Arkansas State eying another Sun Belt football title
A familiar name sits atop the Sun Belt Conference standings – that being Arkansas State. Until this week the Red Wolves had been joined by others in a tie for first place. That is no longer the case thanks to a 38-3 win over #25 Troy in a showdown of Sun Belt unbeatens.
A-State has now won 15 consecutive Sun Belt Conference games – the last loss for the Red Wolves was Nov. 20, 2014 against Texas State. All told, A-State holds a 39-6 record over its last 45 Sun Belt Conference games.
The Red Wolves can clinch no worse than a share of the Sun Belt title this Saturday with a win against UL Lafayette. A Red Wolves win and losses by Troy and Appalachian State would give them the outright title on Saturday. A-State has won Sun Belt titles in 2015, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2005.
With only one loss in conference play, both App. State and Troy are not likely to go quietly into the night. The Mountaineers host New Mexico State and the Trojans visit Texas State on Saturday.
South Alabama visits Idaho on Saturday as the Jaguars look to earn just their second Sun Belt win of the season. Remarkably, USA went perfect in non-conference play in winning five of their games. Following a win over Presbyterian Saturday in its final non-conference game of the regular season, it was announced that the NCAA has granted a waiver to USA to potentially include a second win over an FCS opponent toward postseason bowl eligibility. The NCAA's ruling declares that with six victories including two over FCS opponents that the Jaguars will be designated as a deserving team per the application of postseason eligibility legislation, but that South cannot be selected until all other eligible teams are placed for bowl participation. Should less than 80 schools be eligible to participate in a postseason bowl, USA will be placed in a game before any teams with 5-7 records are selected.
Saturday, November 26
* Arkansas State at UL Lafayette –11 a.m. (ESPN3/American Sports Network)
* South Alabama at Idaho – 2:30 p.m. (ESPN3/American Sports Network)
* Appalachian State at New Mexico State - 3 p.m. (ESPN3)
* Troy at Texas State – 3 p.m. (ESPN3/Texas State Sport Properties Production)
* denotes Sun Belt Conference game
All times Central (CT) and subject to change
Thursday, November 17
* Arkansas State 35, #25 Troy 3 - 8:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Saturday, November 19
Georgia 35, UL Lafayette 21 - 11 a.m. (SEC Network)
* Georgia State 30, Georgia Southern 24 – 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
* Appalachian State 42, UL Monroe 17 – 1:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
* New Mexico State 50, Texas State 10 – 3 p.m. (ESPN3)
South Alabama 31, Presbyterian 7 – 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Players of the Week
Offensive Player of the Week
Marcus Cox (Appalachian State, Senior, Running Back, Criminal Justice)
Senior running back Marcus Cox became Appalachian State's all-time leading rusher during the Mountaineers' 42-17 win over UL Monroe on Saturday. Cox rushed for 153 yards on 21 carries and had three touchdowns. Cox passed Kevin Richardson (4,804 yards) and now has 4,820 career yards. He also had his 27th career 100-yard game and had his 49th, 50th, and 51st career rushing touchdowns, which is third on App's career list.
Defensive Player of the Week
Chris Odom (Arkansas State, Sr., DE, Sport Management)
Senior defensive end Chris Odom recorded a career-high two forced fumbles recovered by Arkansas State, including one for a touchdown, and was responsible for three tackles, one tackle for loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry during the Red Wolves' 35-3 road victory over Troy. Odom's two forced fumbles tied the most in the nation for a single game, while they also increased his season total to four that stands tied for the sixth most in the country. His first forced fumble came on Troy's first offensive play of the game, helping set the defensive tone for A-State and ending the Trojan's possession at the Red Wolves' 44-yard line. Odom began the second half the same way, sacking and stripping the ball from quarterback Brandon Silvers on Troy's first play. He then chased the ball down and helped redirect it from a Troy player into the end zone, where it was recovered by A-State's Chris Humes to give the Red Wolves' a 14-3 lead. Odom was part of A-State's defense that limited the Sun Belt Conference's leading team in both scoring offense and total offense to three points and 262 yards, both season lows.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Brandon McKee (South Alabama, Sr., P, Sports and Recreation Management)
McKee punted five times Saturday in the Jaguars' game against Presbyterian, averaging 45.6 yards per kick with four of five efforts downed inside the PC-20; that included having two punts downed at the one-yard line as he tied a school game record as well as a career high in the category. It's the fifth time this fall that the senior has averaged 45 yards or more punting in a contest — he continues to lead the Sun Belt and rank among the top 10 nationally with a 45.11 figure — while he is the only individual in the league with more than half (21 of 37, 56.8%) his kicks ending up inside the opposition's 20-yard line.
