COURTESY: Sun Belt Conference
Let the Games Begin
Six Sun Belt teams got the season started on the right foot as Arkansas State, Georgia State, UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, New Mexico State and Texas State were all victors in seasons openers.
The total of six wins marks the best ever non-conference win total for the Sun Belt in the opening weekend of play (2014 – 6; 2013 – 4; 2012 – 4; 2011 – 0; 2010 – 2; 2009 – 3; 2008 – 1; 2007 – 0; 2006 – 3; 2005 – 3; 2004 -3; 2003 – 0; 2002 – 0; 2001 – 2).
Second week action features to conference matchups as New Mexico State travels to Atlanta to play Georgia State while UL Monroe hosts Idaho. The two games mark the first conference games of the 2014 season. The two contests also mark the first Sun Belt Conference games for
Idaho and New Mexico State since the 2004 season. The Aggies and Vandals were both founding members of the Sun Belt’s football league in 2001 and both played four seasons before departing for the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). After spending eight seasons in the WAC, both teams were FBS Independents last season. New Mexico State’s last game in a conference was against second year Sun Belt member Texas State (Dec. 1, 2012). Idaho’s last conference game took place against now Mountain West Conference member Utah State (Nov. 24, 2012).
Arkansas State and Troy are the only teams slated to take on members from the “Power 5” conferences this week. A-State travels to Knoxville to take on Tennessee. While Troy will host Duke in the second game of a two game series. Duke hosted Troy last season with the Blue Devils wining 38-31.
Elsewhere, UL Lafayette plays an in-state team at home for the second consecutive week as the Cajuns host Louisiana Tech. While Georgia Southern and Appalachian State open their home slates against FCS opponents. South Alabama begins its season with an away contest at Kent State. The Jaguars beat the Golden Flashes by 17 points last season at home.
Arkansas State at Tennessee – 11 a.m. (SEC Network)
South Alabama at Kent State – 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
* New Mexico State at Georgia State – 1 p.m. (ESPN3)
Campbell at Appalachian State – 5 p.m. (ESPN3)
Savannah State at Georgia Southern – 5 p.m. (ESPN3)
* Idaho at UL Monroe – 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Louisiana Tech at UL Lafayette – 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Duke at Troy – 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
All times Central (CT) and subject to change
* denotes Sun Belt Conference game
Georgia State 38, Abilene Christian 37 – 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
UL Monroe 17, Wake Forest 10 – 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
New Mexico State 28, Cal Poly 10 – 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Michigan 52, Appalachian State 14 – 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
UAB 48, Troy 10 – 11 a.m. (Fox College Sports)
NC State 24, Georgia Southern 23 – 11:30 a.m. (ESPN3)
Arkansas State 37, Montana State 10 – 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Idaho at Florida – 6 p.m. (ESPNU) – SUSPENDED
UL Lafayette 45, Southern 6 – 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Texas State 65, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 0 – 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
Sun Belt Players of the Week – As selected by a media voting panel
Offensive Player of the Week
Tyler Jones (Texas State, So., QB)
Tyler Jones accounted for 329 yards total offense to lead Texas State to a 65-0 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He completed 21 of 25 passes for career-bests of 278 yards and four touchdowns against the Lions. His 21 completions and 84.0 percent completion percentage were also career bests. Jones also rushed for 51 yards on six carries against the Lions. His 329 yards total offense helped Texas State to set a school record and record 697 yards as a team which is the fifth-highest total yards in Sun Belt Conference history.
Defensive Player of the Week
Mitch Lane (UL Monroe, Jr., LB)
Mitch Lane had six tackles (four solo and two assisted) during ULM’s 17-10 victory over Wake Forest on Thursday night. Trailing by a touchdown with four minutes left in the third quarter, Lane turned the game around for the Warhawks as he intercepted the Demon Deacons’ pass attempt and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 10-10. This play, featured as #3 on ESPN’s SCTop10 Plays, inspired the offense, who marched down the field to capture the game-winning touchdown. Lane and the rest of the Warhawk defense limited the Demon Deacons to just 94 yards of total offense, the fewest yards gained against the Warhawks since 63 yards of offense by Northwestern State on Sept. 1, 2005.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Luke Ferguson (Arkansas State, K/P, Jr.)
