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Sun Belt Conference Football news and notes

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From the Sun Belt Conference

  

Five Now Bowl Eligible; ASU, MT Keep Championship Hopes Alive

The Sun Belt Conference took one step closer to having a championship duel for the outright title. Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee's wins this weekend kept both teams at one loss for the season. The Blue Raiders and Red Wolves will meet on December 1 in Jonesboro.

While ASU will have next weekend off, MT will still have to defeat rival Troy at home next Saturday to guarantee that championship battle. A Blue Raider loss would give Arkansas State no worse than a share of the Sun Belt title.

Arkansas State now stands with eight overall wins on the year, Middle Tennessee and Louisiana-Monroe have seven overall wins, while Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Lafayette have six wins. In total that makes five Sun Belt Conference teams bowl eligible – a Sun Belt Conference record. Troy could still get bowl eligible if they can beat the Blue Raiders.

Backed by the return of quarterback Kolton Browning, ULM picked up its seventh win of the season – marking the first time since moving up to the FBS-level that the Warhawks have posted seven wins in a single season. Browning finished 25-of-34 for 324 yards with three TDs in his return after being injured on November 3.

In Lafayette, the Cajuns became bowl eligible for the second consecutive season after rallying from a 10-point deficit with 6:00 remaining to defeat Western Kentucky, 31-27.

Quarterback Terrance Broadway accounted for 403 yards of total offense, including a the game-winning 14-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left. The sophomore from Baton Rouge recorded his first career 100-yard rushing game, carrying 14 times for 145 yards while also completing 23-of-33 passes for 258 yards and a score.

 

Recent Results

 

November 16

* FIU 34, Florida Atlantic 24 (ESPNU) - 7 p.m.

 

November 17

* Arkansas State 41, Troy 34 (Troy IMG Sports Network) - 2:30 p.m.

* Middle Tennessee 20, South Alabama 12 - 2:30 p.m.

* Louisiana-Monroe 42, North Texas 16 - 3 p.m.

* Louisiana-Lafayette 31, Western Kentucky 27 (ESPN3) - 6 p.m.

 

Upcoming Games

 

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 - 6 p.m.

 

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 Twelve 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 recorded a school-record 454 yards of total offense, including a season-high 369 passing yards with a career-high four touchdowns, and broke the Sun Belt Conference record for career passing yards in Arkansas State's 41-34 road victory against Troy. Aplin completed 28-of-42 passing attempts and increased his passing touchdowns' total to 20, the second most in ASU history. His four passing touchdowns also tied the second most in school history and matched the most by a Sun Belt Conference player this year. He rushed for a season-high 85 yards as well with a 7.1 average per attempt. Aplin became the second player in Sun Belt Conference history to throw for over 10,000 yards, increasing his career total to 10,307 to move him past FAU's Rusty Smith (10,112 yards from 2006-09) for the league record.

 

Defensive Player of the Week

 

Jajuan Harley (Middle Tennessee, r-Jr., DB)

Safety Jajuan Harley was responsible for forcing three South Alabama turnovers in Middle Tennessee's 20-12 victory over the Jaguars. Harley also managed five tackles in the Blue Raiders victory. The Tallahassee product recorded his first interception in the first quarter, stopping a USA scoring drive. He then forced a fumble and recovered his own force to help thwart the South Alabama offense. Finally, Harley intercepted a pass in the dwindling minutes of the fourth quarter to seal the Blue Raiders fifth win on the road. Harley has 63 tackles and a team-best three interceptions in 10 games this season. 

 

Special Teams Player of the Week

 

Richard Leonard (FIU, So., RS)

Leonard was lightning all night for the Panthers and was a driving force in FIU's 34-24 Sun Belt Conference road victory at Florida Atlantic. FIU had not trailed in the game until mid-way through the third quarter when FAU went ahead 17-14. The lead would be split-second brief, because on the ensuing kickoff Richard broke through the first line of Owls, found a seem through the right side of the coverage and raced a school-record 100 yards for the touchdown. Although the game had its thrilling moments the rest of the way, FIU never trailed again. On the night, Leonard had a career-high night returning the ball, totaling five returns (4 kick, 1 punt) for 181 yards. The highlight kick return was the longest by any Sun Belt Conference player in 2012, and his two returns for touchdowns this season (PR vs. Akron) places him as the only league player with two return TD's in 2012.

