Sun Belt Conference Weekly Recap- Week of 10/17

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Photo Cred: Sun Belt Conference

Time to keep the series going with Week 8 of the Sun Belt Conference’s games! There are two early games in the week this time. The first one was Appalachian State vs. Georgia State on Wednesday, October 19th at 7:30 PM ET. The second one was a rivalry game between South Alabama and Troy (the Battle for the Belt), which was played on Thursday, October 20th at 6:30 PM ET. Coastal Carolina got the week off. Everyone else played on Saturday, October 22nd, with start times of 11:00 AM- 4:00 PM ET. There’s no longer a ranked team in the conference, as the previously 25th-ranked James Madison Dukes lost to Georgia Southern last week. My prediction for the game of the week is South Alabama vs. Troy.

Key:

  1. The first record is the overall team record. The record in brackets is the team’s conference record.
  2. Team Abbreviations are provided by Reddit.
  3. FF- Forced Fumble
  4. FR- Fumble Recovery
  5. INT- Interception
  6. TFL- Tackles-for-loss
  7. SK- Sack
  8. FG- Field Goal
  9. TD- Touchdown
  10. 2PT- Two-point Conversion
  11. rec- Receptions
  12. yds- Yards
  13. TK- Tackles
  14. XP- Extra Points
  15. QB HUR- QB Hurries
  16. PD- Passes Defensed
  17. RB- Running Back
  18. QB- Quarterback
  19. WR- Wide Receiver
  20. K- Kicker
  21. LB- Linebacker
  22. DL- Defensive Lineman
  23. S- Safety
  24. DB- Defensive Back
  25. CB- Cornerback
  26. DT- Defensive Tackle
  27. KR- Kick Returner
  28. RS- Return Specialist
  29. PR- Punt Returner
  30. DE- Defensive End
  31. TE- Tight End
  32. HC- Head Coach
  33. OL- Offensive Lineman
  34. KRet- Kick Returns
  35. PRet- Punt Returns
  36. avg- Average
  37. IN 20- Ball inside the 20-yard line
  38. LONG- Longest completed kick/punt
  39. PAT- Point After Touchdown

Week 8 Games

Appalachian State (APP) vs. Georgia State (GAST)

Location & Time: Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone, NC. 7:30 PM ET.

Score: 42-17, APP.

What a game to have coming off of a bye week! While the Panthers initially gave APP a fright in the first half, the Mountaineers responded in a resounding fashion afterward. For this reason, this game will be my comeback of the week. APP’s defense swallowed GAST up and they were able to prevail in the battle of the rushing attacks. Safe to say that the “Carolina curse” got to GAST yet again with this loss. That makes them 0-5 against Carolina-based teams this year.

Photo Cred: App State Athletics

First Half vs. Second Half

Things were very dire in the first quarter for APP. Four punts on four drives, including one that went into the second quarter. Before APP put any points on the board, they had to go through a fifth punt in as many drives as well… Meanwhile, the GAST duo of QB Darren Grainger and RB Tucker Gregg were very fluent in their first two drives. Each of them contributed with a rushing TD, with the only blemish being a Nick Hampton sack (an APP LB).

However, GAST also went through a period of punts themselves, with four straight punts after scoring those 14 points. APP did have a clutch first-quarter score when RB Camerun Peoples got in the endzone on a fourth-and-one at the GAST 16-yard line. On their second fourth-down opportunity, QB Chase Brice could not complete a pass at the GAST 48-line. This resulted in a turnover on downs to end the half, with the Panthers leading 14-7.

Photo Cred: Underdog Dynasty

An unblemished first half gave way to a turnover-filled second half for the Panthers… Three out of GAST’s seven second-half drives resulted in fumbles, including two in back-to-back possessions. One more resulted in an INT, while two others went nowhere (two punts). What a difference a half makes! A team that was struggling to get into GAST territory until halfway through the second quarter then goes on to put up 21 unanswered points in the third quarter! After GAST replied with just a FG, the Mountaineers added two more TDs to just put this game away for good. APP had TDs on five straight second-half drives before running out the clock on their last possession.

Speaking of those back-to-back fumbles, Grainger was sacked and fumbled the ball on the first one. While trying to make a return, APP DL Kevon Haigler would then fumble the ball and GAST would recover it. Then, despite making good progress and getting into APP territory, they would lose the ball again. WR Cadarrius Thompson would fumble the ball at the APP 46-yard line.

Photo Cred: The Appalachian

QBs Help Out in a Different Way

Today was just not an attempt to establish the passing game from both sides. Grainger and Brice attempted just 40 passes between them, while both rushing attacks combined for 105 carries overall. They did, however, help out in the run game. Grainger was the Panthers’ leading rusher, while Brice added two rushing TDs. Despite his run game prowess, I will not name Grainger as a player to watch out for due to his mediocre passing stats. Gregg will be my GAST selection for the second straight week.

Photo Cred: Georgia State Athletics                        Photo Cred: App State Athletics

Rushing Game Dominance

All eight TDs in the game (two for GAST, six for APP) came through the RBs. Gregg missed out as GAST’s rushing leader by seven yards. Meanwhile, three other APP RBs had 50+ yards individually, with a fourth missing out by two yards. 404 rushing yards on the day for the Mountaineers, then, makes sense given this information!

Photo Cred: Georgia State Athletics

Statistical Leaders
Offense

Passing– GAST QB Darren Grainger (9/23, 73 yds, one INT), APP QB Chase Brice (7/17, 62 yds).