Junior punter and kicker Luke Ferguson scored a Sun Belt Conference-best 13 points and averaged 48.5 yards per punt in Arkansas State’s 37-10 victory over No. 19 FCS-ranked Montana State. Handling place-kicking duties for the first time with the Red Wolves, Ferguson was a perfect 3-of-3 on his field goal attempts and made all four of his extra point tries. He was successful from 23, 29 and 41 yards out, helping A-State build a 16-10 lead before the Red Wolves pulled away in the fourth quarter. His three field goals not only tied the most in the Sun Belt Conference, they also tied the fourth most in the nation as of Saturday’s games. Ferguson punted four times, and all four times pinned Montana State inside its own 20-yard line. His four punts inside the 20 were also a Sun Belt Conference high. His longest punt covered 61 yards, which was just two shy of his career long, and his 48.5 yards per attempt was just 0.5 yards shy of his career best.
Around the Sun Belt Conference
Sun Belt sets win record vs. Non-Conference Foes
The Sun Belt Conference’s 21 non-conference wins in the 2013 season eclipsed the previous record mark of 19 set in 2012. Additionally, of note for the league’s non-conference win total was that the Sun Belt fared well against its peer opponents in the non-AQ BCS ranks during the 2013 season. The Sun Belt finished the year a combined 8-1 against members of Conference-USA (4-1), the Mid-American Conference (3-0) and the Mountain West Conference (1-0). The Sun Belt also had the best overall non-conference win percentage when comparing the four non-AQ conferences.
Sun Belt Membership
The Sun Belt Conference will contest the 2014 football season with 11 members – Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Idaho, UL Lafayette, UL Monroe, New Mexico State, South Alabama, Texas State and Troy. UALR and UT Arlington compete as non-football playing members. The Sun Belt will have four new members in the league this year as Appalachian State and Georgia Southern were added as all-sports members and Idaho and New Mexico State were added as football playing members. Both Appalachian State and Georgia Southern bring with them highly successful football programs and each team will begin the process of transitioning to the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) immediately. The 2014 Sun Belt football season will mark the debut of both in the league schedule and standings. Additionally, both the Mountaineers and Eagles will be able to compete for the league championship in football for the 2014 season. Both teams will first be eligible to compete in a spot for a postseason bowl game come the 2015 season. Idaho and New Mexico State are familiar partners of the Sun Belt Conference, having been football members from the league’s inaugural year of football in 2001 through the 2004 season. Both members played an integral part of forming the Sun Belt Conference for football and now add strength to the league. Both teams will be immediately eligible to compete for the Sun Belt football championship and also for a spot in postseason bowl games.
Sun Belt Undefeated in 2013 Bowl Games
The 2013 football season saw two teams take home bowl championship trophies, as UL Lafayette won its third consecutive R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and Arkansas State won its second consecutive GoDaddy Bowl. The Red Wolves won their second consecutive GoDaddy Bowl by defeating Ball State 23-20. The previous season the Red Wolves defeated Kent State in the annual bowl game played in Mobile. The Red Wolves have made three consecutive appearances in the game, having lost to Northern Illinois in their first appearance. The Ragin’ Cajuns closed the 2013 football season with a 9-4 record that included a share of the 2013 Sun Belt Conference title and a 24-21 win over Tulane in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
Preseason Awards Candidates
Paul Hornung Award Watch List – Rashon Ceaser, UL Monroe, J.D. McKissic, Arkansas State; Lou Groza Award Watch List – Maxwell Johnson, New Mexico State; Ray Guy Award Watch List – Austin Rehkow, Idaho Justin Manton, UL Monroe; Rimington Award Watch List-Bryce Giddens, Arkansas State, Mike Marboe, Idaho, Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, New Mexico State; John Mackey Award Watch List- Darion Griswold, Arkansas State; Wes Saxton, South Alabama; Jim Thorpe Award Watch List – Sterling Young, Arkansas State, Rocky Hayes, Arkansas State; Biletnikoff Award Watch List -Rashon Ceaser, UL Monroe, Wes Saxton, South Alabama, Shaverez Smith, South Alabama, Jamal Robinson, UL Lafayette; Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List – Justin Hamilton, UL Lafayette,Gerrand Johnson, UL Monroe, Qushaun Lee, Arkansas State, Mykhael Quave, UL Lafayette, Daniel Quave, UL Lafayette, Tyler Roberts, Troy, Dominique Tovell, UL Lafayette, David Mayo, Texas State, Davey O’Brien Watch List – Terrance Broadway, UL Lafayette; Dick Butkus Award Watch List – Michael Orakpo, Texas State; Doak Walker Award Watch List – Marcus Cox, Appalachian State, Michael Gordon, Arkansas State, Alonzo Harris, UL Lafayette, Robert Lowe, Texas State; Maxwell Award Watch List – Qushaun Lee, Arkansas State; All-State Sugar Bowl Manning Award Watch List – Terrance Broadway, UL Lafayette.
