Sun Belt Conference Football news and notes

From the Sun Belt Conference

Arkansas State Takes Lead in Tight Sun Belt Race

Arkansas State catapulted themselves to sole possession of first place in the Sun Belt standings after defeating Louisiana-Monroe 45-23 last Thursday. ULM had been part of a three-way tie for first place along with ASU and Middle Tennessee.

ASU will now have to travel to Troy, a team which is coming off a win over Navy and is thirsty for its sixth win of the season that would give the Trojans bowl eligible status. The following ASU will face-off with Middle Tennessee.

The Blue Raiders were idle this past week and have three games remaining on the schedule. The Blue Raiders head to Mobile to face South Alabama as they try to keep Sun Belt Championship hopes alive.

While both Louisiana-Lafayette and Western Kentucky are coming off of losses, this Saturday's game between the Hilltoppers and Cajuns still has major implications. The Cajuns, who almost came away with an upset against #7 Florida on Saturday, will be looking to get their all-important sixth win of the season. The Hilltoppers will be trying to reposition themselves in the Sun Belt standings as they try for win number seven on the season.

Louisiana-Monroe will look to get back into the win column against North Texas. The Warhawks are among four Sun Belt teams that are already bowl eligible.

Recent Results

November 8

* Arkansas State 45, Louisiana-Monroe 23(ESPNU) - 6 p.m.

November 10

#7 Florida 27, Louisiana-Lafayette 20 - 11:21 a.m. (SEC Network/ESPN3)

* Florida Atlantic 37, Western Kentucky 28 (Sun Belt Network) - 12 p.m.

Troy 41, Navy 31 (ESPN3) - 2:30 p.m.

* North Texas 24, South Alabama 14 - 4 p.m.

Upcoming Games

November 17

* Arkansas State at Troy (Troy IMG Sports Network) - 2:30 p.m.

* Middle Tennessee at South Alabama - 2:30 p.m.

* North Texas at Louisiana-Monroe - 3 p.m.

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

November 24

* North Texas at Western Kentucky (Sun Belt Network) - 12 p.m.

* Troy at Middle Tennessee (ESPN3) - 2:30 p.m.

* South Alabama at Louisiana-Lafayette (Cox4/ESPN3) - 4 p.m.

* Louisiana-Monroe at FIU - TBA

December 1

* Middle Tennessee at Arkansas State - 2 p.m.

* Louisiana-Lafayette at Florida Atlantic - 2 p.m.

South Alabama at Hawaii - 11 p.m.

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

Offensive Player of the Week

Ryan Aplin (Arkansas State, Sr., QB)

Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin was responsible for three touchdowns and 378 yards total offense, including a season-high 334 passing yards, in Arkansas State's 45-23 victory over ULM. Aplin completed 26-of-34 attempts for a .765 percentage and threw two touchdown passes covering 35 and 70 yards. His rushing touchdown covered 38 yards and gave ASU its first lead of the game at 14-7. Aplin ran his passing-touchdown count on the season to 16, which ties the third most in ASU history. He posted his fourth 300-yard passing game of the season and 10th of his career. He has now thrown at least one touchdown pass in 34 of his last 38 games dating back to his freshman season and completed multiple touchdowns in six games this year. Including the ULM game, Aplin has now rushed for a touchdown in four of the last five games.

Defensive Player of the Week

Emeka Onyeneku (Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., DL)

Keyed the Cajun defensive effort that limited No. 6 Florida to just 311 yards of total offense by making a career-high nine tackles (8 solo) with 2.5 quarterback sacks (-10) and 2.5 tackles for loss (-10). His performance helped the Cajuns register five sacks against the Gators, a season-high.

Special Teams Player of the Week

Will Scott (Troy, K/P, Jr.)

Will Scott helped the Trojans both offensively and defensively with his leg. Scott booted a pair of second half field goals and his lone punt of the game was downed by the Trojans at the Navy 2-yard line. Scott has made 13-of-17 field goals and is now tied for 10th on the Troy single-season field goals made list.