 

Arkansas State Red Wolves

A-State extended its winning streak to six games with its 41-34 road victory over Troy . . . The Red Wolves have now won their last eight Sun Belt Conference road games, its longest streak in school history as a member of any league . . . A-State has won 14 of its last 15 conference games dating back to the 2011 season, including its last six in a row . . . ASU has won 18 games since the start of the 2011 season, its most over a 2-year span since 1974-75 . . . The Red Wolves have won eight games in a season for the 12th time in school history and will finish the year with at least six Sun Belt victories for the second time ever (8 in 2011) . . . Senior QB Ryan Aplin broke the Sun Belt Conference record for career passing yards during the Troy game, finishing with a season-high 369 yards to push his four-year total to 10,307 and move him past FAU's Rusty Smith (10,112 yards from 2006-09) . . . Aplin also finished the game with a school-record 454 yards total offense and recorded a career-high four passing touchdowns to match the most by an SBC player this year and the second most in A-State history . . . Senior wide receiver Taylor Stockemer posted six receptions for 117 yards, both season highs, and one touchdown to give him a school-record 16 career receiving scores . . . Redshirt freshman wide receiver J.D. McKissic matched his season high for receptions with 12 and now has 34 catches over the last three game. McKissic also racked up a season-high 138 receiving yards . . . Senior LB Nathan Herrold recorded a team-high 10 tackles against the Trojans, giving him four games this season and seven for his career with double-figure stops. He now needs only one more tackle to become the first ASU player to record 100 in a season since the 2007 campaign . . . Head coach Gus Malzahn has recorded the second most victories ever by a head coach in his first season at Arkansas State with seven. Out of 28 all-time head coaches at A-State, Malzahn is one of just five to win at least six games in his first season.

 

Florida Atlantic Owls

The Florida Atlantic University football team found itself on the losing end of an offensive shootout against rival FIU, falling 34-24 in a nationally televised contest Friday at the FAU Stadium.

 

Senior quarterback Graham Wilbert threw for 403 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.

 

Then, FAU's Jonathan Wallace capped a six play, 61-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run. The score gave the host a 17-14 lead with 6:43 left in the third quarter.

 

FAU (3-8, 2-5 Sun Belt) answered on the first drive of the fourth quarter as Wilbert found Jenson Stoshak for a 60-yard touchdown pass, the longest for the careers of Wilbert and Stoshak.

 

FAU's William Dukes caught six passes for 116 yards. Daniel McKinney had a team-high seven receptions and Stoshak recorded 108 receiving yards. Nexon Dorvilus caught a first quarter touchdown pass.

 

The Owls will close the 2012 season at home against Louisiana-Lafayette on December 1, at 3 p.m. FAU holds a 5-2 all-time series lead, but fell to the Cajuns in 2011 37-34. The game will honor FAU's senior class.

 

FIU Panthers

FIU enters its 2012 regular season finale vs. ULM coming off a big 34-24 Sun Belt Conference road victory over Florida Atlantic on the road at FAU Stadium, Friday, Nov. 16. With the win, the Panthers retain the Shula Bowl Trophy for the second consecutive year. In the game, the FIU defense held FAU to a school-record minus-12 yards rushing on the night.

 

Redshirt Sophomore quarterback Jake Medlock earned Shula Bowl Most Valuable Player honors after putting up 300 total offensive yards in the rivalry game victory. Medlock threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, along with 36 yards rushing. He is only the second FIU quarterback to earn MVP honors in the 11-year history of the game, and the first since Paul McCall (2008). In the game, Medlock also handled his first punt of his career on a 34-yard quick kick. Missing two and a half games earlier in the season with injury, with his effort at FAU, Medlock's 2,127 yards passing in his nine appearances is the most by an FIU quarterback all-time through their first nine appearances of a season.

 

At FAU, senior wide receiver Wayne Times extended his career-long streak to 28 games with a reception, dating back to 2010, totaling a team-high five catches along with his sixth career touchdown. The score, a 15-yard strike in the back of the endzone, with 39 seconds left in the third quarter put FIU ahead 27-17.

