Sun Belt Conference Football news and notes

From the Sun Belt Conference

Cajuns Roll Green Wave, Warhawks Best Blue Raiders

The Sun Belt Conference continued its record breaking season by earning another non-conference win Saturday when Louisiana-Lafayette defeated Tulane. The win marked the 16th non-conference win for the league this year, an all-time best for the conference.

The Cajuns win over a Conference USA opponent now makes for six Sun Belt wins over CUSA this season. This year's head-to-head record with CUSA now stands at 6-2 and over the last two seasons the Sun Belt holds an 11-5 advantage of CUSA.

The Cajuns win also moved their season record to 4-1. With WKU's 4-1 record and the Cajuns mark, the Sun Belt Conference has two teams at 4-1 in the same season for the first ever. The two teams join the 2011 Cajuns squad and the 2001 Middle Tennessee as the only teams to start the season with 4-1 records.

In conference play, Louisiana-Monroe played its first Sun Belt game and was successful in defeating Middle Tennessee. ULM now holds a 3-2 record, which equals the record of the Blue Raiders and Troy.

For the second consecutive week the Sun Belt will take center stage on ESPNU Thursday night. This week's matchup will have WKU travel to Troy. Since the two teams began competing in the league together Troy had held the undefeated advantage in the series, however WKU had a convincing win over the Trojans last season in Bowling Green.

Arkansas State's Ryan Aplin became the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leader in career total offense while leading the Red Wolves to a 34-20 road victory at FIU. Aplin recorded 273 yards of total offense, including 223 passing and 50 rushing, giving him 10,365 career yards to move him past ULM's Steven Jyles for the record.

Recent Results

October 4

* Arkansas State 34, FIU 20 (ESPNU) - 6:30 p.m.

October 6

Louisiana-Lafayette 41, Tulane 13 (Cox4/ESPN3) - 4 p.m.

Houston 44, North Texas 21 (CSS) - 6 p.m.

* Louisiana-Monroe 41, Middle Tennessee 13 (Sun Belt Network) - 2:30 p.m.

Upcoming Games

October 11

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

October 13

* Middle Tennessee at FIU - 5 p.m.

* South Alabama at Arkansas State - 6 p.m.

* Florida Atlantic at Louisiana-Monroe (Sun Belt Network) - 7 p.m.

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

Offensive Player of the Week

Kolton Browning (Louisiana-Monroe, Jr., QB)

ULM's Kolton Browning led ULM to its first win in a Sun Belt Conference opener since 2009 with a 31-17 win at Middle Tennessee Saturday afternoon… Browning finished 26-of-38 for 285 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception… He also rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries… His touchdown pass to Je'Ron Hamm with 3:40 to play in the second quarter gave ULM a 17-3 lead… The scoring drive was highlighted by a 47-yard pass from Browning to Hamm… With his strong performance at Middle Tennessee, Browning moved up the ranks in four different ULM career categories… Browning now ranks second in career completions (614), third in career pass attempts (1,008), third in total offense (7,555) and fourth in career passing yards (6494).

Defensive Player of the Week

Qushaun Lee (Arkansas State, So., LB)

Sophomore linebacker Qushaun Lee recorded a game-high 12 tackles, an interception and a pass break-up during Arkansas State's 34-20 victory at Florida International. Not including a 33-yard run on a fake punt, Lee led an ASU defense that limited the Golden Panthers to 308 yards and 3.9 yards per play. The interception, his first of the season and third of his career, directly led to ASU's fourth touchdown of the game and a 27-10 lead for A-State. Lee stepped in front of Loran Hammonds' pass at the FIU 28-yard line and returned it two yards to set up ASU's second third-quarter score. Lee's 12 tackles were the second most of his career, just three short of his 15 recorded against Nebraska earlier this season. Lee is now averaging 8.6 tackles per game, the seventh highest average in the Sun Belt Conference.

Special Teams Player of the Week

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

Baer recorded his fifth consecutive double-figure scoring game by making field goals from 46 and 31 yards and converting all five extra points. He also punted twice for a 48.0 average (50 long) with neither being returned. Baer continues to lead the nation in field goals (12-15), is seventh in scoring (58 points) and 30th in punting (43.1). His performance allowed him to move into sixth place on the UL career scoring chart with 201 points.

