Sun Belt Conference Football news and notes - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Sun Belt Conference Football news and notes

From the Sun Belt Conference

ULM Takes Out Wake Forest; USA and ASU Start Conference Play with Wins
Two early season conference games and ULM's win over ACC foe Wake Forest were the talk around the Sun Belt in the third week of the college football season. But also of note, the SBC is the only league of the non-AQ BSC Conferences to have a wining non-conference record after three weeks of the season (Sun Belt 10-9, Mountain West 12-16, Conference USA 14-21, Mid-American 13-22).

ULM's defense recorded eight tackles for loss, including four sacks and recovered one fumble against the Demon Deacons, while quarterback Kolton Browning finished with a career-high 43 completions.

In league action, Thursday night saw a back-and-forth shootout between Arkansas State and Troy. The Red Wolves were able to extend their Sun Belt winning streak to eight games in large part due to the four turnovers they forced against Troy. South Alabama, meanwhile, forced three turnovers against WKU while only committing one and rallied from an 11 point halftime deficit for the win.

The upcoming week features seven non-conference games with only USA having an off week.

Georgia State and WKU will be the only two Sun Belt teams hosting games, as both will welcome in Football Championship Subdivision opponents on Saturday.

Arkansas State has a short trip to Memphis to play a Tigers squad that it has beaten in three of the last four meetings. Louisiana-Lafayette will look to even its record as it heads to Akron to play a Zips team that almost pulled off a remarkable upset against Michigan. ULM and Baylor will meet Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last season's shootout in Monroe. The back and forth affair featured 89 total points and 1,109 yards of total offense in the 47-42 Baylor win. Texas State will travel to Lubbock to face Texas Tech after the Red Raiders have now entered the top-25 in the Associated Press Poll. Troy will travel to Starkville to play Mississippi State after almost upsetting the Bulldogs a year ago at home.

Each one of Saturday's games will be available for a home viewing audience.

Upcoming Schedule

September 21
Jacksonville State at Georgia State - 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
Louisiana-Monroe at Baylor - 3 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
Arkansas State at Memphis - 3:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Louisiana-Lafayette at Akron - 5 p.m. (ESPN3)
Texas State at Texas Tech - 6 p.m. (Fox Sports Network)
Morgan State at Western Kentucky - 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Troy at Mississippi State - 6:30 p.m. (Fox Sports Network)
September 28
Wyoming at Texas State - 6 p.m. (Longhorn Network)
Navy at Western Kentucky - 6 p.m.
Tulane at Louisiana-Monroe - 6 p.m.
Arkansas State at Missouri - TBA
South Alabama at Tennessee - TBA
Troy at Duke - TBA
All times Central (CT) and subject to change
* denotes Sun Belt Conference game

Recent Results

September 14

West Virginia 41, Georgia State 7 - 11 a.m. (Root Sports)
Louisiana-Monroe 21, Wake Forest 19 - 11:30 a.m. (Raycom Sports Net)
Louisiana-Lafayette 70, Nicholls State 3 - 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
* South Alabama 31, Western Kentucky 24 - 6:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
September 12
* Arkansas State 41, Troy 34 – 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
September 7
Tennessee 52, WKU 20 - 11:21 a.m. (SEC Network)
Chattanooga 42, Georgia State 14 - 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
South Alabama 41, Tulane 39 - 2:30 p.m.
Kansas State 48, Louisiana-Lafayette 27 - 5:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
Texas State 28, Prairie View A&M 3 - 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Troy 66, Savannah State 3 - 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Louisiana-Monroe 48, Grambling State 10 - 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Auburn 38, Arkansas State 9 - 6:30 p.m. (Fox Sports Network)

Sun Belt Conference Players of the Week (as selected by media panel)

Offensive Player of the Week

Kolton Browning (Louisiana-Monroe, Sr., QB)
ULM's Kolton Browning became the program's all-time leader in career completions as the Mabank, Texas native passed Steven Jyles (795 completions from 2002-05) with his 796th completion to Je'Ron Hamm in the second quarter at Wake Forest… In the win over the Demon Deacons, Browning set new career highs in completions (43) and attempts (68)… He fell just four completions and attempts shy of setting new single-game records for ULM… Browning also rushed nine times for 19 yards in Saturday's win… He finished with three touchdown passes for the second straight week and connected with seven different players for his 43 total completions.