Sun Belt Bowl Games
The Sun Belt Conference maintains primary bowl tie-ins with the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the GoDaddy Bowl and the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. A team from the Sun Belt Conference has played in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl since its inception in 2001. The SBC has won five consecutive R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl games and seven out of the last eight. The GoDaddy bowl matches teams from the Sun Belt Conference and Mid-American Conference. Arkansas State has helped lead the Sun Belt to two consecutive wins in the GoDaddy Bowl. The Camellia Bowl will match-up the Sun Belt Conference against the Mid-American Conference beginning in December. The game will be played yearly at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.
Come 2015, the Cure Bowl will feature a team from the Sun Belt Conference against the American Athletic Conference. The game will be played yearly at the newly renovated Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., the weekend before the Christmas holiday. The Cure Bowl is the first of its kind to combine the passions of college football with the goal of supporting breast cancer research.
The Sun Belt Conference will also be part of the rotation for the newly created Bahamas Bowl and Miami Beach Bowl.
With the 2014-15 year marking the debut of the College Football Playoff (CFP) the Sun Belt continues to find itself among the 10 premier college football conferences and the new system is guaranteed universal access based on performance – there are no automatic qualifiers for the playoff system. Additionally, the CFP will mean that a spot among the premier bowl games of college football will be guaranteed to the highest-ranked champion from the “Group of Five” conferences: the Sun Belt Conference, American Athletic Conference, Mountain West Conference, Mid-American Conference and Conference USA.
Sun Belt Bowl Game Winning Percentage
Over the last five years the Sun Belt Conference ranks second out of the 10 FBS conferences in postseason bowl game winning percentage. In fact, the Sun Belt Conference ranks ahead of noted leagues – the ACC, Pac-12 and the Big Ten.
All-Time Sun Belt Standings for Current Members (Sorted by Winning Percentage)
|School||Wins||Losses||Percentage||Years in Sun Belt|
|New Mexico State||15||11||0.577||6|
Sun Belt Conference Head Football Coaches Teleconference
Every Monday from 10:30 a.m. to 11:47 a.m. beginning August 25 to November 24
All times Central (CT) and subject to change
Contact John McElwain (email@example.com) for info
10:30 a.m. – Announcements – If Necessary
10:30 a.m. – Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State
10:37 a.m. – Willie Fritz, Georgia Southern
10:44 a.m. – Dennis Franchione, Texas State
10:51 a.m. – Larry Blakeney, Troy
10:58 a.m. – Paul Petrino, Idaho
11:05 a.m. – Doug Martin, New Mexico State
11:12 a.m. – Blake Anderson, Arkansas State
11:19 a.m. – Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette
11:26 a.m. – Todd Berry, UL Monroe
11:33 a.m. – Trent Miles, Georgia State
11:40 a.m. – Joey Jones, South Alabama
Sun Belt Conference Video Feed
Contact Travis Llewellyn (firstname.lastname@example.org) for info.