 

Senior strong safety Johnathan Cyprien was a star on defense for the Panthers leading the team with a game-high eight tackles, including five solo stops, along with a half tackle for loss, one forced fumble (ties the school career-record), a pass break-up and a 35-yard interception return. However, it was his extra effort in the fourth quarter, with FAU mounting its comeback attempt, that put the senior in a position to keep the Shula Bowl trophy in his final time playing the Owls. After both teams traded touchdowns in the first few minutes of the fourth to put FIU ahead by the eventual final score of 34-24, the Owls moved back down deep into the FIU territory on one-play (a 46-yard reception) to the the Panthers' 22. After an incomplete pass, Cyprien came up with his team-high fourth interception on the season along with a career-high 35 return. On what would be the FAU's final drive, the Owls marched to the FIU 34 on 10 plays, but a saving third-down tackle from Cyprien left FAU at the 28-yard line. FAU would then miss its 45-yard field goal attempt to preserve FIU's two possession lead.

 

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

The Cajuns will close out the home portion of the 2012 season when Louisiana-Lafayette hosts South Alabama on Saturday, Nov. 24 beginning at 4:00 p.m. in Cajun Field.

 

Louisiana-Lafayette is bowl eligible for the second straight season after rallying from a 10-point deficit with 6:00 remaining to defeat Western Kentucky, 31-27.

 

Quarterback Terrance Broadway accounted for 403 yards of total offense, including a the game-winning 14-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left. The sophomore from Baton Rouge recorded his first career 100-yard rushing game, carrying 14 times for 145 yards while also completing 23-of-33 passes for 258 yards and a score.

 

Senior Harry Peoples continued to be the work horse among the receivers, catching a career-high 13 passes for 144 yards, including four catches for 49 yards on the game-winning drive. It was his third game of 10 or more catches this year and fourth of his career.

 

Running back Alonzo Harris also went over the 100-yard mark, picking up 104 yards on 10 carries for his third 100-yard game of the season and fourth of his career.

 

With Harris and Broadway rushing over the century mark, it was the first time that the Cajuns had a pair of 100-yard rushers for the first time since Tyrell Fenroy (297 yards) and Michael Desormeaux (149) accomplished it on Oct. 4, 2008.

 

Senior kicker Brett Baer successfully executed one of the two onside kicks he attempted. Baer is now 8-for-11 in onside kicks during his career, recovering five himself.

 

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

ULM snapped a two-game losing streak with its 42-16 win over North Texas in the final contest of the season at Malone Stadium... The Warhawks finished the 2012 home slate with a 3-2 record (L, Baylor; W, Florida Atlantic; W, South Alabama; L, UL-Lafayette; W, North Texas).

 

The win over North Texas was the seventh of the season for ULM... It is the first time since moving up to the FBS-level (starting with 1994 season) that the Warhawks have tallied seven wins... At 7-4, ULM is assured of its first winning season of the FBS-era.

 

Brent Leonard continued to climb the career reception ladder as he tallied eight receptions against North Texas... Leonard now has 189 career grabs and is just 14 receptions shy of tying Mack Vincent (203; 2000-03).

 

Tony Cook's seven-yard reception on the first play from scrimmage against North Texas was the rookie's third catch of the season... He added two more receptions in the first quarter to post a new career high with three receptions (previous high - 2 catches at Auburn, 9/15/12).

 

Kolton Browning made his first appearance since the ULL game... He scored the game's first TD with a one-yard TD run in the first quarter - it was his 15th career rushing TD. Browning, with 54 career TD passes, entered the contest against North Texas trailing Steven Jyles by one in the career record books... Browning hit Brent Leonard for a seven-yard TD in the 2nd quarter to tie the career touchdown passing record and set a new record in the fourth quarter, as he Je'Ron Hamm for a 24-yard TD to become the new ULM all-time leader with 56 career TD passes... Later in the fourth quarter, Browning again hit Hamm (61 yards) as he recorded career TD pass number 57. Kolton Browning finished 25-of-34 for 324 yards with three TDs and one interception... He also rushed eight times for 13 yards and one score.

 

Mitch Bailey's seven-yard TD rush in the 3rd quarter vs. North Texas was his second rushing TD of the season and fourth of his Warhawk career.

 

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

With 233 passing yards against South Alabama quarterback Logan Kilgore surpassed Jonathan Quinn for fifth place on the all-time passing list. Kilgore now has 5,052 career passing yards and now has his sights set on fourth place Dwight Dasher (5,643).

