September 23, 2018

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2018 Sun Belt Football News and Notes: Week 3

SUN BELT 6-3 IN WEEK 2
The second week of the season saw the Sun Belt net six total wins.  Of those six, four were against FBS opponents.  Notably, the Sun Belt was 3-0 versus Conference USA on Saturday, with two of those wins coming on the road.  Taking away games against Power Five opponents, the Sun Belt is 11-2 in non-conference play thus far in the season.

APP STATE’S THOMAS PERFECT AGAINST CHARLOTTE
Zac Thomas went 14-of-14 passing for 295 yards and three touchdowns through the air in the Mountaineers’ 45-9 win at Charlotte.  His showing marked the first time an App State or Sun Belt quarterback finished a game with at least 10 completions and no incompletions. The highest completion percentage by a Sun Belt quarterback with at least 10 completions was 93.8, accomplished by Troy’s Corey Robinson when he went 30 of 32 against UAB in 2013.

HART AMONG NATION’S BEST
Georgia State feature’s one of the nation’s most prolific receivers in junior Penny Hart, a Preseason All-American who led the Sun Belt Conference in 2017 with a school-record 74 receptions for 1,121 yards and eight touchdowns. Hart ranks first among all active FBS receivers in career receiving yards per game (82.1). He is second in receptions per game (5.55), second in receiving yards (2,380), fifth in receptions (161) and third in TD receptions (18), all in 29 games.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Zac Thomas, Appalachian State (So., QB, Trussville, Ala.)
In his second career start, Zac Thomas led App State to a 45-9 road win over Conference USA’s Charlotte 49ers and was a perfect 14-of-14 through the air for 295 yards with three touchdown passes. He added 29 rushing yards and another score on the ground. Thomas is the first quarterback in the history of App State and the Sun Belt Conference to complete at least 10 passes and have no incompletions in a game. Counting his incredible fourth quarter at Penn State, the totals for Thomas in his last five quarters of football are 23-for-28 for 448 yards and five passing TDs with 45 yards and two rushing TDs.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Donald Louis Jr., ULM (Jr., DE, Monroe, La.)
Junior defensive end Donald Louis Jr. recorded six tackles (five solos, one assist), with three resulting in losses (19 yards) including two sacks (15 yards), and forced a fumble in ULM’s 21-20 victory at Southern Miss. His six-yard sack on USM’s second possession produced a fumble that Sam Miller recovered in the end zone for a touchdown to tie the score at 7-7. The Warhawk defense posted seven tackles for loss (49 yards), including five sacks (36 yards), and forced four turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions). ULM limited the Golden Eagles to 58 rushing yards on 34 carries (1.7 avg.).

SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK 
James Sherman, Texas State (Sr., K, Montgomery, Ala.)
Sherman tied a school record and equaled the fourth-highest point total in Sun Belt Conference history when he scored a career-high 18 points to lead Texas State to a 36-20 victory over Texas Southern. He tied another school record and had the second-highest total in Sun Belt history with five field goals against the Tigers.  Sherman had two career-long 41-yard field goals and averaged 61.2 yards on nine kickoffs with five touchbacks.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE

Friday, September 14
Georgia State at Memphis, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)

Saturday, September 15
Troy at Nebraska, 11:00 a.m. (BTN)
Southern Miss at Appalachian State, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Georgia Southern at Clemson, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
* Texas State at South Alabama, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN+)
Arkansas State at Tulsa, 6:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Campbell at Coastal Carolina, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
Louisiana at Mississippi State, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)
ULM at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network)

All Times are Central and Subject to Change
* – Sun Belt Conference contest

RECENT RESULTS

Saturday, September 8
North Carolina State 41, Georgia State 7 (Fox Regional)
#1 Alabama 57, Arkansas State 7 (ESPN2)
Georgia Southern 34, UMass 13 (ESPN+)
Appalachian State 45, Charlotte 9 (ESPN+)
Texas State 36, Texas Southern 20 (ESPN3)
Troy 59, Florida A&M 7 (ESPN+)
Coastal Carolina 47, UAB 24 (ESPN+)
ULM 21, Southern Miss 20 (ESPN3)
Oklahoma State 55, South Alabama 13 (Fox Sports Net)

#SUNBELTFB TEAM NEWS AND NOTES

Appalachian State
Overall vs. Southern Miss: Third Meeting – Southern Miss Leads, 2-0
Last Meeting: Sept. 20, 2014 (L, 20-21) – Hattiesburg, Miss.