The Sun Belt Conference will provide a weekly video feed of head coach interviews and game highlights each Tuesday during the 2014 football season. The video feed will be made available exclusively through a digital download this season using the website https://sunbeltsports.egnyte.com/. New videos made available on this site will be uploaded on Tuesday of each week by 2 p.m. The videos will also be maintained and archived throughout the season. Members of the media may also find supplementary content on this site such as logos and photos. For login information please contact Travis Llewellyn (email@example.com) or John McElwain (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Team News and Notes
Appalachian State Mountaineers
Appalachian State University football makes its NCAA Division I FBS home debut on Saturday when it hosts in-state foe Campbell. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Appalachian State and Campbell are squaring off for the first time in 83 years. In the institutions’ only previous matchup, Appalachian State Teachers College defeated Campbell Junior College, 20-6, on Sept. 19, 1931 in Boone.
Appalachian State (0-1) opened the 2014 campaign last Saturday with a 52-14 defeat at Michigan. The Mountaineers trailed 14-0 with four minutes to go in the first half but the Wolverines scored three touchdowns in a 3:11 span before halftime to break the game open.
A bright spot in the loss to Michigan was the play of redshirt freshman running back Terrence Upshaw. Upshaw had 109 rushing yards on just 18 carries (6.1-yard average) against the Wolverines to become the first Appalachian State player in 40 years to rush for 100 yards in his collegiate debut (Robbie Price was the last Mountaineer to accomplish the feat with 140 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in his first varsity game against East Tennessee State on Sept. 7, 1974).
Appalachian State is 61-20-2 (.747) all-time in home openers. The Mountaineers have won 10 of their last 12 openers at Kidd Brewer Stadium but dropped last year’s home lid-lifter to North Carolina A&T, 24-21.
Appalachian has won 33 of its last 34 home games against in-state opponents. Last season’s home-opening loss to N.C. A&T snapped the Mountaineers’ 32-game home winning streak against North Carolina opponents and was its first home defeat to an in-state foe since a 34-7 loss to Western Carolina on Oct. 6, 1984 at then-Conrad Stadium.
Members of the NCAA Division I FCS Pioneer Football League, Campbell reinstated its football program in 2008 after a 57-year hiatus from the gridiron. The Camels are 14-42 in seven seasons since reviving the program, including a 3-9 record last season. Campbell (0-1) opened the 2014 campaign in similar fashion to App State, trailing soon-to-be-FBS Charlotte just 6-3 at halftime before the 49ers scored three touchdowns in a 4:55 span midway through the third quarter en route to a 33-9 win over the Camels.
Arkansas State Red Wolves
Arkansas State faces Tennessee this week for the second time in school history . . . A-State dropped a 48-27 road decision in the only meeting in 2007 in front of 102,368, the largest crowd to ever watch an Arkansas State game . . . A-State has six players on its roster from the state of Tennessee . . . The Red Wolves picked up a 37-10 win over No.19 FCS-ranked Montana State last weekend, claiming their 10th consecutive home-opening victory . . . A-State won its season opener for the second straight year for the first time since 2008 and 2009 . . . Blake Anderson became the 11th all-time A-State head football coach to win his first game at the school . . . The Red Wolves won their third straight home game and are now 17-2 over their last 19 games at Centennial Bank Stadium . . . After its win last week, A-State is now 29-11 over the last four seasons . . . The Red Wolves extended their winning streak against FCS foes to 10 games . . . 12 true freshmen played in their first game at A-State (vs. Montana State) . . . Five offensive and two defensive players made their first career start in the 2014 season opener . . . Junior WR Tres Houston recorded eight receptions for 87 yards – both career highs – last game . . . In his first career start, junior quarterback Fredi Knighten posted career highs for total offense (323) and passing (219), rushing (104) all-purpose yards(149) and receiving yards (45) . . . Including its 2014 season opener, A-State has recorded over 300 yards total offense in 46 of its last 52 games . . . Sun Belt Conference Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Qushaun Lee posted five tackles and an interception (fifth of his career) against Montana State, leading a defense that allowed just 3.3 yards per play . . . Junior kicker/punter Luke Ferguson led the Sun Belt Conference in scoring last week with 13 points, which included 3-of-3 fields goals in his first game at A-State handling placekicking duties.
