Haunga, both from California, played together at College of the Canyons Community College in Santa Clarita, Calif.

 

E.J. Hilliard made his first career start at Louisiana-Lafayette, in just his second outing, replacing Jake Medlock (injured). Hilliard became the first true freshman starting quarterback at FIU since Jamie Burke started nine of 11 games during the inaugural 2002 season.

 

Wayne Times recorded a team-high six receptions at Louisiana-Lafayette, resulting in 48 yards. His first catch of the game in the first quarter extended his streak to 22 straight games played with at least one reception dating back to the 2010 season.

 

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

The Ragin' Cajuns (3-1, 2-0) pounded preseason Sun Belt Conference favorite FIU, 48-20, on Saturday.

 

The Cajuns have now won seven straight games at Cajun Field dating back to last season, tying for the third longest win streak in Cajun Field history. The record win streak is 11 games, set from 1976-77. There are also streaks of seven (1994-95) and nine games (1987-88).

 

Senior kicker Brett Baer continues to shine, scoring 12 points in the game to raise his season scoring total to 47 (10 FG, 17 PAT). His performance increased his career scoring total to 190 points, moving him into seventh on the Cajuns career scoring charts. He passed John Roveto (179 points from 1977-79) and Mike Shafer (183, 1993-95) in the game. He continues to lead the nation with 10 field goals this year and is 10th in scoring (11.75)

 

For the fourth straight game, sophomore Terrance Broadway came off the bench to relieve Gautier and the Cajuns offense didn't skip a beat. He completed 15-of-19 passes for 228 yards and rushed seven times for 34 yards. He had touchdown runs of 13 and four yards in the second quarter marked his first career rushing touchdowns with the Cajuns.

 

Senior wide receiver Harry Peoples caught 10 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown in the game, his third career 100-yard receiving game and his third game of 10 or more receptions. Included in his total was a career-long 78-yard touchdown catch from Terrance Broadway.

 

Senior cornerback Jemarlous Moten and safety Rodney Gillis each had interceptions in the game. Moten has interceptions in each of the last two games while Gillis has picked off a pass in both home games.

 

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

The 63-10 victory over Tulane was the first for the Warhawks. Tulane owned a 2-0 lead in the all-time series (W, 52-9 at Malone Stadium on October 5, 2002; W, 24-10 in New Orleans on September 20, 2008). The ULM victory also ended Tulane's 14-game winning streak over teams from the state of Louisiana (excluding LSU).

 

Dating back to the final game of 2011 (at FAU, December 3), ULM has scored first in five consecutive games. All five scores have been touchdowns.

 

The 35 points scored by ULM in the first half are the most in a half since the club scored 35 in the first half against Middle Tennessee (November 12, 2011; W, 42-14).

 

The 63 points scored by ULM are the most during the FBS-era (beginning in 1994; Previous High: ULM scored 62 points vs. Weber State on October 1, 1994). The 63 points are also the most by a Sun Belt school since North Texas scored 68 points in a 68-49 win over Western Kentucky on October 31, 2009.

 

The ULM defense limited Tulane to 43 yards of offense in the first half (48 passing yards, -5 rushing yards). For the game Tulane had just 151 yards of total offense (160 passing yards, -9 rushing yards). The -9 rushing yards allowed to the Green Wave are the fewest allowed since the club held Troy to -14 rushing yards on October 15, 2011.

 

Kevin Steed recorded his second receiving TD of the season on a three-yard pass from Kolton Browning in the first quarter at Tulane. Je'Ron Hamm's 29-yard TD reception at Tulane was the first of the season and third of the junior's career. Tavarese Maye's 38-yard TD reception at Tulane was the second of the season for Maye and the eighth of his career. Rashon Ceasar made his first career catch with a 59-yard pass from Cody Wells in the third quarter at Tulane. Monterrell Washington has three rushing TDs over his last two games (2 vs. Baylor; 1 at Tulane). DeVontae McNeal recorded his first carry of his career at Tulane. The RS-Freshman finished with 10 carries for 114 yards and one touchdown.

 

R.J. Young registered his first career interception at Tulane and was credited with 55 return yards before fumbling into the endzone.

 

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Senior Benny Cunningham gave MT its first lead of the game against Georgia Tech when he broke a 60-yard run for a touchdown to begin the second quarter. It went down as the longest run of Cunningham's career, the longest of the season for the Blue Raiders, and the longest by the Blue Raiders since D.D. Kyles raced 74 yards against Louisiana in 2010 - span of 24 games. Cunningham has made his presence felt since returning from his injury this season. The senior came back against Memphis and scored two touchdowns and added five more against Georgia Tech. Cunningham now has 17 rushing touchdowns for his career and 19 overall. The five scores against GT matched the second-most in school history behind current Dallas Cowboy tailback Phillip Tanner.