Team News and Notes

Arkansas State Red Wolves

A-State is set to play its fourth game of the year at Liberty Bank, where it has put together seven consecutive seasons with a winning record and a 33-8 mark since the 2005 campaign . . . ASU will play South Alabama for the first time in school history, and is catching the Jaguars on its Homecoming date . . . The Red Wolves have won eight of their last nine Homecoming games . . . ASU is coming off a 34-20 win at Florida International and will be looking for back-to-back victories for the first time since winning nine in a row to end the 2011 regular-season . . . The Red Wolves claimed their first road win against FIU since 2006, and increased their road winning streak against conference opponents to five games . . . Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin became the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leader in total offense, finishing the FIU game with 273 yards to give him 10,365 for his career and move him past ULM's Steven Jyles for the record . . . He needs 185 yards to become the league's second all-time leader in passing yards . . . Quashuan Lee recorded his third career interception and a game-high 12 tackles against FIU, marking the second time he has posted double-figure stops in a game . . . ASU has posted 400 yards of total offense in four of its first six games and scored at least 30 points in four games as well.

Florida Atlantic Owls

FAU will travel to Louisiana this week where the Owls will face ULM. FAU (1-4, 0-2) has faced ULM eight times with the Warhawks holding a 6-2 series advantage. FAU's two victories came in Monroe with a 21-19 win in 2006 and a 29-28 victory in 2008. The 2007 contest at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. may be the most memorable. ULM came away with the 33-30 victory but not before FAU's Charles Pierre tied the game with a one-yard run with 1:12 remaining in the contest. FAU had the first opportunity to score but the field goal was blocked. ULM used 12 plays only to see their 38-yard field goal miss with the kicker sliding in the mud. The two teams switched to the east side of the field as did the entire FAU student section. ULM put three points on the scoreboard first on a 33-yard field goal to take a 27-24 lead. FAU tied the game with a 37-yard field goal. Once again the teams moved to the west field goal and were greeted by the student section which had moved with the action. Six plays later FAU was up 30-27 following a 24-yard field goal, but would need to hold ULM. On the fifth play of their drive ULM scored from 31 yards out to take the game 33-30. The game proved pivotal for the Owls as it was the only Sun Belt loss in 2007 -- a year that the Owls captured the league title and became the youngest team to earn a bowl invitation, and to win a bowl game, the New Orleans Bowl. Five years later, the Owls are now playing in Boca Raton, have captured two bowl games, have four players playing in the NFL and are in the redevelopment stages under the direction of first-year head coach Carl Pelini. This week, FAU will count on senior quarterback Graham Wilbert. Wilbert has completed 81-of-125 passes and averaged 149.0 passing yards per game. William Dukes is Wilbert's go-to-target with 18 receptions for a team-leading 224 yards. Byron Hankerson is second among the nine receivers with 14 receptions for 188 yards, while Daniel McKinney and Travis Jones have 13 and 12 catches respectively. Damian Fortner leads the running backs with 245 yards, while Jonathan Wallace and Martese Jackson are not too far behind. Defensively, The Owls are led by senior David Hinds who has 42 tackles. Jeremy McKnight has made 42 stops, recorded an interception and a fumble recovery. Fellow safety Brent Harstad had 37 tackles and had forced a fumble.

FIU Panthers

FIU closes out a two-game homestand with Middle Tennessee on Saturday, Oct. 13 before heading on the road to face Troy(Oct. 20).

The Middle Tennessee game will serve as the Panthers' 2012 Homecoming contest. Under Head Coach Mario Cristobal, FIU has gone 3-2 in Homecoming games, and have won three of its last four.

The all-time series with Middle Tennessee started when FIU began playing a Sun Belt Conference schedule in 2005. The Blue Raiders own the on-field series advantage, 4-3, with FIU's three wins coming in 2005, 2008 and 2011.

Last year, FIU traveled to Murfreesboro, Tenn., in the regular season finale for both schools and defeated host Middle Tennessee, 31-18, at Floyd Stadium. The win gave FIU a school-record eighth regular season victory.

FIU enters the game vs. Middle Tennessee coming off a .34-20 defeat to Arkansas State on Thurs., Oct. 4. The Blue Raiders come to Miami after suffering a 31-17 loss to ULM on Sat., Oct. 6.

Senior Wayne Times continued his career-long streak to 23 straight games with a pass reception with his five catches vs. ASU.

Senior Darian Mallary returned to game action vs. ASU and found the endzone for a team-high seventh time this season.

Senior kicker Jack Griffin scored eight points (2 FG, 2XP) in the ASU game. He now has 226 career points moving him past former FIU All-American T.Y. Hilton into No. 2 all-time.

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

The Cajuns dominated Tulane, 41-13, to improve to 4-1 for the second straight season

The Cajuns have now won eight straight home games dating back to last season. The streak ranks as the third-longest win streak in Cajun Field history and three short of the record. The Cajuns started the current streak by going 5-0 at home in 2011, the third undefeated season in Cajun Field history and first since 1987.

With 123 yards rushing against Tulane, sophomore running back Alonzo Harris reached the 1,000-yard mark for his career. In 17 career games, Harris has carried 237 times for 1,087 yards and 11 touchdowns with a pair of 100-yard rushing games.