Georgia Southern Eagles
Georgia Southern (0-1) opens its 2014 campaign in a newly expanded Paulson Stadium against Savannah State on Saturday, September 6th with a 6 p.m. kickoff. The game will be available on ESPN3. Prior to the game, Georgia Southern will honor and recognize its six national championship teams and relocate the championship flags that have flown at the west side of the stadium to the east side.
There’s a lot that is new at Georgia Southern – a new head coach, coaching staff, new offensive scheme, new conference and new facilities. The addition of a new mid-deck and expansion of club seating in the North Stands, and new 50,000-square foot Football Operations Center with a 852-quare foot HD video board and sound system at the east end has completely changed the look of the 30-year old-stadium.
A late score by N.C. State with 1:37 left in the game put the Wolfpack ahead 24-23 for the eventual final Saturday. Georgia Southern took a 17-3 halftime advantage with only Duke and Florida State holding N.C. State to a lower first-half total (0) in the Dave Doeren-era. The Eagles scored three times in the first half, beginning with a career first rushing touchdown for sophomore Matt Breida as his 61-yard score was the first in the ballgame.
Quarterback Kevin Ellison had a career day passing with 184 yards and a touchdown, going 9-for-16 against N.C. State, while adding 116 yards on the ground. It was Ellison’s third career game with at least 100 yards rushing and 100 passing. The sophomore has the top averages in the Sun Belt Conference for passing yards per completion (20.4) and per attempt (11.5) and the Eagles’ 19.20 yards per catch average is good for fourth among the nation’s leaders in that category.
Junior placekicker Alex Hanks also had a career day, scoring 11 points by going 3-3 on field goals and adding two PATs. No returns were attempted on his six kickoffs. Senior wide receiver Zach Walker, who was Ellison’s favorite target Saturday, had a career-best five receptions against the Wolfpack, three in the first half alone. That total which tied the high mark for an Eagle in both 2013 and 2012 and was the highest single-game total since Kentrellis Showers had five at North Dakota State in 2011.
The Eagles’ leading tackler last season, senior linebacker Edwin Jackson posted a game-high and career-best 13 against N.C. State with six total tackles in the third quarter. It was his sixth game with double-digit tackles and his eighth career game as the top Eagles’ defender.
Georgia State Panthers
Georgia State’s 38-37 victory over Abilene Christian is the Panthers’ first win as an FBS program. Georgia State twice rallied from nine points down in the fourth quarter before winning on Wil Lutz’s 26-yard field with 4 seconds left. Quarterback Nick Arbuckle engineered the winning drive after GSU took over on its own 19 with 2:41 to play.
Georgia State set a school record for total offense with 566 yards (413 passing, 153 rushing). The previous high was 514 yards vs. Campbell in 2012, the only other game in which the Panthers have topped 500 yards.
Georgia State won on a last-second field goal for the third time in its brief history. Both other games came in the Panthers’ inaugural season of 2010.
Georgia State overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to win for the third time in school history.
In his first game in a Georgia State uniform, quarterback Nick Arbuckle tied the school record with four touchdown passes, joining Ronnie Bell, Kelton Hill and Drew Little (twice); Passed for 413 yards, one shy of the school record of 414 yards by Drew Little vs. Old Dominion in 2010; Set the Georgia State record with 438 yards of total offense;
Converted two fourth downs on the game-winning drive, connecting with Joel Ruiz for 12 yards on 4th-and-5 from the GSU 24 and with LynQuez Blair for 24 yards on 4th-and-19 from the GSU 27; Covered the final 30 yards of the game-winning drive with his legs, rushing 13 yards to the ACU 26 and then 17 yards down to the ACU 9-yard line.
Also playing his first game for Georgia State, tight end Joel Ruiz: Tied the school record with two touchdown receptions, equalling Albert Wilson (seven times), Kelton Hill, Jordan Giles and Arthur Williams; Caught touchdowns of 34 yards and nine yards and added a 12-yard reception to convert on 4th-and-5 on the game-winning drive;
Totalled seven receptions for 111 yards in his first game since November 2012 at Presbyterian
Senior wide receiver LynQuez Blair caught eight passes for 118 yards, including his first career touchdown. He totalled 16 receptions for 145 yards in his first three seasons.