Team News and Notes

Arkansas State Red Wolves

ASU has secured its second straight winning season. The last time it posted back-to-back winning seasons was 1986-87 . . . A-State has guaranteed it's a home winning record for the eighth consecutive season . . . A-State has secured a winning Sun Belt record for the fifth time since the league's inaugural football season in 2001 . . . With its victory over ULM, A-State improved to 3-0 this year in midweek games and to 10-3 in midweek games since 2001 . . . ASU has won 10 of its last 11 home games . . . ASU claimed its third straight victory against ULM and now has 20 all-time victories versus the Warhawks, its most ever against an SBC opponent . . . ASU has won 13 of its last 14 conference games dating back to the 2011 campaign . . . Behind only its 10 wins last year, A-State's seven victories are its second most ever since joining the FB in 1992 . . . The attendance of 30,243 for the ASU-ULM game made it the second largest crowd in ASU history for a home game . . . Including last game, the ASU offense has recorded over 500 yards total offense in five contests this season . . . Taylor Stockemer recorded his 15th career touchdown reception, tying the most in school history . . . Senior LB Nathan Herrold needs 11 more tackles to become the first ASU player with 100 or more in a season since Koby McKinnon in 2007 . . . Sophomore safety Sterling Young recorded a career-high 13 tackles last game against ULM . . . Junior kicker Brian Davis has made his last seven field goals, tying the sixth longest streak in school history.

Florida Atlantic Owls

Florida Atlantic University's football team will play host to FIU, Friday, November 16 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU with the winner taking claim of the traveling Shula Bowl Trophy, named in honor of former Miami Dolphin Head Coach Don Shula. The stakes are high with the possibility of this in-state rivalry being put on hold with FIU moving out of the Sun Belt Conference. FAU holds a 9-1 series lead with the Owls dropping the lone game in 2011. FAU wants to return the trophy to its Boca Raton campus.

FAU will enter the game playing its best football of the season coming off a 37-28 victory over Western Kentucky, last Saturday. The Owls were led by senior quarterback Graham Wilbert, who was 23-of-36 for 257 yards and two scores. He connected with Daniel McKinney on both and it was McKinney's first touchdowns of the season. William Dukes led all receivers with 104 yards. Dukes collected nine of the 10 passes thrown to him to lead all receivers with 104 yards. Jonathan Wallace continued to lead FAU's ground attack but was held to 68 yards on 23 carries. FAU's defense turned in a complete game with the defensive backs tallying 30 of the teams 63 tackles. The DBs also accounted for three interceptions, a fumble recovery which Keith Reaser returned for a score and three broken passes. Reaser had five tackles, the TD and an interception. Senior Brent Harstad led the Owls, for the third-consecutive week, with nine tackles.

FIU Panthers

The Panthers have a late season bye week next Saturday and will return to action on Friday, Nov. 16, 57 miles north on I-95 at Sun Belt Conference rival Florida Atlantic. The nationally-televised kickoff with the Owls is scheduled for 8 p.m. EST on ESPNU.

Against South Alabama, Willis Wright (Jr., WR) recorded his third touchdown of the season on a 26-yard reception from Jake Medlock at the 4:07 mark in the first quarter.

Jacob Younger (Sr., WR), who became the 30th FIU player to record 30 starts for his career, recorded his third touchdown of the season on a 27-yard reception from Jake Medlock at the 51-second mark in the first quarter.

Wayne Times (Sr., WR) had one catch for 15 yards in the game, extending his streak to 27-straight games played with at least one reception dating back to the 2010 season. His streak is the third-longest streak in FIU history.

Rupert Bryan, Jr. (Sr., OT) now has 41 career starts and is tied with Andy Leavine (2006-09) for the most starts by an offensive tackle at FIU.

Jake Medlock (R-So., QB) rushed 19 yards for FIU's third touchdown of the game at the 7:45 mark in the second quarter. Medlock threw for two touchdowns, which gives him 12 for his career moving him into No. 5 all-time passing David Tabor (11, 2002-05).

Johnathan Cyprien (Sr., SS) recorded his team-leading third interception of the season and sixth of his career at the 13:30 mark in the second quarter. He is now in fourth-place all-time with his six interceptions. Cyprien made his 43rd career start in the game and now has the most starts at the safety position at FIU, passing Nick Turnbull (2002-04). The 43 starts ties for the fourth-most at FIU.

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

After suffering a last-second 27-20 loss at No. 6 Florida last week, the Cajuns return to Sun Belt play to host Western Kentucky this week at Cajun Field. It is the first of three consecutive league contests to close the 2012 season.

The Cajuns enter the week in fourth place in the Sun Belt with a 3-2 league record and with only two teams remaining with just one loss, the Cajuns can assure themselves of finishing no lower than second by winning out with the possibility of claiming at least a share of the league crown.

The loss at No. 6 Florida was a heart-breaking one as the Cajuns led, 20-13, with two minutes to play only to see the Gators score a pair of touchdowns down the stretch, including the game-winner on a 36-yard return of a blocked punt with just two seconds left.