Kicker Brett Baer made a pair of field goals and five extra points to record his fifth straight double-digit scoring game of the year. Baer has now made at least one field goal in all five games this season and 17 in the last 18 games.

The Cajuns continued a season-long trend by owning a 3-1 edge in forced turnovers in the game. the Cajuns made a pair of interceptions and recovered a fumble to improve to +8 in turnovers this year. The Cajuns have forced 13 turnovers (6 fumbles & 7 INTs) while committing just five (four fumbles, one interception). The Cajuns have turned those 13 miscues into 53 points (5 TDs & 6 FGs) while the four Cajuns turnovers have led to just 10 points.

Senior safety Rodney Gillis made his team-best third interception against Tulane, giving him an interception in all three home games this year.

Justin Anderson was responsible for scoring the second defensive touchdown of the season when he picked off a D.J. ponder pass and returned it 38-yards for a score. Last season, the Cajuns were second in the nation with seven interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Javone Lawson caught four passes for 82 yards with a pair of touchdowns in the game. It was his second multi-touchdown game of his career. He also caught two scores in the New Orleans Bowl victory over San Diego State in December.

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

Middle Tennessee scored the first points of the game (44-yard field goal) as it snapped ULM's five-game streak of scoring first. The victory by ULM marked the second time in the 13-game series that the team scoring first did not win the game.

ULM totaled 500 yards of total offense in the 31-17 win at Middle Tennessee. It marked the fourth time this season that the Warhawks reached the 500+ yard plateau and the club owns a 3-1 record in 2012 when tallying 500 or more yards of total offense.

The win at Middle Tennessee was just the third in a Sun Belt Conference opener for the Warhawks. The club is now 3-9 (.250) in conference openers. The other two wins also came on the road (at Florida Atlantic, W, 28-21 [2005]; at Florida Atlantic, W, 27-25 [2009]).

Kolton Browning finished 26-for-38 for 285 yards with one touchdown pass and one interception at Middle Tennessee. He also rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries and the junior climbed the ranks in four different career categories. Browning now ranks second in career completions (614), third in career pass attempts (1,008), third in total offense (7,555) and fourth in career passing yards (6494).

Jyruss Edwards tallied two rushing touchdowns for the second consecutive game. His two scores at Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tenn., moved him into a tie for fourth place all-time in ULM history with 21 career rushing touchdowns (Steven Jyles, 21, 2002-05). He needs just two rushing TDs to move into sole possession of third place (Greg Robinson, 22, 1991-92).

Centarius Donald rushed for 71 yards on 20 carries with one touchdown against the Blue Raiders.

Brent Leonard led the Warhawks with eight receptions at Middle Tennessee while Tavarese Maye led the team in receiving yards (77).

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

With 64 yards rushing today, Middle Tennessee now has 912 total rushing yards through five games. That total is the most through five games to start a season under Rick Stockstill and the most by the Blue Raiders since they gained 1,314 rushing yards in the first five outings of 2001.

Linebacker Craig Allen, who had 10 stops in last week's game at Georgia Tech, turned in a career effort against ULM. The Carrollton, GA, native recorded 15 tackles to pace the Blue Raider defense.

Benny Cunningham's third and fourth quarter touchdowns give him nine over the last 10 quarters. Cunningham leads the Blue Raiders with nine rushing touchdowns on the season and now has 19 for his career. The senior has 21 total touchdowns for his career and came into today's game ranked third nationally in scoring.

LB Roderic Blunt recorded his first career interception to stop ULM's first drive of the game (first by a LB since Darin Davis in 2010).

MT saw its streak of scoring in 12 straight quarters come to an end in the second quarter.

Punter Josh Davis' 64-yard punt was his longest since the 2010 season.

North Texas Mean Green

North Texas cornerback Hilbert Jackson had already broken his career-best performance for tackles by the end of the third quarter. Jackson had 15 stops at the end of the third which broke his previous-best of nine which he had earlier this season vs. LSU.

Running back Jeremy Brown recorded his second career touchdown for North Texas when he went 48 yards for a score in the second quarter. That scoring run was also the longest rush of his career.

Quarterback Derek Thompson passed for more than 200-yards for the fourth straight game for the first time in his career with a season-high 252 yards again Houston. Thompson is the first North Texas quarterback since Giovanni Vizza to pass for over 200-yards in four straight games. His current streak is tied for fourth all-time, with the record being 10, set by Mitch Maher in 1994. Thompson for his career now has eight 200-yard passing games for his career, which is tied for fifth all-time.

The Mean Green didn't force a turnover for the first time this season against Houston.

North Texas had a season-high in penalties against Houston with seven for 87 yards.