Defensive Player of the Week

Tyrell Pearson (South Alabama, Sr., DB)
Pearson didn't make his first appearance of the season until the final quarter Saturday, but in that time he was responsible for two key plays in USA's seven-point win over Western Kentucky.  With the game tied at 24 in the final three minutes, the senior intercepted a Brandon Doughty pass and returned it to the WKU-1, setting up the Jaguars' game winning drive as they scored 34 seconds later; after the Hilltoppers drove to the USA-13, Pearson picked off Doughty again, this time in the end zone on fourth down, to seal the victory.  Pearson also was credited with two tackles in the contest.

Special Teams Player of the Week

Aleem Sunanon (South Alabama, R-Fr., K)
Sunanon kicked a career-best three field goals, adding a first-quarter extra point to score in double figures for the second straight week.  The redshirt freshman connected from 42 yards early in the second quarter to cut the USA deficit to four points, while with the Jags trailing by 11 to start the second half he hit a 43-yard attempt to make it a one possession game.  In the fourth quarter, Sunanon was good from 27 yards with 12-and-a-half minutes to go, tying the contest 24-24.

Around the Sun Belt Conference
Team News and Notes

Arkansas State Red Wolves
Arkansas State has played Memphis more than any other opponent in school history, and Saturday's game will mark the 58th meeting all-time between the two schools since 1914. Memphis leads the all-time series 28-23-5, but A-State claimed victories each of the last two seasons in Jonesboro . . . The Red Wolves have won three of the last four meetings . . . A-State extended its Sun Belt Conference winning streak to eight games, its home winning streak to five and its winning streak in midweek games to six with a 41-34 victory over Troy last week . . . Arkansas State now stands 2-1 through three games for the third straight year . . . The last time ASU won three of its first four games was 2008 . . . A-State won its Sun Belt Conference opener for the first time since the 2011 season . . . The A-State offense has recorded over 400 yards of total offense in its first three games this season . . . The defense forced a season-high four turnovers against Troy, its most since posting five against Louisiana-Lafayette last year.

Georgia State Panthers
Senior running back Travis Evans rushed for a career-high 118 yards on 12 carries at West Virginia. Evans scored on a 65-yard run, the longest rush and fourth-longest play from scrimmage in GSU history.
Wide receiver Albert Wilson leads all active FBS players with a career average of 19.4 yards per catch. Wilson is Georgia State's all-time leading receiver with 119 receptions for 2,312 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Wilson leads the Sun Belt Conference in receiving yards (99.7 pg) while ranking third in receptions (5.0 pg). He is second in all-purpose yards (175.7 pg)
True freshman Robert Davis also ranks in the top five in the league in receptions (4.7 pg) and receiving yards (68.3).
Georgia State started six true freshmen at West Virginia, three on offense and three on defense. A total of 12 true freshmen have seen action in the first three games, led by wide receiver Robert Davis (GSU's second-leadingd receiver), tight end Keith Rucker (2 catches for 27 yards at WVU) and starting defensive end Shawayne Lawrence.
Linebacker Robert Ferguson had a career-high 11 tackles with two tackles for loss, including one sack, at West Virginia. Ferguson is the Panthers' active leader in career tackles (141) and tackles for loss (13.5).

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
After claiming the 500th victory in program history last week in record-setting form, the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns take to the road for the third time in four weeks, playing at Akron on Saturday, Sept. 21 beginning at 6:00 p.m. EDT (5:00 p.m. in Lafayette) in InfoCision Stadium on the Akron Campus.
The Cajuns are coming off a 70-7 win over Nicholls State last week, a game which saw the Cajuns set the Cajun Field record for points, compiling 456 yards rushing.
Seven different players scored a total of 10 touchdowns for the Cajuns in the contest, equaling the school record set vs. Troy in 1946.. The 70 points were the most by the Cajuns since scoring 75 vs. Lake Charles on Nov. 13, 1943.
Freshman Elijah McGuire led the ground game, becoming the first true-freshman since Alonzo Harris in 2011 to rush for more than 100 yards, carrying nine times for 137 yards and three touchdowns.
Sophomore kicker Stephen Brauchle went 10-for-10 on conversions, setting the school record for extra points made and tying the record for extra point attempts.
Darryl Surgent ranks second in the nation this week in kickoff return average (39.5).
Junior Alonzo Harris rushed for 75 yards on just two carries, one a 65-yard TD run, to move from 11th to seventh on the career rushing chart. Harris enters the week carrying 358 times for 1,786 yards with 20 touchdowns.

