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Sun Belt Weekend Recap

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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Looking back at week three in the Sun Belt.

Georgia State 28, Oregon 61

Georgia State travelled across the country to play Oregon, on Saturday, where the home team was favored by more than six touchdowns. At least the Panthers beat the spread. Quarterback Nick Arbuckle actually played better against 12th ranked Oregon than he did in week one against lowly Charlotte; you have to take your silver linings where you can find them. Arbuckle finished with 318 yards and three touchdowns while completing over 70% of his throws. Even with those two interceptions, he had a better outing against Oregon than future first rounf draft pick Connor Cook did just a week earlier. Honestly, there is a lot more good than bad to be taken away from this game as the Panthers head into the bye week. They will need to take this experience and glean as much they can in preparation for FCS opponent Liberty, in two weeks, and then App State for their second conference game.

Troy 3, Wisconsin 28

In hindsight, Wisconsin took care of business and got the result, without much need for worry, but it never felt that safe in the moment. Troy hung around for a while and had some chances but failed to convert most of its opportunities. The Trojans had to be satisfied going into the half only down 14-3 against the Big Ten powerhouse, but a turnover on the first drive of the second half was the beginning of the end. You know there wasn't a lot to take away from this game when the most interesting thing that happened was the fire alarm. The fire alarm, which was set off by a heat detector near the pizza oven in the main kitchen of Camp Randall Stadium interrupted a Trojans drive during the middle of the fourth quarter. The false alarm was taken care of in short order, and Wisconsin scored once more to officially put the game in breathe ease territory. Troy will need to focus on making sure it capitalizes on opportunities as it prepares for its conference opener against South Alabama.

Wofford 38, Idaho 41

It took everything they had, but the Vandals got their first win of the season, on Saturday, against the Wofford Terriers of FCS football. Despite running nearly 30 more plays and gaining over 130 more yards of offense than Wofford, Idaho was still losing at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Wofford ran the ball down the throat of the Vandal defense, piling up 326 rushing yards, with eight different guys getting touches. Idaho desperatlely needs to shore up that porous run defense before its matchup with Georgia Southern, in week four. Offensively, Idaho was much more successful with Matt Linehan slinging the ball for 334 yards and a score, although he needs to cut down on his turnovers, after throwing his third and fourth interceptions of the year. Linehan shared the burden of the rushing game with Elijah Penny and Aaron Duckworth. Penny finished with more carries and yards, but Duckworth ruled the day by lighting up the scoreboard with all three of the teams rushing touchdowns.

The Citadel 13, Georgia Southern 48

There was far too much passing in this game, if you ask me. The two teams barely even combined for more than 700 rushing yards for heaven's sake. In all seriousness, though, this game was exactly what you expected. It was a matchup that pit last season's FBS rushing leader against last season's FCS rushing runner-up, and the two titans of handoff lore did not disappoint. Matt Breida continued to do Matt Breida things, running for 164 yards, averaging over 11 yards per carry, and increasing his yards per carry to 9.8 on the year. Quarterback Kevin Ellison ran for two touchdowns in his first game back from suspension, with Breida adding another two and Wesley Fields and LA Ramsby with one a piece. Defensively, it was a mixed bag for the Eagles. You have to like seeing an interception for every completion allowed, and coming away with three fumbles, but it is a little disconcerting to give up 318 rushing yards to an FCS team. Although, I think that's more of a credit to The Citadel than a knock on Georgia Southern.

Missouri State 7, Arkansas State 70

This game had the second largest margin of victory in the FBS this week, one point shy of Arizona's shellacking of Northern Arizona. The Red Wolves effectively dismantled their severely outmatched FCS opponent. The 624 yards of total offense was the most since the victory over New Mexico State, late last year, which wasn't that long ago, but is still an impressive total. James Tabary completed 21 of 24 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns, with 12 different receivers getting touches. There was plenty of love for most of the running backs too, with five guys getting six or more carries, Michael Gordon, Logan Moragne, and Warren Wand all scoring once, and Johnston White scoring thrice. Games like this probably are very telling in the long run, but when an inferior opponent comes to town, you can't ask for much more than the show the Red Wolves put on in Liberty Bank Stadium.

Southern Mississippi 56, Texas State 50

It took the game of a lifetime by Southern Mississippi's Jalen Richard for the Golden Eagles to escape San Marcos with a win. As many expected, offense was king in this matchup, and it turned into a shootout if I've ever seen one. The teams had a staggering 1,204 yards of offense between them, when it was all said and done. Tyler Jones threw threw the ball all over the place for Texas State, completing 31 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns, and added another 160 yards and two scores with his legs. It was a splendid effort, but it simply wasn't enough with Southern Miss' Nick Mullens throwing four touchdown passes and Richard running for touchdowns, tying the school single-game record for rushing td's. The upside is that the Bobcats scored 50 points. The downside is that they gave up 56. The defense will have to get be a lot better to have a shot at pulling off the upset next week at Houston. The biggest factor that decided the game, though, in my opinion was the difference in third down conversions. Texas State barely converted a third of its third downs, which so often determines the outcome of games.

South Alabama 34, San Diego State 27

South Alabama bested San Diego State in every facet of the game, but with two minutes on the clock it looked as if the Aztecs were somehow going to steal a win. "Not today," said the Jaguars, however. Games like this are why I love college football. The Jaguars were better in every way, shape, and form, and they prevailed in the end, but not before making it as exciting as they possibly could. Cody Clements' 270 passing yards were a smooth 105 yards more than SDSU's, although the Aztecs two passers combined to equal Clements' two scores. Xavier Johnson and company's 241 rushing yards were over 100 yards more than their opponents managed. The Jags were better on third down, had fewer penalty yards, fewer turnovers, and won the time of possession. Yet, it still took a 46-yard field goal, by Aleem Sunanon, as the final seconds ticked off of the clock, just to force overtime. The better team that day came away victorious, making quick work of their foes in the first possession of OT. The Jaguars will look to carry that momentum into week four, when NC State comes to town.

UTEP 50, New Mexico State 47

If anything killed the Aggies in this one, it was their own lack of discipline. Granted, UTEP dominated the time of possession, and ran about 15 more plays, but the offensive numbers ended up being, more or less, the same. New Mexico State just kept shooting itself in the foot with penalties. That, combined with a general ineffectiveness on third down, does not lend itself to victory. Even so, with about four minutes left in the game, it seemed as if NMSU had it all but locked up, which I guess you could take as somewhat of a silver lining, if you happen to be the most optimistic Aggie fan alive. Larry Rose III was great, rushing for 186 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and Tyler Rogers was fine, finishing 14 for 28 with 285 yards, three touchdowns, and a pick, but it doesn't matter when you can't close games out. This should have been the first win of the year for New Mexico State and a much needed confidence boost, but they gave this one away. How they respond during this bye week, and then against New Mexico, will be very telling about the makeup and leadership of this football team.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP