From the Sun Belt Conference
Red Wolves Ready for #25 Kent State; SBC Sends Record Number of Teams to Bowls
League champions Arkansas State will be playing in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Alabama on January 6. The Red Wolves will face Kent State which has an 11-2 record on the year. The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt title outright after a 45-0 win over Middle Tennessee.
The league got the 2012 bowl season started on the right foot as Louisiana-Lafayette defeated East Carolina in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on December 22. The Cajuns jumped out to big lead and held off ECU with a 43-34 win.
The Sun Belt concluded its 2012 slate of games against Conference USA with a 7-2 record. The SBC is 12-5 against CUSA over the last two seasons. The wins against CUSA have helped pad the SBC's single season record for non-conference wins - with that number now standing at 18.
Central Michigan scored what proved to be a game-winning touchdown with 5:11 remaining in the fourth quarter, and a fourth-down pass play for WKU fell incomplete as the Hilltoppers fell 24-21 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field. WKU ended the 2012 season with a 7-6 record, playing in the first FBS bowl game in school history.
For the first time in the Sun Belt Conference's 12 years of football the league will be sending four teams to postseason bowl games. All of the bowl games featuring Sun Belt teams will be featured on ESPN.
December 22 - R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Louisiana-Lafayette 43, East Carolina 34 - 11 a.m. (ESPN)
December 26 - Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Central Michigan 24, Western Kentucky 21 - 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)
December 28 - AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl
Ohio 45, Louisiana-Monroe 14 - 2 p.m. (ESPN)
January 6 - GoDaddy.com Bowl
Arkansas State vs. #25 Kent State - 8 p.m. (ESPN)
ASU's Aplin Leads All-Sun Belt Football Team for Second Consecutive Year
Leading Arkansas State to its second consecutive Sun Belt Conference football championship, quarterback Ryan Aplin was named SBC Player of the Year for the second year in a row as the conference released its 2012 All-SBC football teams on Tuesday.
The selections were made by a vote of the league head coaches and selected members of the media
Aplin, a two-time SBC Offensive Player of the Week winner this season, became the SBC's all-time leader in career offensive (297.5 per game) and passing yards (3129) this season. He finished the 2012 campaign ranked 21st in total offense, 25th in passing efficiency, 30th in passing yards per game and 33rd in points.
The Tampa, Fla. native threw 23 touchdown passes this season with seven multi-touchdown games, including a career-high four in one contest. The senior threw for over 300 yards in five games this season and was a Senior CLASS Award Finalist. Additionally, Aplin was on the watch lists for the Manning Award, Walter Camp, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and Senior Bowl.
Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning earned SBC Offensive Player of the Year after tossing a league-best 27 touchdown passes. He finished the season 252-of-389 for 2830 yards and also rushed for 441 yards and seven scores. Browning ended the year ranked second in total offense (297.4 ypg), third in passing (257.3 ypg) and fifth in passing efficiency (145.2).
The junior, from Mabank, Texas, posted three 300-yard passing performances this season, including 412 and 69 rushing yards in the victory over eighth-ranked Arkansas. Browning is just one of three quarterbacks in the league to total 400 or more passing yards in a single game this season.
Grabbing a team-high 909 receiving yards on 92 receptions, ASU's J.D. McKissic earned SBC Freshman of the Year. The redshirt ranked second in the SBC in receptions per game, as his 92 are the most ever by a freshman in conference history.
The Phenix City, Ala. native tallied three 100-yard receiving games and caught a touchdown pass in four different games. He registered a career-high 138 yards against Troy (11/17) and notched a career-high 12 receptions in two different outings.
Leading the nation with 1.25 sacks per game, WKU's Quanterus Smith earned SBC Defensive Player of the Year. The senior also ranks fourth nationally with 1.38 tackles for loss per game and his 12.5 sacks was just a half-sack shy of tying the SBC single-season record. He recorded multiple tackles for a loss in five games this season, including a career-best 5.5 in a win at ASU (9/29).
The Loganville, Ga. native set a conference record when he finished with 5.0 sacks in a win over FIU (10/27), the second highest single-game total in NCAA history. Smith broke threw for 3.0 sacks at Alabama which was the most the Crimson Tide allowed to an opposing player this season. He forced three fumbles on the year and returned one for 75 yards for a touchdown.
ULM head coach Todd Berry earned SBC Coach of the Year after leading the Warhawks to its first winning season in the FBS-era (1994-present). At 8-4 overall and 6-2 in league play, Berry leads the Warhawks to their first-ever bowl game as they will clash with Ohio at the 2012 AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. on December 28.
Berry led ULM to a 5-2 road record and 3-2 at home. The Warhawks ranked first in the SBC with 15 interceptions and 1630 rushing yards allowed on the season. Offensively, Berry's squad ranked second in scoring (35.5 ppg), pass offense (296.7 ypg) turnover margin (+8) and fourth in total offense (481.8 ypg). ULM was also one of the most disciplined teams in the conference, committing just 539 penalty yards on the season, second-best in the league.