Rushing– GAST QB Grainger (19 rushes, 100 yds, one TD), APP RB Camerun Peoples (23 rushes, 168 yds, two TDs), APP QB Brice (five rushes, 17 yds, two TDs).

Multiple rushing TDs, especially by a QB, need to be mentioned.

Receiving– GAST TE Ahmon Green (two rec, 24 yds), APP TE Henry Pearson (one rec, 31 yds).

First mentions of a TE, and it only took four articles to get here!

Defense

TKs/TFLs/PDs/QB HURs

GAST: S Antavious Lane (10 TKs, one TFL), LB Jordan Veneziale (10 TKs), LB Jontrey Hunter (one PD, four TKs), CB Jaylon Jones (one PD), DE Javon Denis (one QB HUR, five TKs), LB Jamil Muhammad (one QB HUR, five TKs).

APP: LB Logan Doublin (12 TKs, one TFL, one PD), LB Nick Hampton (eight TKs, two TFLs), LB Andrew Parker (one PD, four TKs), DB Steven Jones Jr. (one PD, one TK), DB Dexter Lawson Jr. (one PD, one TK), LB Tyler Bird (one PD, one TK), LB Jalen McLeod (two QB HURs, four TKs).

SKs/INTs/FFs/FRs/TDs– GAST RB Jamyest Williams (one FF), GAST T Montavious Cunningham (one FR), APP LB Hampton (two SKs, one FF), APP LB Bird (one INT), APP DL Hansky Paillant (one FR, five TKs, 0.5 SK, 0.5 TFL), APP LB Kyle Arnholt (two FFs, one FR, two TKs, one SK, one TFL), APP LB Kevon Haigler (one FR, one TK, 0.5 SK, 0.5 TFL).

While it wasn’t a defensive play, I do want to mention Cunningham and Williams for getting the ball back after Haigler fumbled the ball on his fumble return. Note: Check the fourth quarter in the play-by-play section on the links for both GAST players.

Notable Special Teams

GAST K/P Michael Hayes (six punts, 269 yds, two IN 20), APP DB/KR Milan Tucker (one return, 63 yds).

Hayes may have kicked and punted in this game, but I am only highlighting his punting stats today. He did make his only FG attempt and both of his XPs, though. Meanwhile, Tucker had a great KRet in his only opportunity to return the ball. Another honorable mention goes to APP’s K Michael Hughes for making all his XPs.

Next Games:

a) Appalachian State: vs. Robert Morris on October 29th at 3:30 PM ET (Homecoming).

b) Georgia State: vs. Old Dominion on October 29th at 3:00 PM ET (Homecoming).

Photo Cred: ESPN                                                                        Photo Cred: ESPN

Arkansas State (ARST) @ Louisiana (UL-L)

Location & Time: Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA. 4:00 PM ET.

Score: 38-18, UL-L.

Try as they might, this seems more and more like a lost season for the Red Wolves… Had they just held on to a 12-point lead last week, they could’ve had their third win of the season. Maybe it wouldn’t mean much or maybe it would have been a much-necessary mid-season spark. Not that it matters much now, though. On the other hand, the Ragin Cajuns just kept chugging along, having two scores in each of the first three-quarters of the game.

Photo Cred: ESPN

First Half vs. Second Half

ARST failed to get into UL-L territory in the first quarter, punting the ball five times (including a drive going into the second quarter). At the same time, Louisiana also didn’t reach ARST territory until close to halfway through that quarter. Starting with a 43-yard FG and ending with a seven-yard TD, UL-L then led 10-0. Arkansas State then tried to mount a comeback in the second quarter, cutting the lead to one point (10-9) on two straight drives with 6:28 left. However, that is the closest the Red Wolves came to tying the game. UL-L QB Ben Wooldridge would drive down the field twice and score two TDs. After ARST QB AJ Mayer got intercepted to end the half, UL-L would hold a 24-9 lead.

The Ragin Cajuns did not lift their feet off the metal in the third quarter. They just started where they left off, adding two more TDs to make it four straight TDs on as many drives. In the middle of their last third-quarter drive, Mayer went down and was replaced by Jaxon Dailey. That drive would end in a FG, the score being 38-12 in favor of Louisiana. After taking over with 1:52 left in the third quarter, UL-L took their sweet time in giving the ball back. They took away 5:49 off the clock with one drive that ultimately resulted in a punt.

Photo Cred: The Daily Advertiser                 Photo Cred: KAIT

What’s interesting was that it was taken at the ARST 34-yard line on fourth-and-19. It could’ve been a 52-yard FG attempt for K Kenneth Almendares, last week’s Special Teams Player of the Week. 52 would also tie his longest-made FG this season, so it is interesting that UL-L opted for a 31-yard punt instead. That still worked out well, though, as it meant that ARST would have to start on their own three-yard line. Three combined punts later, ARST LB Dane Motley would recover a fumble for 12 yards to provide the last score of the game. UL-L RB Zylan Perry would then run the clock out on five straight rushing plays.

ARST really suffered with the PATs this game. On their only two TDs in the game, K Dominic Zvada would have a blocked XP and Dailey would fail on a two-point conversion. Not that three points would’ve changed the outcome of this game much in the end. That blocked XP would’ve resulted in at least a tie for the Red Wolves at one point.