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks
ULM and Baylor will meet Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last season's shootout in Monroe… The back and forth affair featured 89 total points and 1,109 yards of total offense in the 47-42 Baylor win.
Baylor is the second opponent from the Big 12 conference on ULM's 2013 schedule… The Warhawks opened the season at No. 16 Oklahoma (L, 0-34, Aug. 31).
ULM enters the contest on a two-game win streak after defeating Grambling State in the home opener (W, 48-10, Sept. 7) and a road win at Wake Forest (W, 21-19, Sept. 14).
The Warhawks' win over the Demon Deacons was their first win against an ACC team and ULM is now 1-2 all-time against teams currently in the ACC (L, 26-49, at No. 25 Clemson, Sept. 8, 2007; L, 0-34, at No. 5 Florida State, Sept. 3, 2011).
ULM set a new team record as it ran 104 plays in the win at Wake Forest… The club had 38:59 of possession time against the Demon Deacons, meaning ULM ran a play every 22.49 seconds… The previous high for plays for the Warhawks was 103 plays in the win over No. 8 Arkansas last season (W, 34-31 [OT], Sept. 8, 2012). The ULM defense limited the option offense of Wake Forest to just 15 rushing yards... The Warhawk defense also recorded eight tackles for loss, including four sacks and recovered one fumble.
In the game at Wake Forest, Senior QB Kolton Browning became the program's all-time leader in career completions… During the second quarter, Browning connected with Je'Ron Hamm for a 16-yard gain as Browning completed career pass number 796… Browning passed Steven Jyles (795 completions; 2002-05) to become the new leader.
Browning finished with a career-high 43 completions as he threw a career-high 68 passes against the Demon Deacons… Browning finished the day with 827 career completions.

South Alabama Jaguars
ULM and Baylor will meet Saturday afternoon in a rematch of last season's shootout in Monroe… The back and forth affair featured 89 total points and 1,109 yards of total offense in the 47-42 Baylor win.
Baylor is the second opponent from the Big 12 conference on ULM's 2013 schedule… The Warhawks opened the season at No. 16 Oklahoma (L, 0-34, Aug. 31).
ULM enters the contest on a two-game win streak after defeating Grambling State in the home opener (W, 48-10, Sept. 7) and a road win at Wake Forest (W, 21-19, Sept. 14).
The Warhawks' win over the Demon Deacons was their first win against an ACC team and ULM is now 1-2 all-time against teams currently in the ACC (L, 26-49, at No. 25 Clemson, Sept. 8, 2007; L, 0-34, at No. 5 Florida State, Sept. 3, 2011).
ULM set a new team record as it ran 104 plays in the win at Wake Forest… The club had 38:59 of possession time against the Demon Deacons, meaning ULM ran a play every 22.49 seconds… The previous high for plays for the Warhawks was 103 plays in the win over No. 8 Arkansas last season (W, 34-31 [OT], Sept. 8, 2012). The ULM defense limited the option offense of Wake Forest to just 15 rushing yards... The Warhawk defense also recorded eight tackles for loss, including four sacks and recovered one fumble.
In the game at Wake Forest, Senior QB Kolton Browning became the program's all-time leader in career completions… During the second quarter, Browning connected with Je'Ron Hamm for a 16-yard gain as Browning completed career pass number 796… Browning passed Steven Jyles (795 completions; 2002-05) to become the new leader.
Browning finished with a career-high 43 completions as he threw a career-high 68 passes against the Demon Deacons… Browning finished the day with 827 career completions.

Texas State Bobcats
Texas State opened with a 2-0 record for the first time since 2005 and just the third time since 1992 when Dennis Franchione was head coach.
Following the first games of the 2013 season, Texas State ranks second nationally in rushing defense after surrendering an average of just 34.0 yards per game. The Bobcats surrendered 45 yards rushing against Prairie View A&M last Saturday night after giving up just 23 yards against Southern Miss on Aug. 31.
Texas State also leads the nation in red zone defense and offense after allowing opponents to score just 28.6 percent of the time and scoring on all four of its attempts inside the Red Zone.
Chris Nutall's a 77-yard touchdown run marks the longest run of his career and he became the third different Bobcat on Texas State's 2013 roster to record a run of 75 yards or more. Tim Gay had a 75-yard run against New Mexico State in 2012 and Terrence Franks had an 82-yard run versus Northwestern State in 2011.
Nutall finished the Prairie View game with 132 yards and two touchdowns on just 8 carries against Prairie View A&M. It marked his first 100-yard rushing game and his two touchdowns gives him three during his collegiate career. His first career TD was against Lamar in 2011.
David Mims II blocked a field goal attempt against Prairie View to mark the first blocked field goal by a Bobcat since Sam Pier blocked a field goal against Sam Houston State in 2010.
Michael Orakpo forced a fumble for the third time this season when he forced a fumble in the first quarter against Prairie View A&M. He had two forced fumbles against Southern Miss.
Zach Robinson had a punt of 59 yards against Prairie View A&M on Saturday. He now has four punts this season over 50 yards, including a 60-yard punt versus Southern Miss.