Sun Belt News and Notes
Sun Belt Membership
The Sun Belt's 11-school football membership includes Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Idaho, UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, New Mexico State, South Alabama, Texas State and Troy. Little Rock and UT Arlington compete in all sports as non-football members while Idaho and New Mexico State are football-only members. Coastal Carolina official entered the league on July 1, 2016 and currently competes as an all-sport member. The CCU football program will begin Sun Belt play in 2017.
Sun Belt Bowl Partners
In 2001, the Sun Belt Conference began sponsoring football and created the inaugural New Orleans bowl in December of that year. The conference now stands as one of the 10 premier college football leagues in the country.
As part of the College Football Playoff a worthy football team in the Sun Belt can be in the national championship picture, and the league is a permanent part of the "Group of Five" conferences (joining the American Athletic Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Mid-American Conference and Conference USA) that sends its highest-rated champion to a premier January 1st bowl game.
In the last three years the Sun Belt Conference has gone from having two primary bowl partnerships to five in 2016. From 2001 to 2009 the Sun Belt Conference had only one bowl partner.
Sun Belt Conference Championship Game
The Sun Belt Conference will hold its first ever football championship game as the league's presidents and chancellors, as well as athletic directors, voted unanimously to play the game beginning in 2018. The addition of Coastal Carolina and the decision to move forward as a 10-team football league, along with the NCAA Division I Council's new rules on championship games, means that the championship game has become a reality.
The Sun Belt Conference Experience
For student-athletes, Sun Belt institutions are leaders in providing career services and the tools to assist in the pursuit of personal goals. Sun Belt members all employ full-time academic advisors and have on average more than 20 tutors for academic support. During the 2015-16 academic year, Sun Belt member institutions awarded over $50 million in scholarships to more than 3,100 student-athletes, while also providing life experiences such as team building, domestic and foreign travel, community service, mentoring, and recognition through honors and awards. The Sun Belt's commitment to academic excellence remains a hallmark, with the league and its institutions annually rewriting the Sun Belt record book for grade-point averages and academic honors. This past spring, a record-tying 14 league programs were recognized for outstanding performance in the classroom, with those teams earning NCAA Public Recognition Awards for posting APR scores in the top 10 percent of their sport nationally. It was the second straight year for the Sun Belt to have 14 programs honored, doubling the amount of the previous years.
Team News and Notes
Appalachian State Mountaineers
Appalachian State (8-3, 6-1 Sun Belt) racked up a season-high 637 yards of total offense and scored on three of their first four possessions to race past UL Monroe on Saturday, 42-17, at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
RB Marcus Cox's 25-yard TD run in the fourth quarter made him the program's all-time leading rusher (4,820), passing Kevin Richardson (4,804 yards). Cox finished with 153 yards on 21 carries and three touchdowns. Cox also had his 27th career 100-yard game and had his 49th, 50th, and 51st career rushing touchdowns.
App QB Taylor Lamb tossed his 60th career TD in the first quarter, finding Ike Lewis for 60 yards. Lamb passed Richie Williams for second on the career list at App and trails only Armanti Edwards (74) in App history.
App held ULM to 19 points and has held 6-of-7 Sun Belt opponents to 17 points of fewer. Troy is the only Sun Belt team to eclipse 20 points on the Apps.
App safety A.J. Howard had an interception for the second straight game and App's 18th interception of the season, which leaves the Mountaineers among the national leaders.
App had a season high 637 yards of total offense on 69 plays (9.2 ypp), a season high for both. The Apps rushed for a season high 429 yards on 47 carries in the win and flirted with three 100-yard rushers. App's 429 yards rushing were the most since 469 yards rushing against Georgia State in Nov. 2014.
RB Jalin Moore had his seventh 100-yard rushing game in his last eight games. Moore had 135 yards on only 13 carries and is averaging just under 139 yards per game since getting the start at Akron (8 games, Sept. 24).
App travels to New Mexico State for a first-ever meeting with the Aggies on Saturday. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. in Las Cruces.