Photo Cred: The Daily Advertiser

Injuries and the Schedule Certainly Don’t Help the Cause…

Part of the reason for ARST’s ineffectiveness is injuries. They were missing their first-string QB, James Blackman, and they had their starter for the game (AJ Mayer) go down as well. In addition, RB/KR Johnnie Lang was done for the day after getting hit hard on the opening kickoff… That’s not all, just an introduction of what’s to come. Three of their players didn’t even make it to Louisiana, while three others had to miss some game time due to in-game injuries. Two of those players, ARST’s top CBs, had to even completely leave the game… To top it all off, ARST will have to go through nine games in nine weeks before hitting their bye week. Having a daunting schedule with a lot of top teams to play against (then-#3 Ohio State, Old Dominion, James Madison, South Alabama) doesn’t make it any easier to win games…

Photo Cred: Arkansas State Athletics

Statistical Leaders
Offense

Passing– ARST QB AJ Mayer (8/23, 155 yds, one TD, one INT), UL-L QB Ben Wooldridge (21/34, 316 yds, five TDs).

Rushing– ARST RB Ja’Quez Cross (six rushes, 33 yds), UL-L RB Terrence Williams (11 rushes, 58 yds).

Receiving– ARST WR Daverrick Jenkins (three rec, 61 yds), UL-L WR Jacob Bernard (five rec, 97 yds, one TD), UL-L WR Dontae Fleming (six rec, 81 yds, two TDs).

Had to mention Fleming for multiple TDs for the afternoon.

Defense

TKs/TFLs/PDs/QB HURs

ARST: S Trevian Thomas (13 TKs), LB Charles Willekes (1.5 TFLs, five TKs), LB Kivon Bennett (one PD, seven TKs, 0.5 TFL, one QB HUR), DL Ethan Hassler (one PD, two TKs, 0.5 TFL), DE TW Ayers (one PD, six TKs, 0.5 TFL), S Eddie Smith (one PD, eight TKs), LB Jaden Harris (one QB HUR, nine TKs, one TFL), DL John Mincey (one QB HUR, two TKs, one TFL).

UL-L: LB Jourdan Quibodeaux (eight TKs, 0.5 TFL), DL Sonny Hazard (1.5 TFLs, three TKs), DL Andre Landry (two PDs), DL Zi’Yon Hill-Green (two QB HURs, two TKs, one TFL), DL Jordan Lawson (two QB HURs, two TKs), LB Kris Moncrief (two QB HURs).

SKs/INTs/FFs/FRs/TDs– ARST DE Robert McWilliams III (one SK, one FF, two TKs, one TFL), ARST LB Joe Britton (one FF, one FR, five TKs), ARST S Thomas (one FF), ARST LB Dane Motley (one FR, one TD- fumble return), UL-L DL Hazard (1.5 SKs), UL-L S Bralen Trahan (one INT, one PD).

Britton’s FF went out of bounds, which is why no recovery was made. Note: Check play-by-play in the third quarter on the link.

Notable Special Teams

ARST P Ryan Hanson (six punts, 271 yds, two IN 20, 63 LONG), UL-L P Rhys Barnes (five punts, 204 yds, two IN 20s).

Hanson had a pretty good punting game for ARST. Barnes’ two IN 20s warranted attention, especially on a 31-yard punt he had in the fourth quarter. Honorable mention to UL-L K Kenneth Almendares for making his only FG attempt and all five of his XPs.

Next Games:

a) Arkansas State: vs. South Alabama on October 29th at 3:00 PM ET.

b) Louisiana: @ Southern Miss on October 27th at 6:30 PM ET.

Photo Cred: ESPN                                                  Photo Cred: Sun Belt Conference

Coastal Carolina (CCAR)- Off

Record: 6-1.

This week off is a very necessary break for a formerly undefeated team to figure out what happened. 6-0 overall, 3-0 in the conference and then, all of a sudden, they get their first loss of the season… It wasn’t just a close game either, which should be something they’ll need to focus on. Before this loss, it seemed like they were worthy of a top-25 ranking, as they were one of the most dominant Sun Belt teams. With six wins on the trot, they’ve already secured a bowl game for themselves but they’ll want more for themselves. Namely, that Sun Belt Conference Championship will be calling for them. Another dominant end to the season could, possibly, help them get a top-25 ranking as well.

Photo Cred: Coastal Carolina University Athletics                         Photo Cred: Facebook

Next Game: @ Marshall on October 29th at 7:00 PM ET.

Photo Cred: ESPN

Georgia Southern (GASO) @ Old Dominion (ODU)- ODU Homecoming

Location & Time: S.B. Ballard Stadium, Norfolk, VA. 3:30 PM ET.

Score: 28-23, GASO.

This matchup is the true game of the week! I thought that the Battle for the Belt would’ve been more interesting than it actually turned out to be. This game was a close second for the game of the week rankings, though. The Monarchs had a lot of missed opportunities to win the game, including two close-range missed FGs that would’ve made up the difference in the score. The Eagles never let ODU get comfortable in the game and held on for a tight victory. For more info, head over to my report on the GASO-ODU game here.

Photo Cred: Savannah Morning News            Photo Cred: Old Dominion University Athletics

Next Games:

a) Georgia Southern: Off.

b) Old Dominion: @ Georgia State on October 29th at 3:00 PM ET.

Photo Cred: ESPN

James Madison (JMU) vs. Marshall (MRSH)- JMU Homecoming

Location & Time: Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, VA. 3:30 PM ET.

Score: 26-12, MRSH.