Player of the Year
Ryan Aplin (Arkansas State, Sr., QB)
Offensive Player of the Year
Kolton Browning (Louisiana-Monroe, r-Jr., QB)
Defensive Player of the Year
Quanterus Smith (WKU, Sr., DL)
Freshman of the Year
J.D. McKissic (Arkansas State, Fr., WR)
Coach of the Year
Todd Berry, Louisiana-Monroe
First Team All-Sun Belt Conference Offense
Ryan Aplin (Arkansas State, Sr., QB)
David Oku (Arkansas State, Jr., RB)
Antonio Andrews (WKU, Jr., RB)
Brent Leonard (Louisiana-Monroe, r-Sr., WR)
Anthony Amos (Middle Tennessee, r-Sr., WR)
Chip Reeves (Troy, WR, Sr.)
Jack Doyle (WKU, Sr., TE)
Zack McKnight (Arkansas State, Sr., OL)
Micah James (Middle Tennessee, Sr., OL)
Aaron Fortenberry (North Texas, Sr., OL)
Kyle Wilborn (Troy, Sr., OL)
Adam Smith (WKU, Sr., OL)
First Team All-Sun Belt Conference Defense
Ryan Carrethers (Arkansas State, Jr., DL)
Tourek Williams (FIU, Sr., DL)
Emeka Onyenekwu (Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., DL)
Quanterus Smith (WKU, Sr., DL)
Nathan Herrold (Arkansas State, Sr., LB)
Jake Johnson (South Alabama, Sr., LB)
Andrew Jackson (WKU, Jr., LB)
Johnathan Cyprien (FIU, Sr., DB)
Jemarlous Moten (Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., DB)
Brynden Trawick (Troy, Sr., DB)
Jonathan Dowling (WKU, So., DB)
First Team All-Sun Belt Conference Special Teams
Brett Baer Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., K)
Brett Baer Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., P)
Reggie Whatley (Middle Tennessee, r-So., RS)
Antonio Andrews (WKU, Jr., All Purpose)
Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference Offense
Kolton Browning (Louisiana-Monroe, r-Jr., QB)
Benny Cunningham (Middle Tennessee, Sr., RB)
Shawn Southward (Troy, RB, Sr.)
J.D. McKissic (Arkansas State, Fr., WR)
William Dukes (Florida Atlantic, So, WR)
Harry Peoples (Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., WR)
Nexon Dorvilus (Florida Atlantic, Jr, TE)
Caylin Hauptmann (FIU, Sr., OL)
Leonardo Bates (Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., OL)
Jonathon Gill (Louisiana-Monroe, r-Sr., OL)
Andrew Huval (Louisiana-Lafayette, Jr., OL)
Josh Allen (Louisiana-Monroe, Jr., OL)
Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference Defense
Tim Starson (Arkansas State, Sr., DL)
Omar McLendon (Middle Tennessee, Sr., DL)
Alex Page (South Alabama, Jr., DL)
R.J. Young (Louisiana-Monroe, r-Sr., LB)
Tony Davis (Troy, Sr., DL)
Zach Orr (North Texas, Jr., LB)
Kanorris Davis (Troy, Sr., LB)
Brent Harstad (Florida Atlantic, Sr., DB)
Isaiah Newsome (Louisiana-Monroe, r-Jr., DB)
Kevin Byard (Middle Tennessee, r-Fr., DB)
Zac Whitfield (North Texas, Fr., DB)
Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference Special Teams
Brian Davis (Arkansas State, Jr., K)
Will Atterberry (North Texas, Sr., P)
Deon Anthony (Troy, Jr., All Purpose)
Antonio Andrews (WKU, Jr., RS)
Honorable Mention All-Conference
Taylor Stockemer (Arkansas State, Sr., WR); Qushaun Lee (Arkansas State, So., LB); Daniel McKinney (Florida Atlantic, Jr., WR); Andrae Kirk (Florida Atlantic, So., LB); Rupert Bryan (FIU, Sr., OL); Jose Cheeseborough (FIU, Sr., DB); Terrance Broadway (Louisiana-Lafayette, So., QB); Jaron Odom (Louisiana-Lafayette, Sr., OL); Je'Ron Hamm (Louisiana-Monroe, Jr., WR); DaCorris Ford (Louisiana-Monroe, r-Sr., LB); Logan Kilgore (Middle Tennessee, r-Jr., QB); Josh Walker (Middle Tennessee, r-Jr., OL); Cyril Lemon (North Texas, So., OL); Mason Y'Barbo (North Texas, So., OL); Enrique Williams (South Alabama, Jr., LB); B.J. Scott (South Alabama, Sr., DB); Corey Robinson (Troy, Jr., QB); Eric Thomas (Troy, WR, Jr.); Kawaun Jakes (WKU, Sr., QB); Jamarcus Allen (WKU, Sr., DL)
Around the Sun Belt Conference
ASU Goes Back-to-Back in GoDaddy.com Bowl
The Red Wolves will make their second consecutive appearance in the GoDaddy.com Bowl and will play their ninth bowl game all-time. This year's game will be the 14th edition of the GoDaddy.com Bowl, which was played for the first time in 1999. As an FBS program, the Red Wolves will be looking for their first win ever against a top-25 ranked team when they face 25th-ranked Kent State.
ULM Falls in First-Ever Bowl Game
Ohio spoiled ULM's bowl debut with a 45-14 victory in the 2012 AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl inside Independence Stadium. It was a historic day as ULM made its first bowl appearance since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in 1994, but the Bobcats dominated from the opening kickoff. ULM finished the 2012 season at 8-5, the best record in the FBS era.