Arkansas State Red Wolves
A-State picked up its second all-time win against a Top 25 team since joining the FBS in 1992, defeating No. 25 Troy 35-13 last week, and in the process improved to 6-4 overall to gain bowl eligibility for the ninth time over the past 12 seasons . . . The Red Wolves are 6-0 in Sun Belt Conference play for the second consecutive season and third time in school history (2016, 2015, 2011) . . . Arkansas State has won 15 consecutive Sun Belt Conference games . . . A-State holds a 39-6 record over its last 45 Sun Belt Conference games . . . The Red Wolves are 19-3 in November since the 2011 season and have won their last seven games played in the month . . . Arkansas State has won six consecutive games for its fourth longest winning streak in its history as an FBS member . . . A-State has won 18 of its last 21 conference road games, including the last six in a row . . . The Red Wolves need one more victory to secure a sixth consecutive winning season for the first time since 1912-17 . . . A-State, in the midst of a three-game road swing to close out its regular season, is set to face Louisiana-Lafayette at Cajun Field this Saturday . . . The Red Wolves hold an all-time on-field record of 20-23-1 against Louisiana in the series that dates back to the 1953 season. A-State defeated Louisiana 37-27 last season, snapping a two-game skid against the Ragin' Cajuns. The Red Wolves' 44 previous games played against Louisiana are the second most against any opponent in school history behind only its 57 versus Memphis.
Georgia Southern Eagles
Georgia Southern will have its first full open week of the season before wrapping up its season on Dec. 3 with a home game against Troy.
Senior kicker Younghoe Koo made 14 straight field goals earlier this season to set a new school record for consecutive field goals made in a season.
Koo has five makes of 40 yards or more, including a 53-yarder at Arkansas State. For his career, he has eight made field goals of 40 yards or longer.
The Lou Groza Award semifinalist is 19-for-20 on the season. If he should be named a finalist later today, he would become the first Georgia Southern player to be a national finalist for an award since the Eagles joined the FBS in 2014. The last national award winner Georgia Southern had was in 2010 when senior quarterback Jayson Foster won the Walter Payton Award, an honor recognizing him as the most outstanding I-AA player in the nation.
With his 43-yard field goal at the end of the half against Georgia State, Koo has 19 made kicks this season to tie Adrian Mora's mark for single-season made field goals set in 2010.
Georgia State Panthers
Georgia State downed in-state rival Georgia Southern for the second straight year, winning 30-24 in the Panthers' final game at the Georgia Dome. Georgia State jumped to a 20-0 lead in the first nine minutes and never trailed in the game. The win was the first for interim head coach Tim Lappano.
Quarterback Conner Manning passed for 318 yards and accounted for three touchdowns in the win with touchdown passes to Glenn Smith and Robert Davis and a 1-yard scoring run. He leads the Sun Belt with 268.7 passing yards per game and ranks second in total offense with 265.0 yards per game.
Tight end Keith Rucker caught eight passes for 145 yards vs. Georgia Southern. Rucker is the fifth different Panthers to record a 100-yard receiving game this season, and fourth in the last two games. Robert Davis, Glenn Smith and Jawan Nobles had 100-yard efforts one game earlier vs. ULM, and Todd Boyd topped 100 yards vs. Troy.
Wide receiver Robert Davis is Georgia State's career leader in receptions (213) and receiving yards (3,279). In Sun Belt annals, he ranks second in receiving yards (to FIU's T.Y. Hilton, 3,531) and fifth in receptions.
Among active FBS players, Davis ranks eighth in receiving yards and 13th in receptions.
Davis has caught at least one pass in 48 straight games, every game he has played and the
longest active streak in FBS.
Davis' 17 career touchdown receptions have covered an average of 39.5 yards.
Sophomore linebacker Michael Shaw had a tackle for loss vs. Georgia Southern, and over the last three games, he has seven tackles for loss, three sacks, 23 tackles and forced fumble. On the season, Shaw leads the Panthers with 12 tackles for loss, just behind the GSU season record of 12.5.
Idaho heads into the homestretch, literally, this weekend when it takes on South Alabama in a key Sun Belt Conference game at 12:30 p.m. (PT) at the Kibbie Dome. This reflects a time change from the original 6 p.m. (PT).
The Vandals, who haven't played at the Kibbie Dome since Oct. 15, have first the Jaguars then Georgia State to wrap up regular-season play. They became bowl eligible for the first time since 2009 with their 47-14 victory at Texas State on Nov. 12.
Idaho is honoring the nation's Armed Forces this weekend with Military Appreciation Day. All current and former members of the military and their families will be admitted to Saturday's game without charge. Additionally, all elementary school children are given free admission when accompanied by a paying adult.
Idaho is 4-1 over the last five games in part because of a resurgent offense but also because of a dominating defense. The Vandals put Texas State in a hole with -18 yards rushing in an overall effort that limited the Bobcats to a total 175 yards.