Oh man… JMU, what is going on with you? After starting the season 5-0, they now lose not only their second game in a row but also their second conference game as well… Heck, a week ago, they were the final ranked team out of 25 teams. That’s a great feat considering that this is the Dukes’ first season in the FBS! They were flying, not scoring less than 32 points a game for five games straight. Even in the loss against GASO last week, they breached that mark and went six over it (38 points). In a relatively low-scoring affair (by JMU standards), Marshall pulled away in a game with as many total points combined as JMU got singlehandedly last week.

Photo Cred: James Madison University Athletics        Photo Cred: YouTube

On the other hand, the Thundering Herd really lived up to their name, especially RB Khalan Laborn for the second-straight week. After not being able to pull MRSH over the line singlehandedly last week, he came within eight yards (151) of being the yardage leader behind his QB, Cam Francher (159). A great way to notch their first conference win, knocking off what was supposed to be one of the better teams in the Sun Belt. For that reason, this game will be my upset of the week!

First Half vs. Second Half

In what seemed like a battle of the punts, the Dukes drew first blood with a 35-yard FG by K Camden Wise. The Thundering Herd initially failed to respond, even getting into early trouble on a punt. K/P Rece Verhoff mishandled a snap but then kicked the ball again after recovering it. That resulted in an illegal kick penalty that would hand JMU the ball at the MRSH 17-yard line. As if this wasn’t enough chaos, JMU would have their XP blocked on a one-play, 17-yard TD drive to provide Marshall their first points of the game. The score was now 9-2 in favor of the Dukes. Not really what you’d expect from a football game!

After a MRSH INT, JMU would add their last points of the game on a 25-yard Wise FG. Marshall would end the first with a punt. Three second-quarter punts would lead to a Thundering Herd TD to make the game 12-9, then the teams would trade interceptions before punting the rest of the half away. The score would remain 12-9 at halftime with JMU leading.

Photo Cred: James Madison University Athletics

JMU may have started the half with the same old punt but MRSH were more proactive on their first second-half drive. After taking the lead on a 57-yard receiving TD by WR Corey Gammage, the Thundering Herd never looked back even if they didn’t necessarily put the game away. Following the opening punt, JMU would turn the ball over on three straight drives (INT, fumble, turnover on downs). The JMU fumble would lead to a MRSH FG but the turnover-on-downs would result in a MRSH fumble deep in JMU territory.

The Dukes could not take advantage of that fumble recovery and would proceed to trade punts on three straight drives each. The game was still in a recoverable position (19-12) at that point. After throwing their fourth INT of the game, the Dukes would punt the ball and turn the ball over on downs with their last two drives. That INT would lead to a MRSH TD, and that would be the final score of the game from either side.

Photo Cred: Daily News-Record                              Photo Cred: Daily News-Record

Interesting Game to Say the Least!

This game was known for two things throughout the quarters: multiple punts (24) and multiple drives (42, not including the kneel-down at the end). MRSH and JMU punters each had 12 punts and drives ended very quickly on average. 11 drives lasted less than a minute and 26 lasted less than two minutes. Huh, would you look at that? That would’ve been identical to the score (26-12)! What’s interesting is that the five longest drives didn’t really amount to much. The only points came from a JMU FG. Two drives ended in punts and two resulted in turnovers (a JMU turnover-on-downs and a MRSH fumble).

Photo Cred: herald-dispatch.com                            Photo Cred: herald-dispatch.com

The quick turnaround on Marshall’s part in the second half almost made me want to have this game as my comeback of the week. However, APP was down a full TD (14-7) in their game while MRSH was just down a FG (12-9). App State could not fully shut out the Panthers, though, allowing for a FG to be added to GAST’s point total. MRSH, on the other hand, did shut out JMU in the second half.

What Is It With Injuries?

Losing QB Todd Centeio (oblique) in practice was never a good sign of things to come for the Dukes. JMU HC Curt Cignetti said this injury was a result of an earlier hurt shoulder back on September 24th. Not only did this game-time decision start affect Atkins, but he was also playing behind a weakened o-line. Cignetti said JMU’s best OL (RT Nick Kidwell) did not play due to an ankle injury, and LT Tyshawn Wyatt left the game midway as well. LB Jailin Walker and S Sam Kidd also got injured on Saturday, Kidd even getting hurt twice. Two starters, RB Solomon Vanhorse and DL Mikail Kamara, have also missed at least three games each.

Photo Cred: Daily News-Record                               Photo Cred: Richmond Times-Dispatch

Statistical Leaders
Offense

Passing– MRSH QB Cam Francher (15/31, 159 yds, one TD, two INTs), JMU QB Billy Atkins (13/35, 164 yds, one TD, four INTs, one fumble).

Rushing– MRSH RB Khalan Laborn (30 rushes, 151 yds, two TDs, 61 LONG), JMU Percy Agyei-Obese (20 rushes, 96 yds).

Receiving– MRSH WR Corey Gammage (five rec, 107 yds, one TD, 57 LONG, one fumble), JMU WR Terrance Greene Jr. (three rec, 66 yds).

Defense

TKs/TFLs/PDs/QB HURs

MRSH: DL Owen Porter (nine TKs, 4.5 TFLs, one PD, four QB HURs), LB Charlie Gray (one PD, eight TKs), S Andre Sam (one PD, six TKs, two TFLs), DB Steven Gilmore (one PD, two TKs).

JMU: LB Taurus Jones (13 TKs, one TFL), DL Isaac Ukwu (two TFLs, four TKs, two QB HURs), DL James Carpenter (one PD, nine TKs, 0.5 TFL), S Jarius Reimonenq (one PD, four TKs), CB Jordan Swann (one PD, three TKs, one TFL), S Que Reid (one PD, one TK).

