Sun Belt Football Recap and Preview -- Week Eight

College FootballFootballSportsSouth Alabama JaguarsFlorida Atlantic OwlsMiddle Tennessee Blue RaidersArkansas State Red Wolves

RECAP: Week Seven

ARKANSAS STATE: It wasn't the prettiest win, but the Red Wolves outlasted South Alabama at home on Saturday, 36-29. They fell behind early (10-0), but answered with 14 consecutive points to take a lead they would not surrender. Ryan Aplin was on top of his game, completing 17-of-22 passes for 203 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran in a score from two yards out in the first quarter. David Oku continued his impressive month of October with 22 carries for 84 yards and a touchdown, and he now has five rushing scores in the last three games. J.D. McKissic caught seven passes for 41 yards and a touchdown, marking the fourth game this year he's hauled in seven or more balls. Arkansas State (4-3, 2-1 Sun Belt) will try for its third straight win when it plays at Louisiana on Oct 23.

FIU: In a game that included four lead changes in the fourth quarter alone, the Panthers found themselves on the losing end of a 34-30 bout with Middle Tennessee. FIU led most of the way, including by as many as 17 points, but surrendered that lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Panthers would regain the advantage with just a minute left when a 30-yard touchdown pass from Jake Medlock to Willis Wright made it 30-27, but the defense could not hold on as the Blue Raiders marched down the field to score the game-winning touchdown on their next possession. Medlock completed 24-of-38 passes for a career-high 380 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the heartbreaking loss, while Glenn Coleman (five receptions, 115 yards, TD) and Wright (three receptions, 109 yards, TD) each had big days receiving. Darian Mallary ran the ball 14 times for 51 yards, and his scored his eighth touchdown of the year. He now has at least one rushing touchdown in every game he has played this season. FIU (1-6, 0-3 Sun Belt) will try once again to notch its first conference win of the season when it plays at Troy this Saturday.

FLORIDA ATLANTIC: The Owls kept ULM quarterback Kolton Browning in check with just 206 yards of total offense while holding him to under 50 percent passing (10-of-23), but they were still on the losing end of the conference clash, 35-14. FAU (1-5, 0-3 Sun Belt) fell behind 21-0 midway through the second quarter and simply could not recover. Graham Wilbert was impressive in the setback, completing 26-of-39 passes for a career-high 261 yards, which included a 15-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Cunningham, although that didn't come until the final minute of regulation. Jonathan Wallace rushed for 50 yards and the first touchdown of his FAU career, but when subtracting five sacks of Wilbert, the team finished with just 46 net rushing yards. William Dukes (five receptions, 96 yards) has five or more catches in four games this season. Still looking for their first conference win of 2012, the Owls will head to Mobile this Saturday to challenge South Alabama.

LOUISIANA: After winning four of their first five games, the Ragin' Cajuns enjoyed a bye this past week. They return to action on Tuesday night when they travel to Denton to take on North Texas.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE: The Blue Raiders managed to spoil FIU's Homecoming by overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit to claim a 34-30 victory. After allowing a touchdown with a minute left in the game to go down by three points, Middle Tennessee got a 43-yard kickoff return from Reggie Whatley and drove 40 yards in just three plays, punctuated by the game-winning touchdown from Whatley. Just a few weeks removed from setting career highs in a win over Georgia Tech, Benny Cunningham set new personal bests with 36 carries for 230 yards while also rushing in a pair of touchdowns. Logan Kilgore completed 17-of-30 passes for 267 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Senior wide receiver Anthony Amos also had a career night with eight catches for 148 yards and a score. The 523 yards of total offense is a new season high for the squad. Middle Tennessee (4-2, 2-1 Sun Belt) will stay on the road this week and step out of conference to tangles with No. 15 Mississippi State.

NORTH TEXAS: The Mean Green (2-4) did not play this past weekend, giving them some extra time to move past their 44-21 loss to Houston on Oct. 6 and get ready for a home date with Louisiana on Tuesday night.

SOUTH ALABAMA: With 373 total yards, the Jaguars had one of their best days on offense all season, but it wasn't enough to overcome high-powered Arkansas State as they lost to the Red Wolves in a 36-29 final. The defense played well in terms of yardage allowed, surrendering just 316 yards to ASU, but the unit fell apart in the red zone, allowing five touchdowns in six opportunities. Ross Metheny started under center and was impressive in completing 24-of-38 passes for 241 yards and three touchdowns, all career highs. He connected with eight different receivers, led by Corey Besteda (45 yards) and Greg Hollinger (30 yards, TD) with five catches each. The USA rushing attack on the other hand, was stymied to the tune of 132 yards on 50 attempts (2.6 ypc), led by 43 yards from Terrence Timmons. South Alabama (1-5, 0-2 Sun Belt) will try to avoid its fifth straight loss this Saturday when it plays host to the Owls of Florida Atlantic.