 

Cunningham registered just the second 100-yard rushing game of his career and the first 200-yard game when he churned out 217 yards on 27 carries against Georgia Tech. The rushing total was a career-high and the most by the Nashville native since gaining 117 against Troy in 2011. His 27 carries were also a personal-best. For good measure, Cunningham added five touchdown runs to tie for the second most in school history. Cunningham's 217 yard performance was ranked 10th all-time in MT history.

 

DB Kenneth Gilstrap picked the perfect time to come up with his first career interception. With under eight minutes to play and MT leading by a touchdown, GT QB Tevin Washington went deep to what appeared to be an open receiver but Gilstrap's recovery speed allowed him to jar the ball loose and pick it off to set up a late MT score.

 

Middle Tennessee's 49-28 victory over Georgia Tech marks the third time the Raiders have upended an ACC program. The last win came in 2009 when MT defeated Maryland 32-31 in College Park. The other previous win was a 24-14 stunner over the Terps at Floyd Stadium in 2008.

 

North Texas Mean Green

North Texas had its best month of September since 2003. The Mean Green won two games and the 2-3 record to the season is the best since 2005. The Mean Green is 1-1 or better to start Sun Belt play for the eighth time in 12 years.

 

The Mean Green forced three turnovers against Florida Atlantic and has now forced at least one turnover in 21 of the last 22 games.

 

Brelan Chancellor had a career-high 135 yards receiving in the win over Florida Atlantic. He scored on a 68-yard touchdown strike, the second longest of his career and the sixth time in his career he has had a reception of 30-yards or more.

 

North Texas can even its record at 3-3 with a win on the road at Houston. The Mean Green hasn't had a 3-3 record after six games since 2003 and its would be only the second 3-3 record since returning to FBS in 1995.

 

Derek Thompson passed for 251 yards in the win over FAU. It is the fourth highest total in his career.

 

K.C. Obi notched a career-high 2.5 sacks in the win against Florida Atlantic. It was the most sacks in a game by a North Texas player Adrian Awasome had three sacks on October 9, 2004 against Utah State.

 

South Alabama Jaguars

The Jaguars fell in the Sun Belt Conference debut, 31-10, to Troy at home on Saturday. While the two teams combined for 452 yards of total offense — as well as for 18 penalties and six turnovers — in the first half, the Trojans went on to finish with an opponent game-record 495 yards of total offense while limiting USA to 51 yards and two first downs after the intermission. The Jags were also called for 15 penalties that results in 142 lost yards, both of which were also school game records. … The USA defense entered play with five takeaways in its first four contests this season, but was able to match that total against the Trojans. Gabe Loper, B.J. Scott and Charles Watson all recorded the first interceptions of the year in the game, while Terrell Brigham and Enrique Williams were credited with fumble recoveries. … ILB Jake Johnson led USA's defense in the school's first-ever Sun Belt Conference game, making a game-high-tying 11 tackles against Troy Saturday including 1½ behind the line of scrimmage. It's the fourth time in five games this fall that the senior has been the Jaguars' leading tackler and the third outing in a row that he has posted a double-digit tackle total; and, he's been credited with at least one tackle for loss in every game this season. … The Jags' lone touchdown came on a Trey Fetner three-yard rush in the final minute of the opening quarter; it was the first snap that the redshirt freshman quarterback has taken since joining the program. … DE/OLB Alex Page was credited with the defense's lone sack against the Trojans last time out, the third time in the last four contests that he has recorded at least one. Page now has four sacks on the season, matching his three-year career total entering the fall. … USA had 193 rushing yards in the Troy game, its highest total since posting 252 yards on the ground in a 28-3 victory over Henderson (Ark.) State on Oct. 29 a year ago. Conversely, Jaguar quarterbacks finished 8-of-20 passing for 59 yards, the second-lowest total through the air in the program's first three-plus seasons of competition; they were limited to just 52 on Oct. 10, 2009, against Georgia Military J.C. … Loper also blocked a third-quarter Trojan field-goal attempt, the first recorded by USA since defeating Mississippi Valley State on Nov. 3 last fall. … C.J. Bennett finished with a team-high 79 yards rushing on just seven carries last time out, falling one yard shy of matching his career high first set in an Oct. 30, 2010 win over Georgia State. It was the first time the Jaguar offense has been paced on the ground by a quarterback since he accomplished the feat with 40 yards on five attempts at Kent State on Sept. 24 last season.