SKs/INTs/FFs/FRs/TDs– MRSH DL Porter (3.5 SKs, one FF), MRSH LB Gray (two INTs), MRSH DB Micah Abraham (one INT, four TKs), MRSH S Sam (one INT), MRSH DL Koby Cumberlander (one FR, one QB HUR), JMU DL Ukwu (two SKs), JMU S Reid (one INT), JMU CB Chauncey Logan (one INT, four TKs, one QB HUR), JMU CB Swann (one FF), JMU LB Jones (one FR).

Notable Special Teams

MRSH P John McConnell (10 punts, 405 yds, three IN 20s, 64 LONG), MRSH DL Damion Barber (blocked an XP), MRSH S E.J. Jackson (defensive PAT- returned blocked XP 85 yards to the end zone), JMU P Sam Clark (12 punts, 510 yds, four IN 20s).

Wow, what a day for the punters… 12 punts from both sides, each accumulating at least 405 yards! McConnell and Clark also managed to get multiple IN 20s, which is a great way to help your team out. Good on McConnell for hitting that 64-yarder as well! What a play by Barber to block Wise’s kick, then Jackson being able to locate the ball and run it all the way back!

Next Games:

a) James Madison: Off.

b) Marshall: vs. Coastal Carolina on October 29th at 2:00 PM ET (Homecoming).

Photo Cred: ESPN

Louisiana-Monroe (ULM) @ Army (ARMY)

Location & Time: Michie Stadium, West Point, NY. 11:00 AM ET.

Score: 48-24, ARMY.

Here’s my first non-conference game of the series. The Black Knights and Warhawks were both coming into the game with the season not going well for them. ULM was looking for its first away win of the season, while ARMY (3-4) was looking to finally beat a Sun Belt team this week. Earlier meetings against Coastal Carolina (L, 38-28) and Georgia State (L, 31-14) didn’t go well for them. They still have to go play TROY next week in Alabama to even their record against Sun Belt teams this year. As for ULM, they were trying to even their non-conference record from 1-2. These two opponents faced off in 2020 as well, so this is a revenge game for ULM due to the blowout loss. Too bad they couldn’t win this time either.

Photo Cred: ESPN

First Half vs. Second Half

After so many games with slow or medium-rate starts, it was refreshing to see points getting scored early. ULM hit a 22-yard FG on fourth-and-goal at the ARMY five-yard line. That opening drive was extended due to a roughing-the-kicker penalty on a fourth-and-15 punt. ARMY QB Jemel Jones would then add the first of three rushing TDs on their opening drive. Not many drives in the first half were wasted: two were turnovers-on-downs and two were punts.

Photo Cred: Black Night Nation

Both teams did take their time with the ball, even though ARMY would have the clear advantage (35:21 to 24:39). The Warhawks actually played better in the first half, as they did get two TD drives in a row after those two aforementioned turnovers-on-downs. In between taking a knee to end the half and a punt, ARMY did get in a TD drive. ULM would lead the Black Knights 17-14 at halftime.

Photo Cred: YouTube

And then it all unraveled for ULM… The Black Knights would score on every drive in the second half, four for TDs and two for FGs. After tying the game at 17 with K Quinn Maretzki’s second FG of the day, ARMY’s defense intercepted ULM QB Chandler Rogers and added a six-yard rushing TD to take the lead. The Warhawks would punt, turn the ball over on downs, score a TD, punt again, and have the clock run out with 1:22 left in the fourth. The last Warhawk TD put ULM within two TDs of tying ARMY (38-24), but that opportunity never came.

Photo Cred: Louisiana Monroe Athletics                          Photo Cred: Underdog Dynasty

The Struggle Is Real

What is it with Sun Belt teams this week? Why do they take a lead into halftime and then get either completely or almost completely shut out in the second half? The third instance of the week was in this game, where Army only allowed a solitary fourth-quarter TD after being down 17-14. ULM should’ve known what they were facing with this triple-option offense run by HC Jeff Monken (a former GASO HC, by the way, who I miss dearly).

Photo Cred: NCAA.com

Despite facing 62 rushes compared to four pass plays, the Warhawk defense was gashed for 441 rushing yards and six TDs. ARMY RB Tyson Riley joined Jones in breaching 90 yards. Riley, Jones, and QB Bryson Daily were joined by RB Jakobi Buchanan in the TDs column. Meanwhile, starting ULM RB Malik Jackson fell behind his QB (Rogers) and WR Bugs Mortimer in the rushing yards column this game. RB Andrew Henry was able to add a TD, though.

Photo Cred: Getty Images

ARMY could’ve prevented three points and added four if it weren’t for key penalties. ULM’s opening drive points came as a result of the drive being extended. ARMY’s third-quarter opening drive resulted in a 38-yard FG, but a holding call on DB Bo Nicolas-Paul prevented a 94-yard KRet TD by RB/KR Braheam Murphy to count. They had six penalties on the day, losing 59 yards in the process.

Photo Cred: Times Herald-Record

Statistical Leaders
Offense

Passing– ULM QB Chandler Rogers (21/28, 164 yds, two TDs, one INT), ARMY QB Jemel Jones (2/4, 41 yds).

Rushing– ULM WR Bugs Mortimer (two rushes, 75 yds, 69 LONG), ARMY QB Jones (17 rushes, 96 yds, three TDs).