Hilltoppers Fall to CMU In Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Central Michigan scored what proved to be a game-winning touchdown with 5:11 remaining in the fourth quarter, and a fourth-down pass play for WKU fell incomplete as the Hilltoppers fell 24-21 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl at Ford Field. WKU ended the 2012 season with a 7-6 record, playing in the first FBS bowl game in school history. Despite the loss, WKU became just the eighth program since 1989 to earn a bowl berth in its first four years of eligibility. The Hilltoppers joined the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2009. WKU's senior class also was part of a remarkable turnaround that saw the program go 0-12 during their freshman season, to putting together back-to-back winning seasons in 2011 and 2012, and giving the school its first bowl trip.
Cajuns Top Pirates in R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
Jemarlous Moten made two key defensive plays in the fourth quarter and Brett Baer landed a pair of field goals in the waning minutes to help the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns repeat as R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl champions with a 43-34 victory over East Carolina before the bowl's record crowd of 48,828 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Terrance Broadway, who completed 21-of-32 passes for 316 yards and a touchdown and had 15 rushes for 108 yards, was named New Orleans Bowl MVP. Broadway's 424 yards of total offense marked the second-most in the game's history, bested only by his teammate Blaine Gautier (492 in 2011 New Orleans Bowl).
Sun Belt Sends Four to Bowl Games
For the first time in the Sun Belt Conference's 12 years of football the league will be sending four teams to postseason bowl games. Louisiana-Lafayette will play in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl , WKU heads to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Louisiana-Monroe travels west to the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl and league champion Arkansas State is returning to the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Andrews Eyes Sanders' Record
WKU junior running back Antonio Andrews ﬁnished with 119 rushing yards — his 10th 100-yard game of the season. That tied a WKU singleseason record set by Bobby Rainey in 2011. Andrews also set a new WKU single-season rushing record with 1,728 yards. That broke the previous mark of 1,695 set by Rainey in 2011. While Andrews played in one more game than Rainey, he set the new single-season record 65 less attempts. Andrews finished with 184 all-purpose yards, giving him 3,161 for the season. He joins Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders as the only two players in FBS history to eclipse 3,000 all-purpose yards in a season. Sanders set an NCAA record with 3,250 during the 1988 season.
ASU Claims Second Consecutive Outight Sun Belt Title With 45-0 Win over Middle Tennessee
The Arkansas State football team claimed its second straight Sun Belt Conference championship with a 45-0 victory over Middle Tennessee in front of a Liberty Bank Stadium record crowd of 31,243. The Red Wolves capped off a 9-3 regular season with a victory over a Middle Tennessee team that was receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches Top 25 Poll. A-State completed its Sun Belt title run with seven straight victories to finish 7-1 in the league. Arkansas State, which has never finished ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation as an FBS member, is receiving votes in both major polls and is listed No. 34 and No. 37 in latest CBSSports.com 124 and BCS rankings, respectively.
Harsin Named Arkansas State Head Coach
Arkansas State Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir announced at a press conference that Bryan Harsin, a 13-year coaching veteran at the NCAA FBS level who has coached in 10 bowl games as either an assistant or offensive coordinator, has been named the Red Wolves' 29th all-time head football coach. Harsin, a finalist for the 2009 Broyles Award recognizing the top assistant coach in the country, has been associated with two nationally-prominent programs during his rise to A-State's head coach. Working closely with Chris Petersen at Boise State and Mack Brown at Texas, two of the most well-respected coaches in the country, Harsin spent the last seven seasons as an offensive coordinator with the Broncos and Longhorns. Harsin served the last two seasons as Texas' co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after spending the previous 10 on the Boise State staff, including the last five as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach as well. During his tenure at both schools, he guided offenses that consistently ranked among the nation's best in almost every statistical category.
Bobby Petrino Named 18th Head Coach in WKU Football History
Western Kentucky University has named Bobby Petrino its 18th head football coach in school history, WKU Director of Athletics Todd Stewart announced. Petrino brings a wealth of coaching experience and success to WKU, owning a 75-26 career record as a collegiate head coach, with seven bowl game appearances, including appearances in the 2011 BCS Sugar Bowl with the University of Arkansas and the 2007 BCS Orange Bowl with the University of Louisville. In his eight seasons as a collegiate head coach with Louisville and Arkansas, Petrino led his teams to a bowl game in seven of the eight years, including four 10-win seasons, leading both the Cardinals and the Razorbacks to their first BCS bowl games in school history. Petrino guided Arkansas and Louisville to top-10 finishes nationally three different times, including finishing the 2006 and the 2011 seasons ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll.
WKU, ULM Top SEC Foes
ULM defeated then #8 ranked Arkansas on September 8 and WKU followed up with a win over Kentucky on September 15. The two wins against SEC programs were the first for both institutions, it also marked the first time that Sun Belt Conference has had wins against the SEC in back-to-back weeks. ULM's win over Arkansas also marked the first time that a Sun Belt Conference team has defeated a top-ten ranked opponent.
ULM's Browning Tabbed Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week
After leading ULM to 34-31 upset of No. 8 Arkansas Saturday in overtime, junior quarterback Kolton Browning has been named the Walter Camp Football Foundation Offensive Player of the Week. Browning tallied 481 yards of total offense and his 16 yard run to the endzone in overtime gave the Warhawks their first-ever win over Arkansas and their first-win over a ranked opponent (as a FBS member). Browning set new career-highs in passing yards (412), completions (42) and attempts (67). The junior also registered a total of 83 plays which ranks second in ULM history for a single-game.