Junior Bradley Brown and senior Blake Comminie teamed up to make the play of the game for the Cajuns. Brown burst through the protection to block a punt late in the third quarter and Comminie returned it 22 yards for the score that put the Cajuns ahead, 17-13.

Senior Harry Peoples was the spark of the Cajun offense, recording the third double-figure receiving game of his career, finishing with 10 catches for 73 yards while also rushing three times for 22 yards.

Senior Emeka Onyenekwu led the defensive effort that sacked Florida quarterbacks a season-high five times by recording a career-high nine tackles with 2.5 quarterback sacks.

Junior center Andre Huval, who has played all but nine of the offensive plays this season, has been named to the Capital One Academic All-District VI team. The native of Scott, La. Owns a 3.52 GPA, majoring in business accounting.

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

After starting the conference season 4-0, the Warhawks have lost their last two Sun Belt games (L, 24-40, UL-Lafayette; L, 23-45, at Arkansas State).

ULM owns a 15-13 advantage over North Texas... The Warhawks own a 10-4 advantage at Malone Stadium and ULM has won the last three meetings in Monroe.

At Arkansas State, Cody Wells set new career highs in completions (37), attempts (53) and passing yards (357)... Wells also threw two touchdown passes as he made his third career start (first since RS-Freshman campaign [2009]).

Monterrell Washington recorded his first career TD reception with a 27-yard pass from Cody Wells in the first quarter at Arkansas State... Washington finished with four receptions for 46 yards and one score... He also rushed 12 times for 62 yards and one TD.

Brent Leonard set a new career-high with 14 receptions at Arkansas State... He is the first receiver to tally 14 or more receptions in a single game since Jackie Harris made a school-record 16 receptions against Lamar on Oct. 29, 1988... His 14 receptions also pushed his season reception total to 76 which is a new season-high for the native of Keller, Texas (previous high: 69, 2011). Leonard's 14 receptions catapulted him from one reception from the top-five in school-history to sole possession of second place with 181 career grabs... The former walk-on trails only Mack Vincent who made 203 catches from 2000-03... Leonard also went over the 2,000 yard mark for his career and is just 83 yards from moving into the top five in school-history. Brent Leonard surpassed the 100-yard plateau for the third consecutive game (and fourth time this season) with 134 receiving yards at Arkansas State (100 yard receiving games: 112 vs. Arkansas, Sept. 8; 126 vs. South Alabama, Oct. 27; 168 vs. UL-Lafayette, Nov. 3).

Cordero Smith led the Warhawks with a career-best 12 tackles at Arkansas State... Rob'Donovan Lewis finished with nine tackles including assisting on a tackle for loss... Ray Stovall added seven tackles and one tackle for loss.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

With 118 passing yards against WKU, Logan Kilgore went over the 2,000-yard mark for the season. Kilgore is just the second signal-caller in school history to record back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons after posting 2,231 yards in 2011. Kilgore joins Clint Marks who accomplished the feat in 2004 and 2005.

Freshman Jordan Parker had a huge night against the Sun Belt's top ranked defense. Parker rushed for a career-high 151 yards on 32 attempts and one touchdown. In the first quarter, Parker went 58 yards for a touchdown which went down as the longest run of his career.

Middle Tennessee registered its 25th 200-yard rushing game under Rick Stockstill with 224 yards against WKU. It marks the fourth time this season the Raiders have topped the 200 mark. WKU entered tonight's game ranked No. 1 in the SBC in total defense and was allowing just 108 rushing yards per game.

With two touchdown receptions tonight against WKU, wide receiver Anthony Amos ran his season total to eight. That ranks tied for the third most in a single-season at MT and is three shy of equaling the school record of 11 set by Kerry Wright in 2004.

Sophomore Reggie Whatley turned in a huge game in the kickoff return department. Whatley broke a 96-yard return for a touchdown to give MT a 34-27 lead, which went down as the fifth longest in school history. Whatley finished the game with a school-record 222 yards on kick returns, while also recovering a fumble for the Blue Raiders in the second half.

For the third time in four years, the Blue Raiders are bowl eligible. Middle Tennessee posted six wins in 2010 and had a historic 10-win season in 2009. MT has reached bowl eligibility four times under head coach Rick Stockstill.

North Texas Mean Green

North Texas finished with its second straight winning season at home for the first time since 2003 and 2004. The Mean Green is 7-4 the last two seasons at Apogee Stadium. At home North Texas only allowed 19.5 points a game this season, the fewest points allowed at home since the 2003 season.