Honorable mention to another ARMY QB, Bryson Daily, for a 64-yard rushing TD. Additionally, Mortimer and Rogers accounted for 124 of the team’s 185 rushing yards. Keep in mind that these are both not RBs.

Receiving– ULM WR Jevin Frett (three rec, 45 yds, one TD), ARMY RB Ay’Jaun Marshall (one rec, 36 yds).

Defense

TKs/TFLs/PDs/QB HURs

ULM: LB Quae Drake (nine TKs), DT Caleb Thomas (three TFLs, seven TKs), S Keydrain Calligan (one PD, three TKs).

ARMY: LB Leo Lowin (11 TKs, one TFL), LB Fabrice Voyne (1.5 TFLs, five TKs), DB Quindrelin Hammonds (one PD, six TKs).

SKs/INTs/FFs/FRs/TDs– ARMY LB Lowin (one SK, one INT), ARMY DB Max Didomenico (one SK, five TKs, one TFL).

Notable Special Teams

ARMY RB/KR Braheam Murphy (one return, 49 yds).

Murphy would’ve also had a 94-yard KRet TD, had it not been called back for a penalty. Honorable mentions to Ks Calum Sutherland (ULM) and Quinn Maretzki (ARMY) for completing all of their FG and XP attempts. Maretzki accounted for 11 points (two FGs, five XPs).

Bonus Players to Watch Out For- Army Edition
  • Offense- QB Jemel Jones
  • Defense- LB Leo Lowin
  • Special Teams- RB/KR Braheam Murphy
Next Games:

a) Louisiana-Monroe: Off.

b) Army: Off.

Photo Cred: Wikipedia                                                                 Photo Cred: Wikipedia

South Alabama (USA) vs. Troy (TROY)- The Battle for the Belt

Location & Time: Hancock Whitney Stadium, Mobile, AL. 6:30 PM ET.

Score: 10-6, TROY.

Wow, Troy really has an affinity to have close, low-scoring games lately! In general, the Trojans have passed 20 points only five times this season and 30 points just two out of those five times. What ultimately matters are wins, and wins are what they’ve been able to achieve. After falling into an early 1-2 hole with losses to then-#21 Ole Miss and App State, TROY has been undefeated since then. This includes now being 4-1 in the conference, leading them to be a top-two Sun Belt team in the West.

Photo Cred: AL.com

The other team? That’d be South Alabama, a typically higher scorer in past games only limited to six points by their rivals. The Jaguars were previously undefeated in conference games, now taking their first loss to fall to 2-1 (conference) and 5-2 overall. A close loss to UCLA (32-31) and this four-point loss have been their only blemishes in an otherwise successful season. Troy held the edge in the Battle of the Belt meetings and that lead now extended to eight wins out of 11 games. South Alabama’s last victory in this matchup came back in 2017.

First Half vs. Second Half

TROY actually reenacted the start of their game from last week. Their scoreless first quarter was the only instance of a scoreless quarter I’ve seen since I started this series. This week, they managed to double down on it with a scoreless third quarter as well! Man, both teams sure took their sweet time in the first only to end up punting the ball away. Troy’s only TD in the game came at the start of the second quarter, after spending the remaining 5:09 left in the first as part of that drive. South Alabama would get intercepted, three punts would follow, and USA would end the half with their first points scored. A nine-play, 53-yard drive would result in a 41-yard FG to make the score 7-3 in favor of the Trojans.

Photo Cred: AL.com

Whereas the first half ended with only nine total drives, the second half would add three more to that total. After two opening drive punts, TROY had the chance to go up by a full seven points but K Brooks Buce missed his FG attempt. One USA punt later, QB Jarrett Doege would get intercepted, putting the ball on the USA 47-yard line. USA could not take advantage, having to punt away after getting to TROY’s 41-yard line. A TROY punt would follow two FGs being traded and two more punts.

QB Gunnar Watson would spell Doege for a few plays in between, going 4/4 for 54 yards and taking a sack. Interestingly enough, Doege came back after the Watson sack only to get sacked himself. In TROY’s only drive after that play, Watson was on the field but he just handed the ball off to his RB, DK Billingsley, eight times. USA would get the ball back with 0:12 left in the fourth down 10-6.

Bradley could not complete his first pass attempt. On the second attempt, WR Devin Voisin fumbled the ball after catching it. He was trying to lateral the ball to WR Caullin Lacy, who would recover it. However, the clock would run out before another play could be run. The refs were reviewing the play as a catch and fumble. However, the clock ran out because Voisin’s knee touched the ground after the catch, thus ruling the receiver down by contact.

Photo Cred: Dothan Eagle                                     Photo Cred: AL.com

Take a Look at These Team Stats!

Seems like both the Trojans and Jaguars struggled on third downs today. TROY only converted 1/12, while USA converted 4/13. What’s odd is that both of them were perfect on fourth downs. TROY converted both their attempts and USA converted their only attempt. TROY edged out USA by one first down (16 to 15) and held the ball longer than the Jaguars would’ve liked (33:24 to 26:36). The Trojans had a more balanced offense, with 138 passing and 128 rushing yards. The Jaguars decided to be more pass-heavy, with 225 of their 255 yards coming from QB Carter Bradley passing. USA more than doubled TROY on pass attempts (41 to 19) and nearly halved their rushing attempts (21 to 41). USA had more penalties (six to five) and lost more yards due to it (60 to 35).