MT's Cunningham Garners National Award
Middle Tennessee senior running back Benny Cunningham was named the AT&T All-America National Player of the Week on Thursday night for his performance in the win at Georgia Tech. ESPN analysts select four players each week and then fan votes determine the overall winner. Cunningham set several career-highs in the upset win over Georgia Tech, including 217 yards rushing, scoring five touchdowns, carrying the pigskin 27 times and registering a career-long 60-yard run. The 60-yard touchdown run was the longest by the Blue Raiders since D.D. Kyles raced 74 yards against Louisiana in 2010. Cunningham's five rushing touchdowns tied for the second most in a game at Middle Tennessee and moved him to No. 3 nationally in scoring.
Bowl Game Winning Percentage
Since the 2007 football season the Sun Belt Conference ranks fifth out of the 11 FBS conferences in postseason bowl game winning percentage. In fact, the Sun Belt Conference ranks ahead of noted "Big Six" leagues – the ACC, Pac-12 and the Big Ten. Furthermore, the Sun Belt Conference outpaces its non-automatic qualifying BCS partners in the WAC, Conference USA and the MAC.
Sun Belt Conference Bowl Partners
The Sun Belt Conference is currently in the third year of four year partnerships with the GoDaddy.com Bowl and the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Sun Belt teams will continue to represent the league in the games following the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons.
Sun Belt Football Championship Trophy to Honor Waters
The annual winner of the Sun Belt Conference's football regular season will take home the H. Wright Waters Trophy as the league approved the honor at the 2012 Sun Belt Conference Spring Meetings. Waters served as Commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference from 1998 through 2012 and largely responsible for football becoming a league sponsored sport. The Sun Belt had been a viable entity on the nation's collegiate athletic map since its founding in 1976, but Waters made the call for a serious approach to gaining access to the Football Bowl Subdivision. Due to his leadership the league played its inaugural season under his watch in 2001.
Five Named to Capital One Academic All-District Football Team
Five Sun Belt football student-athletes have been named to the 2012 Capital One Academic All-District team as Arkansas State's Nathan Herrold, Louisiana-Lafayette's Andre Huval, Troy's Kyle Lucas, and the South Alabama pair of Trey Clark and Alex Page were all on the annual list.
Sun Belt and ESPN Announce Multiyear Agreement
The Sun Belt Conference and ESPN reached a new agreement that extends the network's relationship with the conference through the 2019-20 academic year. The agreement, which will take effect beginning in the 2012-13 academic year, will expand the conference's national television exposure and makes ESPN the exclusive national cable and satellite provider of the Sun Belt Conference. The new agreement will give Sun Belt Conference football a minimum of two games on either ESPN or ESPN2 and also a minimum of five games on ESPNU that will be scheduled for Thursday or Friday nights. Additionally, ESPN Regional Television will have the right to produce, distribute and syndicate up to five football games each year. ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU, the 24-hour college sports network, will also be granted additional opportunities to select games to air. This trio of networks will be granted a 12-day rolling window during the season to select additional games to televise. Games available for selection are after the third Saturday of the season.
Cajuns Grab Top Attendance Increase in NCAA
The Ragin' Cajuns football team added yet another honor to its list as the NCAA announced that the University of Louisiana-Lafayette had the top attendance increase for the 2011 season. The Cajuns had an average increase of 11,788 per game setting both the Sun Belt Conference average and total attendance record and the ULL average attendance record. ULL beat out Arizona State, Stanford, Iowa State, Temple, Florida State and Oklahoma State for the top honor.
Troy's Chip Reeves Added to Biletnikoff Award List
Troy wide receiver Chip Reeves has been added to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation announced Tuesday morning. Reeves was one of 11 players to be added to the award watch list; the Biletnikoff Award is presented annually to the nation's top wide receiver.
ASU's Aplin Named Senior Class Award Finalist
Arkansas State senior quarterback Ryan Aplin was named as one of 10 finalists for the prestigious 2012 Senior CLASS Award, annually recognizing an NCAA FBS senior with notable achievements in areas of community, classroom, character and competition. The finalists were chosen by a media committee from the list of 30 candidates announced in September. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to help select the winner. Fans are encouraged to vote on the Senior CLASS Award Web site through Dec. 3. Fan votes will be combined with media and NCAA FBS head head coaches' votes to determine the winner.
ULM's Browning Added to Maxwell Award List
The Maxwell Football Club today announced the expansion of its 2012 Watch List for the 76th Maxwell Award and ULM junior quarterback was added to the list. The original list was comprised of 65 players, who were selected based on their performances during the 2011 season. As the 2012 season has progressed, the Club believes that several additional players warrant attention because of their noteworthy play.
ULM-Baylor Sets New Sun Belt TV Rating Record
The Louisiana-Monroe vs. Baylor football game that was televised live on ESPN Friday, September 21 was watched by a record number of viewers for the Sun Belt Conference. Friday's night game was watched by over 2.2 million people with a rating of 1.8 - the highest rated in history for a game involving a Sun Belt Conference team. The previous highest rated game in Sun Belt history was the FIU at Louisville game a season ago that earned a 1.4 rating. The game was the third highest rated college football game that aired on ESPN or ESPN2 last week – trailing only the LSU at Auburn game and the Arizona at Oregon game. The ULM-Baylor game received a higher rating than the BYU at Boise State, Virginia at TCU, UTEP at Wisconsin and Vanderbilt at Georgia games.