Brandin Byrd rushed for over 100 yards in the win over South Alabama for the second time in his career. He ripped off an 85-yard TD run, which was the longest run since 1995 for North Texas and tied for the fifth longest run in school history. Byrd has 933 yards for his career, needing only 67 more to reach 1,000 for his career.

North Texas can still become bowl eligible with two more wins in the final two games of the season.

The Mean Green had only 12 first downs against South Alabama but still found a way to win. It was the fewest first downs in a win for the Mean Green since 2005. Not since having only 11 first downs in a 13-10 win at FIU in 2005 has North Texas had 12 first downs or fewer and won.

Brandin Byrd and Jeremy Brown each had a rushing TD for over 50 yards in the win over South Alabama. It is the first time since 2010 that the Mean Green has had two different running backs have a rush for 40 yards or more in a game.

North Texas improved to 7-0 under Dan McCarney when leading after three quarters of play.

South Alabama Jaguars

Saturday's loss at North Texas marked the first time in 16 all-time contests that the Jaguars have dropped a contest when limiting the opposing offense to less than 15 first downs, as the Mean Green moved the chains just 12 times. USA forced eight three-and-outs by the NT offense, including one on each of their last six possessions of the game (not including a kneel down to run out the clock), in limiting the Mean Green to just 303 yards of total offense — that's the fewest the Jags have allowed against an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision opponent this fall. … While it was the fewest first downs allowed by USA in 2012, the Jag offense equaled a season high with 24 first downs. Even though the Jaguars are ninth in the Sun Belt Conference averaging 341.6 yards per outing, they stand fourth in league-only contests with 21 first downs per game. … USA has thrown for 200 or more yards in three straight games for the first time in program history after Ross Metheny recorded 233 yards through the air while completing 23-of-45 attempts. In fact, it was the sixth occasion in 2012 that the Jags have surpassed 200 yards passing, a feat they accomplished nine time in their first three years of competition. … The Jaguars have put points on the board first in four of the last five contests after Kendall Houston reached the end zone from one yard out with just over five minutes to go in the opening quarter against the Mean Green. While USA entered the season 21-0 all-time when scoring first, its two victories this fall have actually come when falling behind early. … Houston finished with 42 yards on 11 carries to lead the team in rushing for the first time since the Jags played Georgia State on Oct. 22 a year ago; it was the ninth time in his two-plus seasons with the program that he has accomplished the feat. The sophomore's first-quarter touchdown was his first since crossing the goal line early in the fourth quarter in the season opener against Texas-San Antonio Sept. 1. … Alex Page led the Jaguars for the first time in three-plus seasons with seven total stops, which included a career-best 2½ tackles behind the line of scrimmage, in Saturday's game at North Texas. It's the fifth time in the last six contests that the junior defensive lineman has posted five or more stops, while he has had at least one tackle for loss in nine straight outings. … ILB Bryson James matched Page with seven total tackles against the Mean Green; not only did it equal a career high first set against Huntingdon (Ala.) on Nov. 12, 2009, it was the first time he has paced the squad in stops since that 35-0 victory to close out the campaign. Since being credited with just one tackles in each of the Jaguars' first two league outings, the junior is averaging 4.5 tackles per game.

Troy Trojans

Chandler Worthy's 34-yard touchdown reception was the ninth longest scoring play of the season for Troy.

The Trojans 16-play scoring drive in the first quarter was the second longest drive of the season.

B.J. Chitty's 62-yard touchdown catch was the longest reception and touchdown of his career. It was the third longest touchdown of the season for Troy.

Deon Anthony's 44-yard touchdown rush was the longest rushing touchdown of the season for Troy and was a career best. The rush was the second longest rush of the season for Troy.

The Navy game marked the first time Troy had three 30+ yard touchdowns in a game this season. Troy last had three 30+ yard touchdowns in a game on December 4, 2010, against FAU (all three were passes from Corey Robinson).

Chip Reeve's 38-yard reception in the third quarter was his 11th 30+ yard reception of the season.

J.J. Harbin recorded his first career catch in the fourth quarter, a 24-yard reception.

Deon Anthony had two rushing touchdowns in a game for the second time this season. He also rushed for two touchdowns against FIU.

The Trojans stopped Navy on the opening drive, something they hadn't done since defeating South Alabama, 31-10. Troy began the season by stopping its opponents on the opening drive in the first five games.

Troy shutout its opponent in the first quarter for the first time since shutting out UAB in the first quarter on September 1, 2012.

WKU Hilltoppers

WKU dropped its second straight contest, falling to FAU 37-28 on Saturday. The loss dropped the Hilltoppers to 6-4 overall and 3-3 in Sun Belt play.