Zac Thomas went 14-of-14 passing for 295 yards and three touchdowns through the air at Charlotte, marking the first time an App State or Sun Belt quarterback finished a game with at least 10 completions and no incompletions. The highest completion percentage by a Sun Belt quarterback with at least 10 completions was 93.8, accomplished by Troy’s Corey Robinson when he went 30 of 32 against UAB in 2013.

App State coach Scott Satterfield has a 36-6 record against teams from a Group of Five conference heading into this weekend’s game against Southern Miss.

With Darrynton Evans scoring on a 100-yard kickoff return at Penn State and Thomas Hennigan scoring on a 59-yard punt return at Charlotte, App State is the only FBS program with touchdowns in both statistical categories this season.

Corey Sutton had touchdown receptions of 27 and 90 yards as part of a three-catch, 155-yard performance. The fourth-quarter score ranks as the longest receiving touchdown in school history, and Sutton became the first App State player to need less than four catches to gain 150 receiving yards in a game.

Arkansas State
Overall vs. Tulsa: Fourth Meeting – Series Tied, 2-2
Last Meeting: Sept. 20, 2003 (L, 7-54) – Tulsa, Okla.

Arkansas State holds a 1-1 record after two games for the second consecutive year and third time in five seasons under head coach Blake Anderson.

The Red Wolves are in the midst of their only back-to-back road games this season, playing at Tulsa on Saturday after facing No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa last week.

The series against Tulsa dates backs to 1978 and most recently saw Tulsa claim a 54-7 home win in 2003. This year’s game between the two schools is the first in a home-and-home series, which will see A-State host Tulsa in 2020.

Arkansas State has produced at least 391 yards total offense in each of its first two games.

Senior running back Warren Wand became A-State’s 10th all-time career leading rushing during the Alabama game.

A-State forced its first turnover of the season against Alabama, but has now produced at least one turnover gained in 44 of 53 games under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen. Junior safety Darreon Jackson recorded a season-high 10 tackles against Alabama, giving him two career games with double-figure stops, including two of the last three.

Coastal Carolina
Overall vs. Campbell: First Meeting

Coastal Carolina used a number of big offensive plays and a key blocked field goal on a game-tying attempt by UAB late in the third quarter to score 40 of the final 43 points of the game in a 47-24 rout over the Blazers in the 2018 home opener last weekend at Brooks Stadium.

With the win, the Chants (1-1) improved to 13-3 all-time in home openers and extended its streak to eight-straight home-opening wins. Coastal remains unbeaten in home openers under head coach Joe Moglia improving to 6-0 (2012-16, 2018).

The 47 points are the most for the Chanticleers in the FBS era and the most points scored since posting 48 points versus Presbyterian College on Oct. 29, 2016.

After just two plays of 20-yards or more in the season opener at South Carolina two weeks ago, the Chanticleer offense tallied seven “big” plays of 20-plus yards or more last week versus UAB. The Chants finished the game with 463 yards of total offense; 296 rushing and 167 passing. CCU also had the ball for over 31 minutes in the game and was 7-of-10 on third down conversions.

The Chants defense tightened up after the first three series to hold UAB’s offense to just a field goal and a total of 223 yards over the next seven drives, including just 112 yards in the second half.

Georgia Southern 
Overall vs. Clemson: First Meeting

This is the second of three games against teams from the Palmetto State this season (South Carolina State, Coastal Carolina). The Eagles are 26-12 all-time playing in the state of South Carolina and 63-24 against teams from the Palmetto State.