ASU Announces $22 Million Football Facility Project
Arkansas State University announced a $22 million football facility project, including a two-level football operations building and 76,000 square-foot indoor practice facility in Liberty Bank Stadium's north end zone. The new football operations building's first floor will house A-State's locker room, state-of-the-art strength and conditioning and sports medicine centers, a players lounge and equipment room. The second floor will feature coaching and administrative offices, team meeting rooms, a history and heritage showroom and a team film room with theatre seating. The indoor practice facility will run east and west and be connected to the north side of the operations building.
2012 Sun Belt Network Football Schedule Announced
Now in its fourth season, the is a joint partnership with Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS) and Cox Sports Television (CST). Each game will be available in 13 states across the southeast and is often available on ESPN3.com and ESPN GamePlan outside of the CSS and CST markets. The agreement with CSS and CST has resulted in the broadcasting of football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, and softball contests throughout the last three seasons. In whole, the Sun Belt Network has been responsible for over 100 events airing on CSS and CST over the past three seasons. The seven games selected for the Sun Belt Network adds to the growing list of football broadcasts that the Sun Belt Conference and its institutions are directly responsible for.
Baer, Davis Named Lou Groza Award Semifinalists
The Palm Beach County Sports Commission announced that Arkansas State's Brian Davis and Louisiana-Lafayette's Bret Baer have been named two of 20 semifinalists for the 2012 Lou Groza Award presented by the Orange Bowl Committee.
Troy's Deon Anthony Named Manning Award Player of the Week
Troy quarterback Deon Anthony has been named the Manning Award Player of the Week, the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Anthony accumulated 360 yards of total offense in Troy's dramatic 38-37 victory over FIU. The New Iberia, La., native completed 29-of-41 pass attempts for 245 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 115 yards and two scores. Anthony's rushing total was the most by a Troy quarterback since 1989.
Sun Belt Sends Three to Bowls in 2011
The Sun Belt Conference sent three teams to postseason bowl games for two consecutive seasons. Following the 2011 regular season, Louisiana-Lafayette played in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, FIU played in the Beef ‘O' Brady's Bowl and Arkansas State played in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. The three teams playing in the 2011 football postseason matches the previous high set the year prior. ASU, FIU, ULL and Western Kentucky all finished the 2011 regular season with bowl eligible records, marking the fourth time in league history that the Sun Belt has had four bowl eligible teams.
South Alabama Makes Sun Belt Debut
South Alabama will open the 2012 season on Aug. 30 against Texas San-Antonio where it will make its Sun Belt Conference and FBS debut. The Jaguars will not be eligible for the Sun Belt Conference championship, however, they will play a full Sun Belt schedule where their games will count as conference games for their league opponents. USA will be eligible for the Sun Belt title and a bowl berth in the 2013 season.
Trojan Trio Wins Super Bowl Title
The Trojan Trio of Jerrel Jernigan , Lawrence Tynes and Osi Umenyiora are Super Bowl Champions after the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI. The title is the second for both Tynes and Umenyiora and the first for Jernigan. Troy's three former players in the Super Bowl (active rosters) were the fifth most of any school in the country. Tynes, who sent the Giants to the Super Bowl with a game-winning field goal in overtime of the NFC Championship Game, booted field goals of 38 and 33 yards in the third quarter to pull New York within two, 17-15. Jernigan, who in 2010 led the Trojans to their fifth consecutive Sun Belt Conference title, set up Tynes' first field goal with a 34-yard kickoff return. The rookie finished the game with three returns for 71 yards (23.7 per return). Umenyiora finished the game with one tackle and a pair of hits on New England quarterback Tom Brady.
Team News and Notes
Arkansas State Red Wolves
ASU claimed the outright Sun Belt Conference title and has now won back-to-back conference championships for the first time since 1985-86 . . . With its 45-0 win over Middle Tennessee, ASU extended its winning streak to seven games, its second longest since 1986 . . . The Red Wolves claimed their 19th victory since 2011 for their most ever over a two-year span in school history . . . A-State now has nine or more victories in a season for the seventh time in school history . . . ASU won seven Sun Belt Conference games for the second time ever (8 in 2011) . . . The Red Wolves improved to 11-1 over their last 12 home games and ran their winning streak at Liberty Bank Stadium to three games . . . A-State now stands 19-5 over its last 23 regular-season games and is 15-1 against Sun Belt Conference opponents over the last two seasons. ASU's 19 regular-season victories are its most ever over a two-year span . . . The Liberty Bank Stadium crowd of 31,243 was the largest ever home crowd in Arkansas State history . . . ASU's 45-point victory over Middle Tennessee was its largest margin of victory ever against a Sun Belt Conference opponent . . . The Red Wolves will make their second straight appearance in a bowl game and ninth appearance all-time . . . ASU now has 5,782 yards total offense this season, leaving it just 40 yards shy of the school record with a bowl game left to play. It's 5,782 total yards are also the sixth most in Sun Belt history and 532 shy of the league record . . . ASU has posted over 30 points in a game for the 10 times this year to tie the most in a season since 1951 . . . The Red Wolves have scored 437 points this season for the third most in school history. A-State needs 20 more to break the school record. It's 437 points are also the third most in Sun Belt history and six shy of the league record.