Austin Rehkow remains the top-ranked player in field goals per game among FBS schools with 2.20. He is second in the Sun Belt and eighth nationally in field goal percentage at .917. He's third in the league and 28th nationally in punting average (43.2). He leads the league in total points scored with 92.
Matt Linehan has moved into third in the league in total passing yards at 2,446 and is fourth in yards per game (244.6) and yards per completion (11.99) as well as pass efficiency (129.4).
Aikeem Coleman is now third in sacks per game with .80 – good enough for 27th nationally.
UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns will wrap up its home schedule on Saturday, Nov. 26, when it plays host to SBC leader Arkansas State in an 11 a.m. contest at Cajun Field.
UL Lafayette (4-6, 3-3 SBC) dropped a 35-21 decision at SEC member Georgia on Saturday despite gaining 465 yards of total offense against a Bulldogs' defense that was ranked 11th nationally, allowing 308.1 yards per game.
The Ragin' Cajuns recorded a season-high 276 yards on the ground against Georgia – also the most the Bulldogs have allowed on the ground all season – with Elijah McGuire rushing for a game-high 124 yards on 19 carries, and Anthony Jennings gaining 98 yards on 16 carries with three rushing TDs.
McGuire, who has 891 yards rushing on the season, became the second player in school history to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark on the ground. The senior, who recorded the 16th 100-yard rushing game of his career, increased his career rushing total to 4,076 yards
Jennings scored on a 9-yard TD in the second quarter for his fifth rushing TD of the season and added two TD runs in the fourth quarter - a 13-yard score and a 1-yard rush for his first three-TD game of his career.
The Ragin' Cajuns were stymied by four first-half turnovers that tied a season-high that was previously set against Tulane in September. UL Lafayette did record a pair of takeways as Tracy Walker picked off a Jacob Eason pass in the second quarter and Denarius Howard forced and recovered a Sony Michel fumble in the fourth quarter.
UL Monroe Warhawks
Running back Austin Vaughn became the sixth different leading rusher for ULM this season with his 110-yard afternoon at Appalachian State. Quarterback Garrett Smith and running back Thomas Koufie have lead the rushing attack three times apiece this season, while running back Ben Luckett has done so twice and quarterback Will Collins, running back Duke Carter and Vaughn have each now led ULM in one game this season.
Vaughn's afternoon against Appalachian State was the second consecutive week the Warhawks saw a running back have a career day. Vaughn had entered the game with 22 carries for 97 yards and touchdown on the season, with touches in three previous games, before his 110-yard, one touchdown afternoon on 15 carries at Appalachian State.
ULM is hit with an oddity in college football this time of the season – an off week leading into its final game of the season. The Warhawks fell at Auburn coming off their first off Saturday earlier this season.
Dating back to the 2010 season (including earlier in 2016), the Warhawks are 2-3 overall coming off of an extra week of preparation. Two seasons featured games at SEC opponents (at Auburn, 2016, and at Alabama, 2015) and they also had two seasons with no open week (2010 and 2012), instead starting the season the second week of the national schedule.
ULM is 2-1 in Sun Belt Conference games following an extra week of preparation, including victories in its last two situations – both at home – in 2014 against Troy (22-20 W) and 2013 against Georgia State (38-10 W). The Warhawks' last loss to a Sun Belt opponent following an extra week was in 2011 when they fell 24-19 at home to Arkansas State.
The Warhawks finish the 2016 slate 1-6 on the road and have an opportunity to end the year 4-1 at home with a victory over UL-Lafayette. The four home wins would be the most for ULM in a season since a pair of back-to-back 4-1 home records in the 2009 and 2010 campaigns.
New Mexico State Aggies
Rodney Butler remains the nation's leading tackler with 13.9 tackles per game (139 total) and 21st nationally with 5.4 solo tackles per game (54), 18th in forced fumbles (0.3) [3 total],
Jaden Wright is 14th amongst FBS players with 4 picks on the year.
Tyler Rogers is 19th in the country with 22.00 completions per game and 23rd in total offense (291.2).
Dalton Herrington is also 19th in the nation with 2 fumble recoveries
Saturday's win gave Martin his 10th win as an Aggie since taking over the program in 2012.
Rogers is the second FBS player to have caught, rushed and thrown for a TD in a single game – and only one this year to do it in a single quarter (1st). Rogers passed Sal Olivas (40, 1964-97) with his 42nd career passing touchdown to move into third all-time in passing touchdowns. Rogers also passed Sal Olivas (49, 1964-67) with his 50th career touchdown scored to move into 4th all-time in total touchdowns. Rogers passed David Spriggs with his 186 passing yards Saturday for a single-season total of 2,588 passing yards to move into 8th all-time. Rogers passes David Spriggs with 2,921 total offensive yards to move into 6th all-time in single-season for total offensive yards.