 

Anthony Amos moved into the Top 10 on Middle Tennessee's receiving yardage list after reeling in five catches for 69 yards against USA. Amos now has 1,308 receiving yards to rank ninth on the list. Amos surpassed Patrick Honeycutt and Sancho McDonald today. Amos registered his ninth touchdown catch of the season on Middle Tennessee's opening drive of the second half against USA. Amos is now tied with Kerry Wright (2003) for second on the single-season list. The all-time record is 11 set by Wright in 2004.

 

Redshirt freshman Jeremiah Bryson turned in his best game as a collegian against USA. The Smyrna, Tenn., native set personal-bests in receptions and receiving yards with six grabs for 90 yards. Bryson reeled in his first collegiate touchdown on a career long 49-yard reception.

 

Senior place-kicker Carlos Lopez connected on his 14th field goal of the season against USA. The 14 made three-pointers equals the fourth most in a single-season in Blue Raider history. The all-time record is 18 set by Alan Gendreau in 2009.

 

True freshman Jordan Parker went over the 100-yard rushing mark for the third time this season with a career-high 154 yards on 24 attempts against USA. Parker, who had 149 yards at WKU, has now had back-to-back 100-yard games to become first Blue Raider to accomplish this since William Pratcher last season.

 

Junior safety Jajuan Harley managed a career day with five tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two interceptions.

 

North Texas Mean Green

North Texas has 4,422 total yards of offense this season and it is the sixth straight season the Mean Green has topped the 4,000 total offense mark, a school record. The school record for total offense is 4,904 yards, set in 2009. North Texas needs 483 yards of total offense in the final regular season game against Western Kentucky to break the record.

 

Derek Thompson had his second 300-yard passing game of the season against ULM with 323 yards. It is the fourth 300-yard passing game of his career, which now tied for second in school history. He is only two 300-yard passing games behind the school record of six, held by Steve Ramsey. If he passes for 300-yards in the season finale at WKU, he would become the first player since 1969 with five 300-yard passing games in his career.

 

Freshman Carlos Harris had a career-high 118 yards and he is the first true freshman wide receiver to top the 100-yard mark since 2007.

 

North Texas can equal its win total from last season with five with a win against WKU. The nine wins in 2011 and 2012 are already the most wins in back-to-back seasons since 2004-05.

 

South Alabama Jaguars

Playing in the final home game of his career, Johnson posted a season-high-tying 15 total stops to lead all players in the Jaguars' game against Middle Tennessee. That total included a tackle for loss — the 11th straight contest in a row that he has had at least one stop behind the line — and he was also credited with two quarterback hurries. It was the sixth time this season that the senior has paced USA in stops as well as his team-leading fifth outing with 10 or more tackles, as with the performance he became the first individual in school history to surpass 100 total stops; he leads the conference entering the final two weeks of the season with 113 this fall. … Fellow senior B.J. Scott was credited with a season-best 11 tackles against the Blue Raiders, his third game with 10-plus stops this fall. Terrell Brigham and Alex Page also collected 10 stops in the contest, marking the second time this fall that the Jags have had four individuals finish with a double-digit tackle total; Brigham, Page, Scott and Enrique Williams accomplished the feat on Oct. 20 in a win over Florida Atlantic. … With starter Demetre Baker sidelined by injury, redshirt freshman Terrance Timmons paced the Jaguar rushing attack with career-high totals of 18 carries for 76 yards last time out. It was the second time this fall that he has led the team in rushing after also accomplishing the feat at Arkansas State on Oct. 13. … PK Michel Chapuseaux connected on multiple field goals for the fifth time this fall after hitting from 19 and 45 yards in the first half against the Blue Raiders. The senior's 17 field goals and 71 points on the year are both season records for kickers, while he is seven points shy of matching Brandon Ross — first set in the program's debut during the fall of 2009 — for the most points posted by any player in a season. … Jeremé Jones recorded team-high totals with six catches for 53 yards in the Middle Tennessee game, the second consecutive contest — and fifth occasion this fall — that he has led USA in receiving yards. The sophomore, who is averaging more than five receptions and 55 yards per outing over the last four games, extended his streak to 25 straight contests with a catch with the performance. … The Jaguars have scored first in each of the last four games after Chapuseaux' 19-yard field goal capped the opening drive of the day against the Blue Raiders. USA ended the first half of the MT game with a 29-yard advantage in total offense after holding the ball for 18-and-a-half minutes. … When the Jaguars meet Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday, they will be facing former assistant coach Mitch Rodrique, who worked with USA's offensive tackles and tight ends during the 2009 and '10 seasons.