Florida Atlantic Owls
Florida Atlantic University's football team will has concluded its first season under the direction of Carl Pelini. The Owls posted a 3-9 record and finished 2-6 in Sun Belt Conference play. The season saw the Owls travel to top-5 Georgia and to then No. 1 ranked Alabama. FAU was the first to score on the tide in 2012, four games into the campaign. While FAU opened the season with a home victory, the next victory was hard to record. FAU held the lead for much of the game versus South Alabama, but would eventually fall in overtime. FAU then defeated Troy, a team that had previously only been beaten by the Owls, once (2007). The squad's first road victory was a thrilling win over Western Kentucky, a game that saw Keith Reaser come into play in all facets of the defense. Reaser's maturity was instrumental for FAU's defense as was fellow DB Brent Harstad, who led all tacklers with 103. Senior David Hinds added 80 total tackles and led the team with 6.5 tackles for a loss. While the defense showed steady improvement the more drastic signs of improvement were shown on the offensive side. Senior QB Graham Wilbert, who improved his efficiency from 91% to 134.5%, and the Owls scored 32 touchdowns in 2012 nearly doubling their 2011 total. The Owls improved their turnover ratio from a -9 to -2 and their third down conversion improved from 29 to 41%. Penalties were another area where FAU saw improvement cutting down on the flags and eliminating more than 200 penalty yards. The Owls also transitioned 19 new players into the squad, all but one will return in 2013.
Jonathan Wallace will return in 2013 after leading the Owls with 648 yards on 175 carries. The junior also will see the return of fellow juniors Damian Fortner (318), Martese Jackason (222) and Travis Jones (80). In total, FAU backs surpassed the 1,000 yard plateau with 1,268 yards. While the Owls will have a new signal caller, the squad will return 12 receivers, including eight who scored in 2012. The receivers will be led by William Dukes, who emerged into a big-play receiver with 979 yards on 63 catches. Dukes score four times and averaged 81.6 yards per catch. His longest of the season was a 75-yard score versus ULL. The defensive line will return in 2013 as will all but one linebacker. Expect Adarius Glanton and Andrae Kirk to return to anchor the linebackers after tallying 75 and 70 tackles, respectively. They will each have a year under their belts of the system and both saw tremendous improvement in 2012. The defensive backs will return three of the top-seven tacklers from 2012 and will be led by rising senior Keith Reaser, Jeremy McKnight and rising sophomore Cre'von LeBlanc who had 42 tackles and four passes defended in 2012.
With the 2012 season now complete, FIU says goodbye to nearly 30 student-athletes who spent the past four to five seasons wearing the blue and gold. Four seniors, Chuck Grace, Junior Mertile, Andre Pound and Jacob Younger, witnessed the opening day of FIU Stadium versus a nationally-ranked South Florida Bulls squad on September 20, 2008, while seniors who arrived for the 2009 season were the first Panthers to experience the amenities of the beautiful state-of-the-art R. Kirk Landon Fieldhouse, a spacious home locker room, massive weight room complex, dedicated football sports medicine facility, individualized position film rooms and grand team meeting room.
Against ULM, the FIU defense held the Warhawks to a season-low 235 total offensive yards, 106 yards less than their next lowest output. The Panthers also held ULM to season-low nine rushing yards and quarterback Kolton Browning to a season-low two rushing yards. Browning's 218 passing yards was his second lowest in the 10 full games he played in 2012.
Seniors Johnathan Cyprien (S), Rupert Bryan, Jr. (OT), Winston Fraser (LB) and Tourek Williams (DE) each finished their respective collegiate careers with the most starts at their positions at FIU. Senior Jose Cheeseborough had the second-most starts at cornerback.
Despite nagging injuries at quarterback and runningback throughout the season, the 2012 team still put up some top program-comparable offensive numbers, including: No. 3 in rushing yards (1,744), No. 2 in rushing attempts (489), No. 2 in rushing TDs (20), No. 1 in passing yards (2,861), No. 2 in passing TDs (17), No. 2 in passing efficiency (136.4), No. 3 in total offensive yards (4,605) and No. 2 in total offense per game (383.8)
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
Terrance Broadway wasn't projected as Louisiana-Lafayette's starting quarterback heading into this season. Now he's a bowl game MVP.
Broadway passed for 316 yards and ran for 108, helping Louisiana-Lafayette repeat as winners of the New Orleans Bowl with a 43-34 victory against East Carolina. Broadway, who took over as starter after senior Blaine Gautier's injury in late September, also ran for a 12-yard score.
Alonzo Harris rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns for the Ragin' Cajuns (9-4), who briefly squandered a three-touchdown lead before moving back in front for good on Broadway's 14-yard scoring pass to Javone Lawson late in the third quarter.
Brett Baer added his second and third field goals in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Jamal Robinson had six catches for 116 yards for ULL, while Lawson finished with four catches for 71 yards.
With Lafayette a drive of about two hours west of New Orleans, red-clad Cajuns fans came in droves and made up the bulk of a record New Orleans Bowl crowd of 48,828.
ULM finished the 2012 season at 8-5, the best record in the FBS era.
The Warhawks ran 78 plays for 314 yards of offense against Ohio in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl.