Photo Cred: AL.com

Statistical Leaders
Offense

Passing– TROY QB Jarrett Doege (10/15, 84 yds, one INT), USA QB Carter Bradley (29/40, 225 yds, one INT).

Rushing– TROY RB DK Billingsley (19 rushes, 86 yds, one TD), USA RB Omni Wells (four rushes, 21 yds).

Receiving– TROY WR Tez Johnson (four rec, 57 yds), USA WR Devin Voisin (nine rec, 93 yds, one fumble).

Defense

TKs/TFLs/PDs/QB HURs

TROY: LB Carlton Martial (eight TKs), CB O’shai Fletcher (eight TKs), DE T.J. Jackson (two TFLs, three TKs, one QB HUR), CB Reddy Steward (one PD, six TKs, 0.5 TFL), S Keyshawn Swanson (one PD, one TK), S TJ Harris (one QB HUR, five TKs, one TFL).

USA: LB Trey Kiser (11 TKs, 1.5 TFLs, one QB HUR), DL Charles Coleman III (one PD, six TKs), LB CJ Rias (one PD, five TKs), DL Jamie Sheriff (one PD, four TKs, one TFL, one QB HUR).

SKs/INTs/FFs/FRs/TDs– TROY LB Harris (one SK), TROY LB Richard Jibunor (one SK, three TKs, one TFL), TROY DE Jackson (one SK), TROY CB Steward (one INT, 12 TKs), TROY CB Fletcher (one FF), USA DL Coleman III (1.5 SKs), USA DL Sheriff (1.5 SKs), USA S Yam Banks (one INT, six TKs, one TFL).

Notable Special Teams

TROY P Mike Rivers (six punts, 257 yds, four IN 20s), USA P Jack Brooks (seven punts, 291 yds, two IN 20s).

Even though he is not an honorable mention, I do have to talk about TROY K Brooks Buce for his 51-yard FG. He kind of made up for his earlier miss of 37 yards. My honorable mention is USA K Diego Guajardo for making both his FG attempts. Good punting stats for both punters, including multiple IN 20s.

Next Games:

a) South Alabama: @ Arkansas State on October 29th at 3:00 PM ET.

b) Troy: Off.

Photo Cred: ESPN

Southern Miss (USM) @ Texas State (TXST)- TXST Homecoming

Location & Time: Bobcat Stadium, San Marcos, TX. 4:00 PM ET.

Score: 20-14, USM.

Texas State, despite keeping this a close game, could not give their fans a homecoming win this weekend. They had the chance to stay in the middle of the pack with a 2-2 conference record. Instead, they slipped further down in the rankings and got their first home loss of the year. With this win, USM is able to be one of the better Sun Belt teams and keep up with Alabama teams Troy and South Alabama in the standings.

Photo Cred: Twitter

First Half vs. Second Half

And we are back to slow games! USM had the only points of the first quarter with a 33-yard FG by K Briggs Bourgeois. Four of the six first-quarter drives ended in punts. The Golden Eagles would have an INT by QB Zach Wilcke in addition to that FG drive. The Bobcats had the ball at the end of the first quarter going into the second that would end up with a turnover-on-downs. RB Lincoln Pare could not convert on a fourth-and-one on their own 46-yard line. Two punts later, each team would get a TD and Bourgeois would knock down another FG, this time from 40 yards. USM would go into halftime leading 13-7.

Photo Cred: San Marcos Daily Record

This is the third game so far in my series where we’ve had a scoreless quarter, the first where Troy was not involved. Five out of seven drives would be punts, all leading up to the end of the quarter. The start of the third had two turnovers, a Wilcke INT and another turnover on downs. Pare was called upon to convert another fourth down but failed once again. Save for a fumble by USM RB Janari Dean, the fourth quarter was relatively quiet until there was 2:14 left.

That fumble split six punts two to four (two punts before the fumble, four after). Now, there would be some action again at the end of the game. A 74-yard TD to WR Ashtyn Hawkins gave TXST their first lead of the game, 14-13. USM would have a long TD response of their own, a 53-yarder to RB Chandler Pittman. The Bobcats would have 0:32 in the quarter to win the game due to the point imbalance. After completing a first down once, Hatcher would get intercepted for his only big mistake of the game. He had done so well otherwise and screwed up at a crucial point.

Photo Cred: FOX Sports                                        Photo Cred: Southern Miss

An Embarrassing Showing by the TXST Rushing Attack

Even if we take away the sacks as a loss of rushing yards, it was not a good look for the Bobcats’ rushers. They were -6 yards on the day on 20 attempts. USM RB Frank Gore Jr. had 20 rushes by himself and had 102 more yards! Taking away sacks, QB Layne Hatcher was actually the team’s leading rusher with five rushes for seven yards. However, three sacks made him lose 19 yards.

Photo Cred: The Vicksburg Post

Statistical Leaders
Offense

Passing– USM QB Zach Wilke (18/25, 187 yds, one TD, two INTs, one fumble), TXST QB Layne Hatcher (26/42, 249 yds, two TDs, one INT).

Rushing– USM RB Frank Gore Jr. (20 rushes, 96 yds), TXST RB Calvin Hill (three rushes, three yds), TXST RB Lincoln Pare (eight rushes, three yds).

Two TXST RBs tied for the most rushing yards in a forgettable showing by this group.

Receiving– USM RB Chandler Pittman (one rec, 53 yds, one TD), TXST WR Ashtyn Hawkins (five rec, 102 yds, one TD, 74 LONG).