 

Troy Trojans

Chip Reeves caught a 51-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter against Arkansas State, it was his fifth catch of at least 50 yards this season. The touchdown was tied for the fifth longest touchdown of the season for Troy (Reeves has four of them). With his 11-yard reception in the third quarter, Reeves became the fifth Trojan to go over 1,000 yards in a single season, the first since Jerrel Jernigan in 2009 and just the second since 1984.

 

Deon Anthony's 1-yard rushing touchdown gave him seven on the season, the most of any quarterback in the Sun Belt.

 

Both quarterbacks, Corey Robinson and Anthony, were responsible for at least one touchdown, the sixth time this season that has happened.

 

Robinson threw for 417 yards, the third 400-yard game of his career and the 18th 300-yard game of his career.

 

Brynden Trawick's 70-yard interception return for a touchdown was the first interception returned for a touchdown by the Trojans since LaDarrius Madden's 53-yard return against Arkansas last season. The 70-yard return was the longest interception return for a touchdown since Leodis McKelvin ran back a 71-yard interception against Utah State in 2004.

 

Will Scott continued his impressive season with four more field goals and a 47.0 yard average on three punts, two of which landed inside the 20-yard line; he accounted for . Scott booted field goals of 18, 19, 29 and 38 yards in the game and has made 12 straight field goal attempts. He has contacted on 17-of-21 attempts this season and ranks third on the Troy single-season list for field goals made. Scott had punts downed on the Arkansas State 4-yard line and 9-yard line and finished with a net of 49.7 yards on his three punts.

 

WKU Hilltoppers

The Hilltoppers fell to Louisiana-Lafayette 31-27 on Saturday. It ended a two-game winning streak over the Cajuns.

 

Antonio Andrews rushed for a career-high 238 yards and two touchdowns. It was the second time this year he has gone over 200 yards, rushing for 215 at Arkansas State.

 

Andrews also eclipsed 300 all-purpose yards for the third straight game, finishing with 342 (238 rushing, 14 receiving, 74 KO return, 16 punt return). He had a career-high 392 all-purpose yards against Middle Tennessee, and 340 against Florida Atlantic. His 2,654 all-purpose yards this season rank 16th all-time for a single-season in NCAA history, and is 597 away from breaking Barry Sanders' record.

 

Running back Keshawn Simpson, who missed five games early in the season with an injury, picked up his first rushing touchdown on the year with a one-yard scoring burst early in the second quarter. He became the sixth Hilltopper to rush for a TD this season.

 

Garrett Schwettman's 42-yard field goal in the second quarter was a career long. It was only his second attempt the season from beyond 40 yards (missed a 47-yard try right before halftime against Middle Tennessee).

 

Arius Wright picked off his first pass of the season, while Brett Harrington recorded his second pick. Five different Hilltoppers have now intercepted a pass this season.

 

Wright also finished the game with a career-best 12 tackles, and was also credited with both a forced and recovered fumble on the same play.

 

The Hilltoppers will close out the 2012 regular season on Saturday, hosting North Texas at noon.

 

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)

Against Navy, Joplo Bartu made his third straight start at linebacker after beginning the season as a starting defensive end. Bartu posted a career-high 13 solo tackles for the second straight week. He had 12 solo stops against Louisiana Tech. His 16 total tackles also are one shy of a career-best 16 tackles against the Bulldogs last week. Bartu has recorded 40 tackles in his last three games at linebacker.

 

Sophomore safety Colby Targun recorded a career-best nine tackles. He entered the game with a season total of six tackles in Texas State's first nine games.

 

Shaun Rutherford's 62-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Battle marks the second longest pass of the season. Rutherford threw a 98-yard TD pass to Battle to set a school record against Stephen F. Austin.

 

Rutherford finished the day with 290 yards passing, his most since Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 22, when he had 301.

 

Freshman Brandon Smith had a career-high 85 receiving yards.

 

Texas State recovered an onside kick to mark its first recovery of the season.

 

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