Georgia Southern is 1-9 all-time against current members of the ACC (1-4 vs. Miami; 0-2 vs. Georgia Tech, North Carolina and NC State; 0-2 vs. Florida State).

Georgia Southern has lost its last 11 road non-conference games since shocking Florida 26-20 in The Swamp to end the 2013 season. GS has yet to win a road non-conference game as a member of the FBS, which the Eagles joined in 2014.

Tight end Ellis Richardson’s father, Chuck, played linebacker at Clemson on the 1981 national championship team and his brother, Chris, played defensive end for Clemson’s football team from 2007-2010.

Defensive coordinator Scot Sloan was a defensive back for the Tigers from 1988-91, winning an ACC title in 1991.

Georgia State
Overall vs. Memphis: First Meeting

Georgia State faces its second straight road test as the Panthers play at Memphis in a Friday night game that will be nationally televised on ESPN.

Before the loss at NC State, Georgia State won five straight road contests and six straight games away from home in 2017, capped by the 2017 AutoNation Cure Bowl victory over Western Kentucky.

The Panthers’ trip to Memphis is a homecoming for starting quarterback Dan Ellington, who is from Olive Branch, Miss., and Center Hill High School, which is about 20 miles from Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. In his first game for the Panthers, Ellington led a 24-20 season-opening victory over Kennesaw State as he threw three touchdown passes, including the 8-yard game-winner to Diondre Champaigne with 41 seconds left. Ellington was 20-for-28 for 187 yards while rushing for 77 yards on 18 attempts.

The game at Memphis is the second of four non-Saturday games for the Panthers this season. Georgia State’s season-opening 24-20 win over Kennesaw State was on Thursday, and GSU will play back-to-back Thursday night Sun Belt Conference games in October, at Troy on Oct. 4 and at Arkansas State Oct. 18, both on ESPNU. In its history, Georgia State is 6-7 on non-Saturday games, including 2-3 on Fridays.

The Panthers feature one of the nation’s top receivers in junior Penny Hart, a Preseason All-American who led the Sun Belt Conference in 2017 with a school-record 74 receptions for 1,121 yards and eight touchdowns.Hart ranks first among all active FBS receivers in career receiving yards per game (82.1). He is second in receptions per game (5.55), second in receiving yards (2,380), fifth in receptions (161) and third in TD receptions (18), all in 29 games.

Louisiana
Overall vs. Mississippi State: Fourth Meeting – Mississippi State Leads, 3-0
Last Meeting: Sept. 5, 1987 (L, 3-31) – Starkville, Miss.

Louisiana’s 49-17 win over Grambling improved its record in the last 10 home openers to 9-1.

The Ragin’ Cajuns are now 8-4 against schools from the state of Louisiana over the last four seasons.

It was the first meeting all-time between Grambling and Louisiana and the Cajuns are now 1-0 against Grambling and 3-0 all-time against the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Head coach Billy Napier won his first game of his head coaching career. Among the seven head coaches across the FBS who coached their first game at the helm of their respective programs, only four out of the seven won and Napier was among that four. Napier became the 12th head coach in Louisiana history to win his first game as head coach of the Ragin’ Cajuns and the first since Sam Robertson won his first game against New Mexico State on Sept. 6, 1980.

ULM
Overall vs. Texas A&M: Fourth Meeting – Texas A&M Leads, 3-0
Last Meeting: Nov. 1, 2014 (L, 16-21) – College Station, Texas

ULM leads the Sun Belt in rushing defense (65.0 yards per game) and sacks (8 for 52 yards; 4.0 per game). The Warhawks also rank among the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision leaders in both categories: eighth in sacks and No. 10 in rushing defense. ULM also is one of 16 NCAA FBS teams that haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown this season.