Defense

TKs/TFLs/PDs/QB HURs

USM: DB Malik Shorts (six TKs, one TFL, one PD), DB Camron Harrell (six TKs, 1.5 TFLs), LB Averie Habas (two TFLs, three TKs), S Jay Stanley (one PD, four TKs), S Tylan Knight (one PD), DL Kristin Booth (one QB HUR, one TK).

TXST: DL Levi Bell (eight TKs, one TFL), S Tory Spears (eight TKs, one TFL, 0.5 SK), DL Nelson Mbanasor (4.5 TFLs, six TKs), LB London Harris (one PD, six TKs), CB Alonzo Edwards Jr. (one PD, three TKs, one TFL).

SKs/INTs/FFs/FRs/TDs– USM DT Quentin Bivens (one SK, two TKs, one TFL), USM DT Armondous Cooley (one SK, one TK, one TFL), USM DE Dominic Quewon (one SK, one TK, one TFL), USM DB Natrone Brooks (one INT, three TKs), USM S Stanley (one FF), TXST DL Mbanasor (2.5 SKs, one FF), TXST LB Sione Tupou (one INT, one FR, seven TKs, 0.5 TFL), TXST S Jarron Morris (one INT, seven TKs, one TFL).

Note: For Stanley’s FF, check the second quarter in the play-by-play section on the link. For Mbanasor’s FF, check the fourth quarter.

Notable Special Teams

USM P Mason Hunt (six punts, 246 yds, four IN 20s), TXST P Seamus O’Kelly (nine punts, 315 yds, 60 LONG).

Hunt might’ve done well but O’Kelly is only listed for his 60-yard punt during the game. Honorable mentions for Ks Briggs Bourgeois (USM) and Seth Keller (TXST). Bourgeois got both his FGs and XPs through, providing eight of the team’s 20 points. Keller made both his XPs.

Next Games:

a) Southern Miss: vs. Louisiana on October 27th at 6:30 PM ET.

b) Texas State: Off.

 

Photo Cred: ESPN

Updated Conference Standings

East

  1. CCAR 6-1 (3-1): 4-1 at home, 2-0 away.
  2. ODU 3-4 (2-1): 2-2 at home, 1-2 away.
  3. JMU 5-2 (3-2): 3-1 at home, 2-1 away.
  4. GASO 5-3 (2-2): 3-0 at home, 2-3 away.
  5. APP 4-3 (2-2): 3-2 at home, 1-1 away.
  6. MRSH 4-3 (1-2): 2-1 at home, 2-2 away.
  7. GAST 2-5 (1-2): 1-3 at home, 1-2 away.

West

  1. TROY 6-2 (4-1): 4-0 at home, 2-2 away.
  2. USA 5-2 (2-1): 3-1 at home, 2-1 away.
  3. USM 4-3 (2-1): 2-1 at home, 2-2 away.
  4. UL-L 4-3 (2-2): 3-1 at home, 1-2 away.
  5. TXST 3-5 (1-3): 3-1 at home, 0-4 away.
  6. ULM 2-6 (1-3): 2-1 at home, 0-5 away.
  7. ARST 2-6 (1-4): 2-1 at home, 0-5 away.

Players to Watch Out For

Offense

  • APP- RB Camerun Peoples
  • ARST- WR Daverrick Jenkins
  • CCAR- QB Grayson McCall (168/244, 2314 passing yds, 21 TDs, one INT, 165 rushing yds, four rushing TDs)
  • GASO- RB Jalen White
  • GAST- RB Tucker Gregg
  • JMU- RB Percy Agyei-Obese & WR Terrance Greene Jr.
  • UL-L- QB Ben Wooldridge (pictured)
  • ULM- WR Bugs Mortimer
  • MRSH- RB Khalan Laborn
  • ODU- QB Hayden Wolff & WR Ali Jennings III
  • USA- QB Carter Bradley & WR Devin Voisin
  • USM- RB Frank Gore Jr. & RB Chandler Pittman
  • TXST- QB Layne Hatcher & WR Ashtyn Hawkins
  • TROY- RB DK Billingsley & QB Gunnar Watson

Photo Cred: 103.7 The Game

Defense

  • APP- LB Nick Hampton, DL Hansky Paillant, & LB Jalen McLeod
  • ARST- LB Kivon Bennett & DL Ethan Hassler
  • CCAR- LB JT Killen (72 TKs, 2.5 SKs, 4.5 TFLs, three PDs, one FF, three FRs)
  • GASO- DL LJ McCloud
  • GAST- S Antavious Lane
  • JMU- DL Isaac Ukwu
  • UL-L- DL Zi’Yon Hill-Green & DL Sonny Hazard
  • ULM- DT Caleb Thomas
  • MRSH- DL Owen Porter (pictured)
  • ODU- LB Jason Henderson
  • USA- DL Jamie Sheriff & LB CJ Rias
  • USM- DB Malik Shorts & DB Camron Harrell
  • TXST- DL Nelson Mbanasor & LB Sione Tupou
  • TROY- CB Reddy Steward, DE T.J. Jackson, & S TJ Harris

Photo Cred: WCHS

Notable Special Teams

  • ODU KR La’Mareon James
  • GAST K/P Michael Hayes
  • APP KR Milan Tucker
  • ARST P Ryan Hanson
  • UL-L P Rhys Barnes
  • MRSH P John McConnell
  • JMU P Sam Clark
  • TROY P Mike Rivers (pictured)
  • USA P Jack Brooks
  • USM P Mason Hunt

Photo Cred: Twitter

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