Troy Trojans
Eric Thomas' 54-yard reception from Corey Robinson in the first quarter was the longest play of the season (at that point) for the Trojans … Thomas' 3-yard touchdown gives him 22 in his career, tying Kerry Wright (MTSU) for second most in Sun Belt Conference history … Robinson moved into a tie for second in SBC history on the same play, with 67 career touchdown passes … Robinson moved into sole possession of second place with his touchdown pass to Holmes … Jordan Chunn rushed for his third touchdown of the season, scoring in the first quarter. He has one touchdown in each of Troy's games this season … Deon Anthony scored from two yards out early in the second quarter, his 10th career rushing touchdown … Thomas went over 100 yards in a game for the fourth time in his career … Bryan Holmes scored on a reception from Robinson from 58 yards out, the longest play of the season for the Trojans … Holmes caught two touchdowns in a game for the first time in his career … Holmes went over 100 yards for the first time in his career (he had 89 total yards in his career entering the game) … Eric Thomas moved into eighth on the all-time list for receiving yards with 1,922 for his career (125 on the game) … Troy now has nine sacks on the season, after having just 13 a season ago … The Trojans have 22 tackles for loss this season, after having just 50 last season … Troy did not commit a penalty until the fourth quarter.

WKU Hilltoppers
Freshman receiver Nicholas Norris became the first true wide receiver to catch multiple touchdown receptions in a game since Oct. 24, 2009 when Jake Gaebler had two touchdown receptions against Middle Tennessee. Norris had a career best 95 yards receiving in the game. It is just the fourth time any player has caught multiple touchdown passes in a game since the start of the 2010 season.
WKU has scored on its opening drive in each game this season after opening the game with a five play, 79 yard drive to open the game. Doughty completed 3-of-3 passes for 35 yards while Antonio Andrews had two carries for 44 yards on the drive. Doughty is now 14-of-16 for 132 yards on opening drives in the three games this season.
It will be the first meeting between the Hilltoppers and Bears. WKU is 3-2 against members of the FCS since becoming an FBS member prior to the 2008 season.
Against MEAC members, the Hilltoppers are 4-0 with victories over North Carolina A&T (2-0), North Carolina Central (1-0) and Florida A&M (1-0).

Appalachian State Mountaineers (Coming in 2014)
Appalachian State lost its home opener for only the second time in the last 12 years (prev.: 40-35 loss vs. McNeese State in 2009).
Appalachian State fell to 24-2 in its last 26 games that immediately followed a same-season loss. Since the third week of the 2003 campaign, the only other time that the Mountaineers lost consecutive games in the same season was in 2009, when they dropped their first two games to East Carolina (29-24) and McNeese State (40-35).
Appalachian State lost to North Carolina A&T for only the second time in seven games in the all-time series and for the first time in five contests played in Boone (only other N.C. A&T win was a 22-10 victory in Greensboro, N.C. on Sept. 4, 1993).
The loss snapped Appalachian State's 32-game home winning streak versus in-state opponents. The Mountaineers had not lost at home to an in-state opponent since a 34-7 loss to Western Carolina at then-Conrad Stadium on Oct. 6, 1984.
Freshman running back Marcus Cox scored the first touchdown of his career on a 35-yard reception in the first quarter.
Sophomore Kevin Walton's third-quarter interception was the first of his career.
Redshirt freshman tight end Barrett Burns scored the first touchdown of his career on a 10-yard reception in the third quarter.