Kolton Browning ended the day 21-for-39 and 219 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Browning was also the Warhawks leading rusher (47 yds on 24 attempts).
Brent Leonard caught his second pass in the second quarter to give him 204 career receptions, a program record, passing Mark Vincent.
Cordero Smith picked off a pass in the fourth quarter, his first career interception. Smith led the Warhakws with 8 total tackles, including 5 solo.
Justin Manton had 5 punts on the day, with a long of 42 yards and one inside the 20 yard line.
Cortney Davis had four kickoff returns for a total of 96 yards, including a long of 34.
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Middle Tennessee responded like champions from a tough 2011 season to go 8-4 overall in 2012 and tie for second in the Sun Belt Conference. The Raiders opened and closed the campaign with a loss but in between went 8-2, including a four-game win streak late in the year that involved an undefeated November.
Following a 2-10 season, Middle Tennessee bounced back with vengeance and owned the nation's best turnaround. The Raiders' +6 win total from 2011 joins Ohio State and Kent State for the biggest win increase in the country in 2012.
The Raiders carried an impressive road record of 5-2 in 2012, which ranked as the most road wins under Rick Stockstill and in the FBS era. The biggest victory away from Murfreesboro came in late September when the Raiders upset eventual ACC Coastal Division Champion Georgia Tech.
For the third time in four years, Middle Tennessee became bowl eligible following the win at WKU on Nov. 1. MT joins ULL as the only SBC members to be bowl eligible three times during this period. It's also the fourth time in seven years MT has been bowl eligible under Rick Stockstill (2006, 2009, 2010, 2012).
Middle Tennessee had only 11 scholarship seniors on its roster. That total ranked tied for the eighth fewest seniors on an FBS roster in 2012 and matched the fewest in the Sun Belt with North Texas and FAU. Rice led the nation with seven, while Indiana and Colorado had eight.Alabama, Marshall, and Wisconsin were next with nine and Louisville counted only 10.
Middle Tennessee received 2 votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll for Nov. 5 and Nov. 12, then 3 votes Nov. 18. MT had 7 votes in the Nov. 25 poll.
North Texas Mean Green
North Texas finished with its second straight winning season at Apogee Stadium. It is the first time since 2003 and 2004 that the Mean Green has had back-to-back winning seasons at home.
North Texas has more wins in the last two seasons than the previous four seasons combined. The Mean Green defense allowed the fewest points a game since the 2006 season.
North Texas hit the 2,000 yard rushing mark for the season. It was only the 18th time in school history that North Texas has rushed for 2,000 yards a team.
The Mean Green defense held four opponents to 14 points or less this season, the most in a single season since 2003.
For the season, North Texas finished with 4,731 yards of total offense, which is the fourth most in school history. It is the sixth straight season that North Texas has had 4,000 yards of total offense, which is a school record.
Quarterback Derek Thompson finished with 2,649 passing yards on the year, which is the fourth most yards in a single season.
North Texas allowed just six sacks the entire season and in nine of the 12 games the Mean Green offensive line did not allow a single sack
South Alabama Jaguars
Senior center Trey Clark became the first individual in program history to be named to CoSIDA's Capital One Academic All-America team when he was announced as a second-team selection on Dec. 6. The Prattville, Ala., native started all 40 games of his career, making him the only Jaguar to accomplish the feat in the team's first four seasons of competition. … Led by senior ILB Jake Johnson, the Jags had four individuals — all on the defensive side of the ball — recognized on the all-Sun Belt Conference teams released Dec. 5. Alex Page was a second-team selection on the defensive line, with Enrique Williams and B.J. Scott earning honorable mention accolades at linebacker and defensive back, respectively. … Johnson ended the season with 131 total tackles, a school season record that is tied for fourth on the league's season record list with Frantz Joseph of Florida Atlantic. He was credited with 10 or more tackles a team-leading five times in the fall, while he paced the Jaguars in stops on seven occasions; the latter total also was the highest on the squad. … With six tackles in the season finale at Hawai'i, Williams joined Johnson in recording over 100 tackles on the year after finishing with 105. He trails Johnson by just six stops entering the 2013 campaign — Williams' last as a Jaguar — with a career total of 239 stops. … Jeremé Jones was the only Jag to record at least one reception in every contest this year, extending his streak to 27 consecutive outings with at least one catch. The sophomore set school season records with 45 catches and seven touchdown receptions, while his team-leading 513 yards were the second-highest total in the season record books. … In addition to finishing with a career-high 64 stops — he entered the fall with 51 in his first three years with the program — Page would set a USA season standard with six sacks while finishing with 11½ tackles behind the line of scrimmage. That included a streak of 11 games in a row with at least one assist for loss from Sept. 8-Nov. 24. … Senior Michel Chapuseaux set Jag season records in both scoring (84 points) and field goals (20) this year, and he also became the first USA placekicker to connect on every extra-point attempt after converting all 24 tries. Chapuseaux is the fourth different individual to lead the team in scoring in its first four seasons of competition, while it marked the second straight year that a kicker has accomplished the feat. … Prior to this fall, USA had never attempted more than 253 passes in a season. In his first year after transferring from Virginia, Ross Metheny threw 345 passes, also setting school season standards with 189 completions, 2,148 yards passing, 12 touchdowns and 2,289 yards of total offense. As a unit, the Jaguar offense passed on 449 occasions in 2012.