Antonio Andrews finished with 350 all-purpose yards in the contest. That gives him 2,312 for the season, which sets a new WKU single-season record, surpassing the old record of 2,101 set by Bobby Rainey in 2009. It also breaks the Sun Belt Conference single-season mark of 2,264 set by Troy's Jerrel Jernigan in 2009. Andrews posted a league-record 392 yards on Nov. 1 against Middle Tennessee, giving him 742 all-purpose yards in his last two games.

Andrews also rushed for 88 yards in the game, which snapped his streak of seven straight 100-yard rushing games. However, it did move him into 11th on WKU's single-season rushing list with 1,141 yards through 10 games this season.

Kawaun Jakes threw his 19th touchdown pass of the season late in the second quarter, connecting with Willie McNeal on a six-yard pass. That also set a new WKU single-season record, breaking the previous mark of 18 set by Jeff Cesarone in 1985. Jakes now has 20 TD passes on the year.

Quanterus Smith recorded one sack in the game, giving him 12.5 for the season, and 24 for his career. That is now tied for the Sun Belt Conference career record, equaling the record set by Middle Tennessee's Erik Walden from 2004-07. He is also just half a sack away from tying the single-season record of 13 held by Troy's Jonathan Massaquoi and Arkansas State's Brandon Joiner.

Andrew Jackson posted a career-high 19 tackles Saturday, marking the fifth double-digit tackle effort of the season. All five of those games with 10 or more stops have come against Sun Belt Conference teams.

Senior tight end Jack Doyle finished with just one catch for 19 yards against FAU, but that grab was the 150th of his career, moving him into sole possession of second place on the WKU career list. Jake Gaebler holds the record with 168 career receptions.

Georgia State Panthers (Coming in 2013)

Georgia State concluded the 2012 season with a 51-7 loss at Maine in the final game for retiring head coach Bill Curry, who closes the book on a 20-year coaching career that included stops at Georgia Tech, Alabama, and Kentucky before he took on the challenge of starting the GSU program from scratch.

Junior wide receiver Albert Wilson caught three passes for 75 yards against Maine to top the 2,000-yard mark for his career. He now has 2,013 yards on 104 catches with 15 touchdown receptions, first in GSU history in all three categories. Wilson finishes his junior season with 3,952 career all-purpose yards, averaging 131.7 yards per game, including 164.5 this season.

Junior running back Travis Evans rushed for 77 yards at Maine. Since stepping in after the season-ending injury to Donald Russell, Evans averaged 87.3 yards per game for the last three contests.

Georgia State football standouts Michael Davis and Mark Hogan were named to the Capital One Academic All-District first team. Both are now eligible for the Capital One Academic All-America team.

Davis and Hogan are both juniors on the football field but have already earned degrees from GSU. Davis graduated in real estate with a 3.86 grade point average is now pursing his MBA. Hogan completed requirements for a degree in finance with a 3.39 GPA and is now working toward a second degree in managerial science.

A native of Lithonia, Ga., who attended Chamblee High School, Davis suffered season-ending injuries in 2010 and 2011 but has come back to earn a starting berth at center this year.

Hogan, from Matthews, N.C., was Georgia State's first scholarship football player when he enrolled in 2009 and has been a three-year starter at linebacker. He is the leading tackler in GSU history, and he is a two-sport standout as a left-handed hitting outfielder for the Panther baseball team.

The Georgia State football program, in just its third year of existence, has had two first first-team Academic All-District honorees in each of the last two seasons. Seniors Kalan Jenkins and Michael Davis made the 2011 team.

Texas State Bobcats (Coming in 2013)

Terrence Franks scored the Bobcat's first touchdown from with an 11-yard run with 12:08 to go in the first quarter to put Texas State 7-0 over Louisiana Tech (Will Johnson kick).

Marcus Curry ran a 55-yard touchdown with 6:27 to go in the first quarter to put Texas State 14-7 over Louisiana Tech (Will Johnson kick). It marked the first time since the Houston game (9/1/2012) that Texas State has scored a touchdown on the first two possessions.

Shaun Rutherford connected a 19-yard pass to Brad Miller for a touchdown to put Texas State 21-14 over Louisiana Tech with 13:51 to go in the second (Will Johnson kick).

Tim Hawkins threw a 47-yard pass to Marcus Curry for a touchdown to bring Texas State to within one point (28-27) of Louisiana Tech with 5:28 to go in the second.

Marcus Curry scored a five-yard touchdown, his third of the night with 0:48 to go in the second to put Texas State 34-34 with Louisiana Tech (Will Johnson kick).

Sun Belt Conference