Sophomore Robert Davis had a career-best eight receptions.
Junior linebacker Joseph Peterson recorded 11 tackles and his first career interception.
Senior linebacker Jarrell Robinson tied the school records with two sacks and four tackles for loss.
For the third time in school history, a game involving the Vandals was canceled on the day it was scheduled to be played. All three were for different reasons.
The first was Nov. 11, 1978 when one of the charter planes bringing Idaho State to Moscow developed mechanical problems. That game was canceled and the Vandals were awarded a forfeit victory.
The second time was in 2001 when all college football was canceled the Saturday following the Sept. 11 terrorists attack on the World Trade Center. That game against Montana was rescheduled for the end of the season with the Vandals losing at Missoula in overtime.
Idaho’s series with Louisiana-Monroe dates their the Division I-AA days when the Vandals played ULM – known at the time as Northwestern Louisiana, in a playoff game. Idaho won that first encounter 34-31. The series resumed with both as members of the Sun Belt Conference in 2001. During that four-year span, each team won twice – once at home and once on the road. Their last meeting was in 2004 with ULM prevailing 16-14.
Steven Matlock knows pretty much how Jordan Rose feels. Matlock was pressed into a starting role on the offensive line as a true freshman in 2013. Rose, a true freshman this year, was scheduled to start in the Vandals’ opener at Florida. Sophomore Mason Woods, a Canadian and one of four foreign players on Idaho’s roster, earned a starting role late last season and also was scheduled to start last Saturday. The others scheduled to start were senior center Mike Marboe (more about him below) and senior Nick Von Rotz, a junior college transfer who started all of 2013.
UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns opened their 113th season of football before the third-largest crowd in school history with a dominant 45-6 victory over in-state opponent Southern University on Saturday at Cajun Field.
Terrance Broadway threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as UL Lafayette (1-0) accumulated 512 yards of total offense and built a 24-0 lead at halftime. Jamal Robinson caught five passes for 112 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Elijah McGuire rushed for 129 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown.
The game, played before an announced crowd of 36,170, was the third-largest in school history behind the Cajuns’ 2009 game against Southern (41,357) and 1996 victory over nationally-ranked Texas A&M (38,783).
UL Lafayette took a 10-0 lead after the first quarter when Hunter Stover kicked a 31-yard field goal with 6:12 remaining before McGuire capped off a six-play, 80-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown.
Broadway, who completed 20 of 32 passes for 237 yards, hit a wide-open Robinson for a 32-yard TD strike in the second quarter before finding Jared Johnson for a 13-yard scoring pass and a 24-0 lead with 7:35 remaining in the half.
Broadway, who moved past former Cajun Brian Mitchell for fourth-place in pass completions, added a 7-yard scoring pass to Robinson in the third quarter before rushing for an 8-yard touchdown in the fourth.
Trae Johnson recorded eight tackles to lead the Ragin’ Cajuns with Boris Anyama and Kevin Fouquier adding five stops each.
UL Lafayette will return to action on Saturday at 6 p.m. when it plays host to in-state opponent Louisiana Tech in a game that will be televised on ESPN3.
UL Monroe Warhawks
ULM will open up Sun Belt Conference play as it welcomes Idaho to JPS Field at Malone Stadium for a 6 p.m. contest on Saturday night… Idaho and ULM have played a total of five times on the gridiron with the Vandals leading the series, 3-2… Saturday’s showdown will be the first meeting between the two schools since a 16-14 ULM win on Oct. 9, 2004 in Moscow, Idaho.
Idaho is one of four “new” members in the Sun Belt Conference season… Idaho and New Mexico State rejoined the league as football only members on July 1, 2014… Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are new to the league and they are full members of the Sun Belt Conference after making the jump from the FCS Level (Southern Conference).