Corey Robinson became the first Troy quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards in his first three seasons, as well as one of three active quarterbacks in the country to throw for over 3,000 yards in their first three seasons as a starter; joining Georgia' s Aaron Murray and Oklahoma's Landry Jones.
For the first time in school history, the Trojans had a 3,000 yard passer (Corey Robinson), a 1,000-yard rusher (Shawn Southward) and a 1,000 yard receiver (Chip Reeves) in a single season.
Deon Anthony became the 16th Troy player to catch a pass this season with a 12-yard reception from Corey Robinson.
Anthony recorded his eighth rushing touchdown of the year with a six-yard run in the fourth quarter
Corey Robinson's touchdown pass to Eric Thomas, was the 63rd touchdown in the junior's career, passing former Troy quarterback Mike Turk (1984-87) for second place in school history for touchdowns responsible for.
Junior Jarod Lee picked up first career touchdown with a 4-yard reception from Deon Anthony in the third quarter to give the Trojans a 14-13 lead.
Shawn Southward picked up fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season against Middle Tennessee and became the first Trojan since DeWhitt Betterson in 2004 to accomplish that feat; Southward finishes his Troy career third in school history in rushing attempts (545) and rushing yards (2,773) and second in career rushing touchdowns (33).
Wide receiver Chip Reeves finished his career with seventh all-time in career receptions (121) and in receiving yards (1,968).
The Trojans held Middle Tennessee scoreless on it's opening drive; marking the eighth time in 12 games the Trojans did not allow an opponent to score on its first possession.
WKU was playing in its ﬁrst FBS bowl game. The Hilltoppers became a bowl-eligible member of the FBS in 2009.
Junior running back Antonio Andrews finished with 119 rushing yards — his 10th 100-yard game of the season. That tied a WKU single season record set by Bobby Rainey in 2011.
Andrews also set a new WKU single-season rushing record with 1,728 yards. That broke the previous mark of 1,695 set by Rainey in 2011. While Andrews played in one more game than Rainey, he set the new single-season record 65 less attempts.
Andrews ﬁnished with 184 all-purpose yards, giving him 3,161 for the season. He joins Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders as the only two players in FBS history to eclipse 3,000 all-purpose yards in a season. Sanders set an NCAA record with 3,250 during the 1988 season.
Kawaun Jakes' 70-yard completion to Rico Brown on WKU's ﬁ rst offensive play of the game was a careerlong pass for Jakes (previous long was 63). It was also the longest play from scrimmage for the Hilltopper offense this season.
With his six-yard touchdown pass to Jack Doyle in the second quarter, Jakes moved into ﬁrst place on WKU's career touchdown passing list with the 51st of his career. That broke the previous mark of 50 held by Justin Haddix (2003-06).
Jakes ﬁnished the season with 2,546 yards of total offense, which broke the WKU single-season record of 2,542 set by Jeff Cesarone in 1985.
Doyle ﬁnished with six catches for 36 yards. He wrapped up his WKU career with 162 career grabs — second on the WKU career list. His 1,769 career receiving yards rank eighth all time, and the most by a tight end in school history.
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.
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.
Trent Miles, who engineered a dramatic turnaround in five seasons at Indiana State University, is the new head football coach at Georgia State University. Miles, the 2012 Region Four Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association, was officially introduced by GSU President Mark Becker and Director of Athletics Cheryl L. Levick on December 3, 2012.
A former assistant coach at Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington, Miles takes the helm of the GSU program following the retirement of Bill Curry, the program's head coach since its inception in 2008.
Despite taking over a struggling Indiana State program that had won just one game in the three seasons before his arrival in 2008, Miles led the Sycamores to winning records the last three years. In 2010, he was honored as Missouri Valley Football Conference Coach of the Year and was a finalist for the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year Award and the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year honor.
Texas State Bobcats (Coming in 2013)
The Texas State football team closed out the 2012 season with a 4-8 overall record in its first season as a member of an FBS Conference. The Bobcats posted a 2-4 mark against Western Athletic Conference teams in 2012 and will join the Sun Belt Conference in 2013 after playing on of the nation's Top 16 toughest schedules among teams from non-BCS automatic qualifying conferences.
Texas State began the year with one of the top five upsets in college football history with a 30-13 victory at Houston on Sept. 1. Texas State entered the game as a 36-point underdog and won in dominate fashion in front of sellout crowd at Robertson Stadium. The Bobcats also played in front of the largest crowd to ever to attend a game at Bobcat Stadium when 33,006 watched Texas State play host to Texas Tech on Sept. 8. The Red Raiders were one of five bowl eligible teams that the Bobcats would face in 2012. In fact, Texas State's strength of schedule ranked among the Top 16 teams from non-BCS automatic qualifying conferences. After posting a 41-37 victory over Stephen F. Austin, Texas State's next win came in its first Western Athletic Conference game when the Bobcats posted an 38-7 victory over Idaho on Oct. 13 before battling four straight bowl eligible teams. The Bobcats closed out the season with a 66-28 victory over New Mexico State in the final WAC football game in conference history.
Texas State, which has an all-time record of 495-416-26 since it began playing football in 1904, is playing its first season as a member of a NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conference in 2012 after announcing that it was moving to the FBS ranks in Nov. 2010. The Bobcats are in the Western Athletic Conference in 2012 before moving to the Sun Belt Conference in 2013.