The Mean Green has rushed for over 200 yards through six games. Last season North Texas had only two 200-yard games for the entire season.

North Texas had 10 players with at least one reception against Houston, which is the first time since the season opening game at FIU that 10 different players caught at least one pass in a game.

South Alabama Jaguars

After an open weekend, USA plays its initial Sun Belt Conference road game with a trip to Arkansas State Saturday. The Jaguars are coming off their only open weekend of the 2012 season; USA has an all-time mark of 5-1 (83.3%) with an extra week to prepare for a contest. … The Jags have played two other schools from Arkansas in the program's first three seasons of competition, defeating both Arkansas-Monticello and Henderson State in 2010 while earning a 28-3 victory over HSU on Oct. 29 last fall — all three of those games were played in Mobile. … Two members of the Jaguar program have ties to ASU. First-year assistant coach Jerry Mack was a three-year letterwinner at Arkansas State from 2001-03 (he transferred there after playing one season at Jackson State), while RB Kendall Houston participated in spring practice with the Red Wolves in 2010 before transferring to USA. … With a 53-yard field goal as time expired last time out against Troy, senior Michel Chapuseaux recorded a pair of distinctions. First, it was the longest field goal in school history, surpassing a 48-yard effort from Jordan Means in an Oct. 8 double-overtime win at Texas-San Antonio a year ago. Second, Chapuseaux has now converted six field goals this fall, one more than his career total entering the 2012 campaign. He has also made all seven of his extra-point tries, as his 25 points this season are more than twice as many as any other individual on the Jaguar roster. … Sophomore Demetre Baker continues to carry the workload in the offensive backfield; after a 16-rush, 62-yard effort against the Trojans he has paced the Jag offense in attempts in each of the team's first five contests. Baker's 294 yards account for nearly half (48.8%) of USA's rushing total this fall, while his 67 carries represent 62 percent of the rushes by running backs. … WR T.J. Glover had career highs with 10 rushes for 46 yards against the Trojans last time out, and he added two kick returns for 43 more to lead USA with 89 all-purpose yards — it was the first time he accomplished the feat since the season opener, when he had 145 — still the highest total by a Jag in the category this season — against UTSA. That included two run backs of kickoffs of 20-plus yards — he leads the squad with eight gains of 20 or more yards, no one else has more than three this fall — as he regained the team lead with 375 all-purpose yards on the year. … The Jags were called for 15 penalties that resulted in 142 lost yards in the contest with the Trojans — both of which were also school game records — after being flagged on 23 occasions in the first four games this fall combined. It was just the fifth time in the program's 32 games that USA has been called for 10 or more penalties.

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 ventures to New England for the first time ever as the Panthers play at Colonial Athletic Association foe Rhode Island Saturday for a 2 p.m. contest at Meade Stadium.

Both teams are in search of their first victory of the season. Georgia State fell to 0-6 with last Saturday's 44-21 loss to No. 17/14 New Hampshire. The Rams are 0-5 after falling to Brown, 17-7.

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.

Georgia State punter Matt Hubbard owns the third-best punting average in FCS, averaging 46.29 yards per kick. Fifteen of his 28 punts have travelled 50 yards or more, including his amazing 80-yard boot against South Carolina State.

The Panthers net punting average of 41.52 is the second-best mark in FCS.

Because of Georgia State's reclassification to the Football Bowl Subdivision, Hubbard and the Panthers do not qualify for NCAA rankings in FBS or FCS. The top individual averages in FCS belongs to Tony Epperson of Weber State at 48.00 and Bobby Wenzig of Alabama State at 46.88, while the top net punting average is by Hampton at 41.69.

Hubbard's career average stands at 43.6.

Texas State Bobcats (Coming in 2013)

Chase Harper caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Rutherford. It was his longest catch since he caught a 71-yard TD pass at Stephen F. Austin in 2011. The 40-yard touchdown pass to Harper from Shaun Rutherford was the second longest pass play by the Bobcats this season.

Joplo Bartu recorded his first sack of the season for 8-yards. He also recovered a fumble on the final play of the first half.

Andy Erickson caught a 35-yard touchdown pass for his longest reception of his career. It marks the second straight week that Erickson has caught a touchdown pass.

Shaun Rutherford opened the game completing 9 of his first 10 passes for 142 yards and 2 TD's. Rutherford threw his first interception in 70 pass plays.

Zach Robinson recorded a pair of 52-yard punts for the second-longest punts of his career. He has five punts over 50 yards this season. Robinson had a 53-yard boot against Stephen F. Austin and two 51-yard punts versus Texas Tech. He just missed another 50-yard kick with a 49-yard kick in the second quarter. Blake McColloch recorded a 12-yard sack and forced a fumble on the final play of the first half.