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Sun Belt Weekend Recap

By Jim Johnson
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Looking back at all the Sun Belt games from week four.

Appalachian State 49, Old Dominion 0

The Mountaineers looked to start fast, forcing a three and out, then putting together what should have been a methodical, defensively draining scoring drive before a fumble ruined the first offensive possession. This only postponed the onslaught, however, because the defense forced another three and out, leading to the first of many scores for Appalachian State. After only finding the end zone once against Clemson, it seemed like the Mountaineers couldn’t score fast enough, this week. Taylor Lamb in particular, who had a career high four touchdown passes on just 15 attempts. The defense was also back to form, holding the Monarchs to 175 total yards of offense and forcing four turnovers, highlighted by Devan Stringer's 77 yard fumble return touchdown. Games like this make me think the Sun Belt title might be Appalachian State’s for the taking.

Louisiana Monroe 0, Alabama 34

There is not really a ton to talk about here. ULM fans have to be excited about the way the defense played against a far superior offense relative to anyone else the Warhawks will see this season. As for the other side of the ball… How about this: check out my  Sun Belt Weekend Primer in a few days and I promise not to bring up the offensive line, playcalling, or lack of discipline. We can just pretend this never happened. The real season kicks off when Georgia Southern comes to town.

Akron 35, Louisiana 14

Looks like that fancy new Athletic Performance Center needs to be put to better use. This game was an exhibition of absolute futility. The players looked lethargic. The coaching was subpar, at best. The apparent lack of preparation was brutally evident. Neither quarterback could find any sort of a rhythm against an Akron defense that showed up with its “A” game. The Zips had more rushing and passing yards, forced four turnovers, was more disciplined, won the time of possession, and was better on third down. In short, Louisiana got shown up in every facet of the game. I’m still not totally out on this team, though. We might look back at this as an off week, an exception, in an otherwise good season. The Ragin’ Cajuns still haven’t began conference play, which is what really matters, and there is still a ton of football to be played. Still, this has to be a wakeup call. Another game like this and fans might need to start questioning the leadership within this program.

Arkansas State 7, Toledo 37

I, for one, feel deceived. Arkansas State was supposed to be this high-flying, big numbers offense, but minus the Missouri State game, its been pretty bleak. We didn’t think much of the loss to USC because they’re a big Pac-12 powerhouse, playoff contender. No one expected much out of the Red Wolves in that one. Then Missouri came to visit, and the “big time” SEC team got all it wanted. Now we started to think this team might have something. Boom, it all came together against Missouri State, and all of the sudden we had a new Sun Belt contender on our hands. Well, I learned my lesson. I didn’t expect a win against Toledo, per say, but you can’t just score one touchdown and expect me to believe that things will be better in conference play. So, with that, I am officially selling my Arkansas State stock. Maybe they will put it all together at some point, but I’ll not be hoodwinked any longer by the likes of these Red Wolves.

NC State 63, South Alabama 13

I won’t lie, this one hurt. I had really gone all in on South Alabama as my dark horse Sun Belt contender. I’m still on the bandwagon – I don’t give much credence to these sorts of games – but I did not expect them to take it on the chin that badly. At a certain point talent overcomes even the most heart. NC state was just bigger, stronger, and faster than the Jaguars at nearly every position. Again, I don’t think there’s a lot you can take away from a game like this. All the Jags can do now is catch a case of selective amnesia, i.e. Saturday, and get ready for conference play.

Texas State 14, Houston 59

Objectively, Texas State didn’t have much of a chance in this game. Yes, the offense probably should have let the Bobcats hang around for longer, but eventually the lack of defense would have caught up with them. Ultimately, the loss won’t hurt in the grand scheme of the season, but it would have been nice to see TXST take advantage of more of its opportunities. Time after time, the offense kept shooting itself in the foot. Thrice, penalties on third down brought back would-be conversions. There were dropped balls, red zone fumbles, and multiple picks, including one that was returned for a touchdown. I would have taken a near perfect game to have given a good Houston team a run for its money, but few teams can get away with that many mental mistakes, even against lesser competition. Improving on the more cerebral aspects of the game will be important as the Bobcats get into conference play.

Georgia Southern 44, Idaho 20

First and foremost, I would like to point out that I hit the nail on the head in my Sun Belt Primer that comes out every Friday. So maybe I know a little more than some people care to admit. Not only did I predict the score, exactly, but I also called that Matt Breida would get his yards per carry over ten. The crystal ball was really working last week. In all seriousness, this went as everyone expected. This Idaho team just can’t match up with Georgia southern from a talent standpoint. Kevin Ellison also had a big game on the ground, although he had some problems putting the ball in the air. For Idaho, there was a lot to like out of Matt Linehan. Yes, he forced some throws and made a few mental errors, but he’s only a sophomore. With time, Linehan could develop into one of the better quarterbacks in the Sun Belt. There wasn’t a ton to take away from this game, but it did serve to reinforce a lot of my beliefs about these two teams.

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