Fifth-year senior Marcus Green leads ULM in receptions (11), receiving yards (195), yards per catch (17.7) and touchdown receptions (4). Green leads the Sun Belt in TD receptions and ranks second in receptions (5.5 per game) and receiving yards (97.5 per game). His four TD receptions rank third in the NCAA FBS. Green now has 20 career TD catches – good for third place on ULM’s all-time list.

ULM’s last win over an SEC opponent came in the 2012 season opener against No. 8 Arkansas in Little Rock, 34-31, in overtime.

South Alabama
Overall vs. Texas State: Fourth Meeting – Texas State Leads, 2-1
Last Meeting: Oct. 24, 2015 (L, 18-36) – San Marcos, Texas

The Jaguars host Texas State this week in the first Sun Belt Conference game to be played this season.
It’s the third consecutive fall South will play a conference contest in September, and the fifth time it has happened in six years since the Jags made the move to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision level; USA has a 2-5 all-time mark in Sun Belt games in September, including dropping four of five outings at home.

The home team has won each of the first three matchups between the two schools; the Jaguars’ lone win in the series their sixth in 2014, making the program eligible to compete in a postseason bowl for the first time in school history.

South fell to 0-2 this season after being defeated 55-13 by Oklahoma State on Saturdaynight, the second time in as many seasons that the Jaguars have started the campaign 0-2.

Kawaan Baker has opened the season by scoring multiple touchdowns in back-to-back outings, the first time a Jag has accomplished the feat since Xavier Johnson reached the end zone twice in consecutive contests against Alabama A&M and Idaho last September.

Making his first career start, QB Evan Orth threw his first touchdown pass at the collegiate level while completing 14-of-25 attempts for 119 yards.

Texas State
Overall vs. South Alabama: Fourth Meeting – Texas State Leads, 2-1
Last Meeting: Oct. 24, 2015 (W, 36-18) – San Marcos, Texas

Texas State enters the South Alabama game ranked second nationally and leading the Sun Belt Conference in defensive touchdowns with two after A.J. Krawczyk returned a fumble 82 yards for a touchdowns against Texas Southern. Kordell Rodgers returned an interception 51 yards for a TD at Rutgers.

A.J. Krawczyk’s 82-yard fumble return set a school record for the longest fumble return in history. The former record was 63 yards by Michael Ebbitt at Central Arkansas on Nov. 11, 2011.

Texas State ranks among the top 20 teams nationally and second in the Sun Belt Conference with two fumble recoveries this season. Dennis Johnson, Jr. had Texas State’s first fumble recovery at Rutgers before Krawczyk’s TD return against Texas Southern.

The Bobcats have three interceptions and that ranks 15th nationally and second in the Sun Belt behind South Alabama’s five interceptions.

Texas State’s five total turnovers gained also ranks 13th nationally and second in the Sun Belt behind South Alabama’s six.

Troy
Overall vs. Nebraska: Fifth Meeting – Nebraska Leads, 4-0
Last Meeting: Sept. 23, 2006 (L, 0-56) – Lincoln, Nebraska

Neal Brown has never been shutout as a head coach or as an offensive coordinator — a span of 128 games.

After opening 3-8 under Neal Brown, Troy is now 23-6 in its last 29 games.

Against Florida A&M, Troy finished the game with 59 points marking the eighth time in the Neal Brown era that the Trojans have scored 50 or more points; the Trojans had so just once in the previous 66 games and just three times at the FBS level prior to Brown’s arrival.

Troy rushed for 292 yards in the game marking the sixth time in the Neal Brown era that the Trojans topped the 200-yard mark; the Trojans are 17-0 in games under Brown when rushing for more than 150 yards. The 292 rushing yards marked the second most in the Brown era, only Troy’s 383 rushing yards against Austin Peay in the 2016 opener are more.

Troy finished the game with 477 yards of total offense, Troy improved to 15-1 under Neal Brown when topping the 400-yard mark of total offense and 15-0 in regulation games when topping the 400-yard mark of total offense.

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About Andy Bryson 626 Articles
Founder of Louisiana Gridiron Football and football coach

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