 

Troy Trojans

The Trojans won on the road for the third time in three tries this season, the Trojans are one of five teams in the country who are 3-0 on the road (Louisiana Tech, Nevada, Ohio, Rutgers); none are 4-0 … The Troy defense has held its last two opponents, North Texas & South Alabama, to a combined 17 points, which is the fewest in back-to-back games since holding Arkansas State and Western Kentucky to a combined 12 points in 2008 … Troy forced four turnovers in the game against South Alabama after not recording a turnover in the past three games; the Trojans have forced eight turnovers in two games (UAB, South Alabama) this season … The Trojans recorded a pair of sacks against South Alabama after not recording a sack in three straight games … The Troy defense has held opponents to 14-of-57 (24.5 percent) over the past four games and 5-of-28 (17.8 percent) the past two games … Troy has held the opposing quarterbacks to a combined 31-for-75 in the last three games … South Alabama's first quarter touchdown was the first points given up by the Trojans in the last 64:38 of game play; the Trojans had held their opponents scoreless for 14 consecutive drives … Quarterback Corey Robinson moved into second place on the Sun Belt career completions list with 770 and third place on the Troy touchdowns responsible list with 57 after rushing for one at South Alabama … Troy has thrown seven touchdown passes this season to five different receivers … Troy is off next week before hosting Western Kentucky on a Thursday night ESPNU broadcast on Oct. 11.

 

WKU Hilltoppers

For the first time since joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2009, the Hilltoppers are 1-0 in league play after a 26-13 win at Arkansas State on Saturday.

 

The Hilltoppers have now won eight consecutive Sun Belt Conference games dating back to last season.

 

Erasing a 13-0 halftime deficit, WKU won for the first time when trailing at the half since Oct. 21, 2006 when it defeated Southern Illinois. The Hilltoppers trailed the Salukis 24-10 at halftime, but scored 17 unanswered in the final 30 minutes to pick up the victory.

 

WKU is also 11-2 in its last 13 games, with the only two losses coming to LSU (Nov. 12, 2011) and Alabama (Sept. 8, 2012). Both teams were ranked #1 in the nation at the time of the game.

 

After giving up 212 yards in the first half, the Hilltopper defense limited Arkansas State to just 123 yards after halftime. In fact, before the game's final drive, WKU had allowed just 71 second-half yards. Conversely, the WKU offense racked up 251 total yards after intermission.

 

After racking up 243 rushing yards, the Hilltoppers have now run for over 200 yards in three of their first five games (244 vs. Austin Peay, 369 vs. Southern Miss.).

 

Antonio Andrews rushed for over 100 yards for the third straight game, finishing with a career-high 215 yards on 29 carries. That came on the heels of 125 yards at Kentucky and 136 against Southern Miss. It is the third straight week that Andrews has established a new career high for rushing yards. Andrews also posted a career-best 261 all-purpose yards in the contest (215 rushing, 14 receiving, 31 return). It is the fourth time in five games this season he has gone for over 200 all-purpose yards. He entered the game ranked second nationally in that category, averaging 201.0 per game.

 

Quanterus Smith registered a career-best 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss in the victory. Earlier this season, he posted three sacks at #1 Alabama.

 

Georgia State Panthers (Coming in 2013)

Georgia State returns to the Georgia Dome to host Colonial Athletic Association foe and 20th-ranked New Hampshire Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

 

The Panthers are in search of their first victory of the season after falling to 0-5 with a 35-3 loss at William and Mary. The Wildcats are coming off a 34-14 victory over No. 8 Delaware, one week after scoring 61 points in the epic 64-61 loss to Old Dominion. New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell will be seeking his 100th career victory in his 14th season with the Wildcats.

 

Saturday's game will be Georgia State's third against a ranked FCS team. The first two matchups were both against Jacksonville State. In 2010, in just the third game in schoool history, the Panthers' took the fifth-ranked Gamecocks to overtime before falling, 34-27. Last season, the Panthers fell at 16th-ranked JSU, 37-21. The Panthers have also played one nationally-ranked FBS team, falling at No. 11 Alabama, 63-7, in 2010.

 

With GSU's reclassification to the Football Bowl Subdivision and move to the Sun Belt Conference in 2013, this fall marks the Panthers' first and only season of CAA Football, but GSU does not count in the CAA standings.

 

Texas State Bobcats (Coming in 2013)

Senior Shaun Rutherford threw for a career-best 300 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Texas State football team to a 41-37 victory over Stephen F. Austin at Bobcat Stadium on Saturday night.

 

Rutherford opened the game completing his first 11 passes and 13 of 14 passes in the first half as the Bobcats held a 27-17 lead at halftime. Texas State opened the scoring with Will Johnson kicking a 48-yard field goal on Texas State's first possession.

 

The victory improves Texas State's record to 2-1 this season and the win over SFA marked the first win in the renovated Bobcat Stadium this season. The Bobcats play host to Nevada next Saturday in a non-conference game at 1:00 p.m.

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