On Saturday night, the Warhawks will look to go to 2-0 for the first time in the FBS-era (1994-pres.)… ULM defeated Wake Forest, 17-10, on Aug. 28 and a win over Idaho would be the first 2-0 start for ULM since 1993 (the program’s last season at the 1-AA [FCS] level)… ULM nearly started the 2012 season 2-0 as the Warhawks defeated No. 8 Arkansas, 34-31, in the season opener, but fell in ovetime, 31-28, at Auburn the following week.
Saturday’s contest will mark the first time since the 1996 season that the Warhawks will open the season with back-to-back home games… In 1996, ULM hosted Nicholls State in the season opener (Aug. 29) and welcomed Minnesota to Monroe the following week (Sept. 7).
The Warhawks do not have to leave the state of Louisiana until the month of October when they travel to Arkansas State for an Oct. 4 contest in Jonesboro, Ark… ULM still has September home games against Idaho (Sept. 6) and Troy (Sept. 27) and a road tilt at LSU (Sept. 13).
Centarius Donald set a new career-high with 26 rushing attempts over the Demon Deacons… Donald accounted for eight first downs on the night and racked up 117 rushung yards (long of 39)… Donald was not the only Warhawk to rack up yards on the ground as Tyler Cain rushed 11 times for 46 yards (long of 16)… In all, ULM rushed 44 times for 163 yards in the win over Wake Forest.
Kenzee Jackson set a new career-best with 83 receiving yards against Wake Forest… His previous best was 81 receiving yards against Western Kentucky on Oct. 3, 2013… Jackson also tied a career-best in receptions with six (he had six receptions in the win at Troy on Oct. 31, 2013).
New Mexico State Aggies
The New Mexico State football team began the 2014 season with a nice win, defeating the Cal-Poly Mustangs, 28-10, in its home opener Thursday night.
The Aggies gained 315 total yards while allowing Cal-Poly 265 yards. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Rogers looked comfortable in the pocket during his first start, going 18-of-27 for 118 yards, two touchdown throws and one interception. The NM State ground attack also looked in midseason form as the Aggies almost rushed for 200 total yards, finishing with 197 yards on the ground.
Freshman Larry Rose III led the way for the NM State running back core, finishing with 150 yards on the ground on 30 carries during his first game as an Aggie. Rose III scored twice, once on the ground and another on a touchdown catch. Redshirt sophomore Teldrick Morgan led the receivers with six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown.
As impressive as the offense was, perhaps more dominating was the young NM State defense, especially in the second half. The Aggies shutout the Mustangs in the second half, making play after play, while only allowing a total of 27 yards in the final half. After allowing 236 rushing yards to the run-oriented Cal-Poly offense in the first half, NM State only allowed 23 rushing yards in the second half.
Freshman linebacker Derek Ibekwe led the defense with a total of 14 tackles and half a sack in the game. Fellow linebacker Rodney Butler also had double-digits tackles, 11, and also had a sack on the quarterback.
The Aggies will now head out on the road for the first time this season as they travel to Atlanta, Ga., to face their first Sun Belt Conference foe of the season, Georgia State. Game time is set for 1 p.m. (CT) on Saturday, Sept. 6, inside the Georgia Dome. It will be the first meeting between the Aggies and the Panthers.
South Alabama Jaguars
With the Jaguars off on the opening weekend of the season for the first time since making the transition to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision, this marks the latest USA is beginning a campaign in the program’s six-year history. … The Jags open the year at Kent State, another first for the squad — USA has never started a season away from home. … The Jaguars are 3-2 on opening day all-time, although they have dropped the last two on field goals by the opposition — Texas-San Antonio in 2013, Southern Utah a year ago — in the final seconds. … USA went 1-2 in non-conference road games last season, winning their first of the fall at Tulane on Sept. 7 while dropping decisions at Tennessee and Navy. … It will be the third match-up between the Jags and Kent State, with both winning on their home fields. The Golden Flashes held off a furious Jaguar rally in Kent on Sept. 24, 2011, scoring the first 33 points before claiming a 33-25 victory, while USA defeated KSU, 38-21, on Oct. 19 a year ago. … This is the last scheduled contest for the Jags with a Mid-American Conference school until they begin a two-year, home-and-homer series with Bowling Green on Sept. 11, 2021. … In last fall’s win over the Golden Flashes, Jay Jones collected 99 yards and a score on the ground to help the Jaguars gain a season-best 257 rushing yards while Ross Metheny accounted for two scores — one rushing, one passing — and 245 yards of total offense. … Kendall Houston also had his best day of the season against KSU, running for 43 yards on seven carries while supplying a pair of scores in the second half. Defensively, Maleki Harris posted a career-high 10 stops, including 1½ behind the line of scrimmage to pace USA in tackles for the second time on the year. … The Jaguars return six of their 10 all-Sun Belt Conference selections from 2013, highlighted by first-team members TE Wes Saxton and OL Chris May. Three of the other four honorees coming back are also from the USA offensive unit, including Jones in the backfield, WR Shavarez Smith and Ol Ucambre Williams. PK Aleem Sunanon is the other all-league representative returning for the Jags.