Georgia Southern Eagles (Coming in 2014)
Georgia Southern suffered its first loss of 2013 to Southern Conference opponent Wofford 30-20 at Gibbs Stadium Saturday night. The Eagles (2-1) return to Paulson Stadium for a Sept 28th game against Chattanooga after a bye week this weekend. The game next week is Georgia Southern's third home game in the month of September.
Saturday night, Senior quarterback/running back Jerick McKinnon eclipsed the 3,000-yard career rushing milestone in the first quarter and was the top rusher for Georgia Southern with 114 yards and two touchdowns. For McKinnon, it was his 12th career game of 100 or more yards and ninth career game with two or more touchdowns.
Redshirt freshman Kevin Ellison, who made his first start at quarterback, netted rushing 97 yards and added 68 yards passing on six completions on 14 attempts. His career-best 53-yard long rush set up the Eagles' first touchdown. Georgia Southern's top receiver, Woodruff, S.C., sophomore B.J. Johnson started and had three catches for 40 yards.
Graduate running back Torrance Hunt ran for his third touchdown in as many games with a four-yard score after a roughing the kicker penalty on Wofford gave the Eagles an automatic first down and another chance at the endzone. Hunt's TD game the Eagles their first lead of the night, and a Deion Stanley interception, his third this season, turned the Terriers away scoreless on their next drive, but a two-pass play drive quickly put Wofford back on top 17-14 late in the first half.
The Terriers would hold onto that lead, and added a touchdown in both the third and fourth quarters, while allowing only one final TD for the Eagles late in the game. The loss snapped the Eagles' three-game win streak in the series.
Defensively, senior linebacker Kyle Oehlbeck led the Eagles with 11 total tackles (7-4) with Edwin Jackson adding 10 and Blake Riley adding seven solo tackles to the mix with two tackles for loss.

Idaho Vandals (Coming in 2014)
The Vandals are 0-3 after a hard-fought home opening loss to Northern Illinois. Washington State is 2-1 after winning at USC and at home against Southern Utah after opening with a loss at Auburn.
Paul Petrino is in his first season at Idaho and his first as a head coach. While it is his first head coaching job, it is not Petrino's first stint at Idaho. His coaching career began at Carroll College (his alma mater, 1989). From Carroll, he went to Idaho where he coached running back, receivers and special teams from 1992-94. From Idaho it was on to Utah State (1995-97), Louisville (1998-99), Southern Mississippi (2000-02), Louisville (2003-06), Atlanta Falcons (2007), Arkansas (2008-09), Illinois (2010-11) and Arkansas (2012).
Washington State has a 70-17-3 lead in this historic series that dates to 1894 and, for decades, was played annually with the losing team's student body walking to the campus of the winning team. The game was played most recently in 2007 with WSU winning 45-28. Idaho's most recent wins were back to back in 1999 (28-17) and 2000 (38-34).

New Mexico State Aggies (Coming in 2014)
The New Mexico State Aggies (0-3) travel to Pasadena, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 21 to face the UCLA Bruins (2-0) for the first meeting between the two schools. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. (MT)
The Aggies have played six teams during the history of their football program that are currently members of the PAC-12. (Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon and Oregon State) NM State has played Colorado once, back in 2005, when the Buffaloes were a member of the Big XII. Also in 2005, the Aggies hosted No. 13 California on national television in Aggie Memorial Stadium (Sept. 23). NM State holds a 12-59 record against teams in the current PAC-12, including one of the program's biggest wins in school history, a 35-7 win over then No. 22 Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., back in 1999. The Aggies have faced Arizona State 28 times in school history, while Arizona and NM State have faced each other 36 times, the most of any other PAC-12 team. That series dates back to 1909. In fact, all of NM State's 12 wins against PAC-12 team have come against either Arizona or Arizona State.
The UCLA Bruins are 2-0 on the season after an exciting win on the road at Nebraska this past weekend. The Bruins opened the season against Nevada, winning, 58-20. Offensively, UCLA is averaging 49.5 points per game, while allowing 20.5 points a contest. The team is averaging 575.5 total yards a game, while holding their opponents to just 342 yards a game. Quarterback Brett Hundley has thrown for 568 yards and five scores, while running back Jordan James leads the rushing attack, averaging 130 yards per game. Wide receiver Shaquell Evans has caught nine passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns to lead the receiving corps.
Defensively, Eric Kendricks leads the Bruins with 19 tackles and a tackles for a loss, while Keenan Graham has three sacks of the season.
he Aggies have locked up with nationally ranked opponents 20 times since 1999. The Aggies lone win in those games came back in 1999 when the Aggies stunned No. 22 Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., 35-7. The Aggies have faced at least one ranked opponent each season since 1999, (except for 2011) competing against three in 2001 (No. 5 Texas, No. 22 Oregon State, No. 12 Kansas State). NM State faced No. 6 Boise State and No. 17 Ohio State in 2009. Five of the Aggies' 18 games against ranked opponents have been played in Aggie Memorial Stadium, while NM State has been outscored by their ranked opponents by an average of 27.25 points per game.
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