Shamad Lomax became the first NM State player to record two interceptions since Nwangwa did it at Texas State on 11/7/15. Lomax finished with a career-high 11 tackles, including 0.5 tackles for loss and two picks.
Terrill Hanks recorded his fifth career interception in the first quarter.
Stody Bradley forced his first career fumble on Texas State's second drive of the game.
The last time NM State intercepted three passes in a game was against San Jose State back on 10/18/08.
South Alabama Jaguars
Following a win over Presbyterian Saturday in its final non-conference game of the regular season, it was announced that the NCAA has granted a waiver to the South Alabama football program to potentially include a second win over an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision opponent toward postseason bowl eligibility. The NCAA's ruling declares that with six victories including two over FCS opponents that the Jaguars will be designated as a deserving team per the application of postseason eligibility legislation, but that South cannot be selected until all other eligible teams are placed for bowl participation. Should less than 80 schools be eligible to participate in a postseason bowl, USA will be placed in a game before any teams with 5-7 records are selected. … With the defeat of the Blue Hose, it marks the first time since South began competing in the Sun Belt that the Jaguars have won all four non-conference contests in a season. … The Jaguars look to avoid going 0-4 on the road in Sun Belt Conference action for the first time since 2012, their first competing in the league, when they visit Idaho Saturday afternoon. ... USA's last win away from home came in the season-opener this fall, a 21-20 defeat of Mississippi State in Starkville. ... The Jags last claimed a road victory in the SBC when they began conference action 1-0 with a 24-18 decision at Troy on Oct. 3 a year ago. ... Idaho is the lone current member of the Sun Belt the Jaguars are undefeated against (they will meet New Mexico State for the first time ever next weekend). ... The Jaguars are 3-0 all-time in the Pacific Time Zone, having also won at UC Davis (2010) and San Diego State ('15) in addition to claiming the first match-up with the Vandals during the 2014 campaign. … Xavier Johnson gave South Alabama the lead for good with a season-long 70-yard touchdown run on the Jaguars' third play from scrimmage in Saturday's match-up with Presbyterian, going on to finish with a game-high 116 yards on only 10 carries. In setting a program game record for average yards per attempt (minimum 10), the junior paced USA in rushing for the fourth consecutive outing; it's the first time that has happened since Demetre Baker accomplished the feat in the first four contests of the 2012 campaign. With the effort, Johnson moved into the top 10 on the school season record list with a team-leading 550 yards this fall. … Darrell Songy, posted a game-high 13 tackles to leads USA's defense in its win over Presbyterian — one shy of matching his career high coming into play — as the Jaguars did not allow a point (the Blue Hose's lone score came on a fumble return) while giving up just 78 yards passing and 275 overall. It's the third time he has paced the squad in stops in his first season with the program, and with the effort he is now tied for the team lead with 13 outings with 10 or more tackles. … Brandon McKee punted five times Saturday in the Jaguars' game against Presbyterian, averaging 45.6 yards per kick with four of five efforts downed inside the PC-20.
Texas State Bobcats
Texas State ranks second nationally in blocked kicks and blocked punts with six blocked kicks and three blocked punts. Individually Anthony D. Taylor ranks second nationally with three blocked kicks and Ishmael Davis ranks fourth after blocking two kicks.
Senior quarterback Tyler Jones enters his final two games at Texas State leading the Sun Belt Conference and ranked 17th nationally in completion percentage with .648 after completing 219 of 338 passes. Jones has thrown for 2,168 yards with 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season.
Reserve quarterback Connor White started the second half at New Mexico State and recorded the longest run by a Bobcat this season with a career-long 45-yard run in the third quarter.
Stedman Mayberry leads Texas State in rushing with 544 yards and four TDs on 140 carries. He ran for 61 yards on 13 carries at New Mexico State.
Mason Hays made his first start at New Mexico State and led the Bobcats with 100 receiving yards on six catches. Hays had a 20-yard reception in the first half and had a career-long 43-yard catch in the fourth quarter.
Bryan London ranks third nationally in solo tackles and total tackles with 6.6 solo stops per game and 11.3 tackles per contest. He recorded 11 tackles to lead the Bobcats at New Mexico State. It marks the fifth straight game and eighth game overall in which he has recorded 10 or more tackles.