TROY: Although they held a 10-point lead early in the second quarter against Western Kentucky last Thursday night, the Trojans dropped the conference clash at home, 31-26. Corey Robinson completed 6-of-11 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown in the first half before leaving the game due to injury. Deon Anthony was solid in his place, going 9-of-16 for 147 yards, including a 47- yard touchdown pass to Eric Thomas late in the third quarter to bring Troy (3-3, 2-2 Sun Belt) to within two, 28-26, but it failed on the two-point conversion attempt and would get no closer. Chip Reeves caught three passes for 110 yards and a score, and he now has three 100-yard games this season. The team did not commit a turnover on the night, marking the first time it has accomplished that feat since Dec. 18, 2010. Troy will try to bounce back from the tough loss this Saturday afternoon when it entertains FIU.

ULM: The Warhawks were sharp in every facet of the game as they dismissed Florida Atlantic over the weekend, 35-14. The offense has seen better days (341 yards), especially Kolton Browning, who completed just 10-of-23 passes for 147 yards, but they were able to score touchdowns on all three trips to the red zone. Browning tossed two touchdown passes and also led the team in rushing with 59 yards. Montrell Washington had just four rushes, but they went for 45 yards and a pair of scores. The special teams unit came up big in the second quarter when Mitchell Bailey recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown to go up 21-0. The defense was also solid, surrendering just 307 yards while recording five sacks and an interception. ULM (4-2, 2-0 Sun Belt) will try to prove that it's one of the best teams in the conference this Saturday when it hits the road to take on first-place Western Kentucky.

WESTERN KENTUCKY: For the second straight game, the Hilltoppers managed to erase a double-digit, first-half deficit, coming back to defeat Troy last Thursday, 31-26, for their fourth straight win. After getting knocked out with an injury in the previous game, Kawaun Jakes returned to the lineup in mid- season form, completing 21-of-31 passes for 255 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, with two of those scores coming in the third quarter as the Hilltoppers took the lead for good. For the fourth game in a row, Antonio Andrew rushed for at least 100 yards (26 carries, 113 yards), but it was Kadeem Jones who found his way into the end zone on the ground. Willie McNeal finished with a career-high six catches for 68 yards. Dating back to last season, WKU (5-1, 2-0 Sun Belt) has come away victorious in 12 of its last 14 games, and it returns home this Saturday to try and stay hot against ULM.

Week Seven Sun Belt Conference Football Players of the Week – As selected by the Sun Belt media panel
 
Offensive Player of the Week
 
Benny Cunningham (Middle Tennessee, Sr., RB)
For the second time in three games, Benny Cunningham reached the 200-yard plateau. The senior tailback from Nashville set new career-bests with 230 yards on 36 carries as MT (4-2, 2-1 SBC) improved to their best start since 2001. He added two touchdowns and grabbed four catches for 52 yards for a total of 285 all-purpose yards. Cunningham is the first Blue Raider to top 200 yards twice in a season since MT standout Dwone Hicks in 2001. In his last two road games, Cunningham has a total of 449 rushing yards.
 
Defensive Player of the Week
 
Nathan Herrold (Arkansas State, Sr., LB)
Senior linebacker Nathan Herrold recorded a career-high 17 tackles and posted his first career interception during A-State’s 36-29 victory over South Alabama. Herrold’s 17 tackles were the most by a Sun Belt Conference player and tied for 13th most by a player in the nation this season. They were also the most tackles by an ASU player since Tyrell Johsnon posted a Sun Belt Conference record 25 in 2005 against North Texas. Herrold recorded double-figure tackles for the third time this season and sixth time of his career and now has a Sun Belt-leading 69 stops on the year. Additionally, Herrold has now recorded at least a partial tackle for loss in six consecutive games. His interception stopped a USA drive that reached the A-State 22-yard line late in the second quarter to preserve a 14-13 lead for ASU at halftime. Herrold stepped in front of Ross Metheny’s pass at the ASU 19-yard line and returned it 38 yards to the South Alabama 43.
 
Special Teams Player of the Week
 
Michel Chapuseaux (South Alabama, Sr., K)
Chapuseaux tied a career high with three field goals, posting a season-best 11 points in the Jaguars’ game Saturday at Arkansas State. His 26-yard field goal midway through the first quarter gave USA a 10-0 lead, and he hit again from 39 yards out to draw the Jags within one point at the half. Chapuseaux tacked on a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter, and he was 2-of-2 on extra-point attempts as well.

LOOKING FORWARD: Week Eight

October 16 [Note: TUESDAY GAME!]
- Louisiana-Lafayette at North Texas (ESPN2) - 9 p.m. [all times EST]
 
October 20
- FIU at Troy (Sun Belt Network) - 1 p.m.
- Florida Atlantic at South Alabama - 3:30 p.m.
- Louisiana-Monroe at Western Kentucky (ESPN3) - 4 p.m.
- Middle Tennessee at Mississippi State (ESPN2) - 7 p.m.

 

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