Texas State Bobcats
Texas State will be looking to open a season with 2-0 record for the second straight year when the Bobcats play host to Navy on Sept. 13 at 7:00 p.m.
This marks the first time that the Bobcats open a season with two straight home games since 2007 when Texas State played host to Cal Poly and Abilene Christian in its first two games.
Texas State is in its second season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference and is playing an NCAA Division I FBS schedule for the third straight year.
The victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff was Texas State’s third straight victory in season openers. The Bobcats also beat Houston, 30-12, in 2012 and Southern Miss, 22-15, in 2013.
Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione improved to 20-8-1 in season openers during his career. Franchione also is 5-1 in season-openers at Texas State.
Texas State set a school single-game record and tied Troy for the fifth-highest total with 697 yards of total offense against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Texas State’s 39 first downs against Arkansas-Pine Bluff also set a single-game school record and tied a Sun Belt Conference record. Idaho also had 39 first downs at Middle Tennessee in 2001.
The 42 points Texas State scored in the first half against UAPB was the most points in any half since scoring 49 points in the first half against New Mexico State in 2012.
Texas State’s 697 yards marked the first time the Bobcats have put up 600+ yards under Dennis Franchione during his current tenure.
Texas State’s 65 points were the most since scoring 66 in the season finale against New Mexico State in 2012. The 65 points also was the seventh-highest total by any Sun Belt Conference team in history.
Defensively, it marked the team’s first shutout since 2005 when it shutout Southern Utah 34-0.
The following Trojans made their first career start against UAB: Brandon Silvers (QB), Teddy Ruben (WR), T.J. Fuller (NIC), Jamal Stadom (DE), Billy Dobbs (DT), Lonnie Gosha (DT), Jacquez Young (CB), Darrin Reddick (SS) … The following Trojans made their first appearance for Troy : Dontreal Pruitt (QB), John Johnson (WR), Jarvis Bentley (WR), Tray Hall (CB), Tim Longmire (RB), Sam Lebbie (LB), Emanuel Thompson (WR), Nyck Young (WR), Rod Adams (S), Jalen Harris (WR), Andre Flakes (WR), Ethan Hutson (OL), Anthony Williams (DE), Justin Fuller (LS), Taylor Polk (LS), Kinderick Dent (WR), Drew Thompson (TE), Seth Calloway (DT), Blace Brown (WR), Bryan Slater (DT), Vinton Harris (DL) … Quarterback Brandon Silvers made his debut as starting quarterback for the Trojans. His first career completion was to Chandler Worthy for a gain of 41 yards … With Jordan Chunn’s touchdown in the first quarter, the 15th of his career, he moves into a tie for 12th in career rushing touchdowns at Troy … For the third straight year, Troy scored on it’s opening drive (two touchdowns and a field goal). This year’s drive: 5 plays, 75 yards, 1:29 … Jacquez Young opened the second half with the first forced fumble of his career. Tyler Roberts recovered the ball on the Trojans 11 yard line … Montres Kitchens made his first career interception in the third quarter … Young and Kitchens’ turnovers came on back-to-back drives. It was the first time Troy has forced turnovers on consecutive drives since 2012 against UAB.