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Sun Belt Weekend Recap

By Jim Johnson
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Looking back at all the Sun Belt action from week five.

Wyoming 13, Appalachian State 31

Appalachian State started fast on Saturday, against Wyoming, scoring on its first play from scrimmage. Once the Mountaineer train got going, it never slowed down. Marcus Cox had a field day, running for 178 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries. Taylor Lamb, on the other hand, had arguably his worst game of the year, completing just three of his twelve passing attempts, well, four if you count the interception. Still, he managed to throw a touchdown pass and add another one with his legs, so it wasn’t all bad. If there was a downside to the performance it would be that the Cowboys actually outgained the Mountaineers, and that App. State failed to convert a single third down, but all in all it was a good result.

Liberty 41, Georgia State 33

Georgia State’s defensive performance against Liberty was downright despicable. The outcome of this game represents a clear lack of even fundamental leadership within the coaching and administrative ranks. The gameplan was poor, to be diplomatic, especially having an extra week to prepare. I don’t mean to perpetuate the overreaction, fire everybody attitude that plagues college football, but at a certain point it’s clear that a change needs to be made. Georgia State has reached that point. The Panthers have a talented offense at their disposal, but when you give up 41 points to Liberty, you can only do so much.

South Alabama 24, Troy 18

If you read my Sun Belt Primer, last week, you know that picking this one was a struggle between my head and my heart. I went with my gut and was right, as usual. South Alabama’s defense played like it had something to prove. After giving up 63, in their own house, to NC State, the Jaguars held Troy to 18 points, with a mere 265 yards of offense, and forced three turnovers. Kalen Jackson was our Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week with his two-interception performance. Offensively, South Alabama pounded the ball 51 times for 160 rushing yards and threw for another 205 on 21 attempts. Brandon Silvers had a game to forget throwing three interceptions and just one touchdown, while only completing 16 of his 35 passes. South Alabama continues to look like the dark horse contender that I thought they would be.

Idaho 35, Arkansas State 49

You have to start with Michael Gordon’s performance when talking about this game. It was, arguably, the senior’s best performance of his career, or at least his best performance since he faced Idaho last year. Gordon finished with 221 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. Neither of the two teams’ quarterbacks had performances of note. James Tabary was 16 of 25 passing for 188 yards with one score and a pick. For
Idaho, Jake Luton completed 24 passes on 42 attempts, but for just 166 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Defensively, Arkansas State still needs to improve after giving up 35 to the Vandals, but the offense was in good form, ending up with 521 total yards of offense. I still think the Red Wolves will have to make some large strides on defense in order to compete with the Sun Belt’s top teams.

Georgia Southern 51, Louisiana Monroe 31

If nothing else, Georgia Southern showed its depth at running back on their visit to Monroe. Matt Breida led the way with 19 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns. The other two backs followed suit – LA Ramsby finished with 98 yards and two scores on 13 carries and Wesley Field had 17 carries for 912 yards and a pair of touchowns. Garrett Smith was all over the place for the Warhawks, completing 21 of his 36 passes for 232 yards, three touchdowns, and an equal number of interceptions. Subtract the turnovers and maybe ULM could have given itself a shot to win, but you aren’t going to beat the defending Sun Belt champions giving the ball away that easily. Georgia southern nearly doubled Louisiana Monroe’s total offense, but perhaps the most telling statistic of the night was the Eagles’ 4/5 conversions on fourth down. Either that or the dominance in the time of possession. In any case, the Eagles are still yet to lose a conference game since joining the Sun Belt, and games like this don’t indicate a change in that any time soon.

Louisiana 14, Louisiana Tech 43

I don’t think it’s fair to expect the Ragin’ Cajuns to go on the road to Louisiana Tech and win. It’s not unreasonable to believe that they should have a chance, but a hard fought loss would not be the end of the world. The performance we saw, however, might be. Again, not to perpetuate the overreaction culture in college football, but it might be time to start thinking about making a change. This is another case of failure within the administrative and coaching ranks. They turned the ball over three times. They were over penalized. The defensive gameplan was pathetic. There’s not a lot to say about this game besides that it was bitterly disappointing. There’s always another game to play, but I bet there are a few Louisiana fans that wish the last game actually was the end of the world so they don’t have to watch another game like that.

New Mexico State 29, New Mexico 38

So often in football, you can guess the outcome of a given game by simply looking at turnovers and third/fourth down conversions. Neither team played a perfect game, but New Mexico was better in both of those aspects. The Aggies looked great through the first two quarters, taking a 26-14 lead into halftime. NMSU got the ball to start the third quarter and managed to put three points on the board, indicating nothing of the meltdown to come. That was the last time they scored. The playcalling was beyond questionable. After Larry Rose III ran for 230 yards on just 15 first-half carries, he only touched the ball six times in the second half. Meanwhile, the defense was run ragged, allowing 401 rushing yards by the Lobos. New Mexico State certainly had some bright spots, but you have to be able to finish games. Hopefully they learned their lesson and can carry that into conference play, when it really counts.

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