Sun Belt title still up for grabs

The Sports Xchange

November 12, 2013 at 12:00 am.

Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews is one of the best tailbacks in the country. (Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports)

Quietly, Arkansas State has placed itself right back in the thick of the Sun Belt Conference title race.

The Red Wolves (5-4, 3-1) are one game behind leader Louisiana-Lafayette, but have won three of the past four after a 2-3 start and can become bowl eligible with a win Saturday against Texas State at home.

The two-time defending league champions need to win out and have ULL lose twice for an outright title. One slip up by the Cajuns could give ASU a co-championship.

“I think we’re a work in progress — always,” first-year Arkansas State coach Bryan Harsin said. “You go through four head coaching changes and staffing changes and late-recruiting changes — some of the continuity, some of the chemistry, that’s what it affects. You got to bring that all together and you’re starting to see it happen probably in the last couple games.”

Texas State hasn’t shied away from the challenges of being a first-year Sun Belt Conference member. The Bobcats are already bowl eligible at 6-3 and have won three straight. A conference

A conference title isn’t likely at 2-2 for TSU, but having the league’s top defense makes them a tough out for anyone.
“We’re heading into a tough three-game stretch with two out of three on the road,” Texas State coach Dennis Franchione said. “We’re playing good football teams that will be big challenges for us.”
Texas State’s next three opponents, including this week’s showdown with Arkansas State, are against teams a combined 16-13.

The league’s only other matchup this week pits Louisiana-Lafayette (7-2, 4-0) traveling to winless Georgia State (0-9, 0-4). Troy (5-5) travels to Mississippi at noon Saturday while South Alabama (3-5) plays at Navy.

Both Western Kentucky and Louisiana-Monroe are off.

Arkansas State (5-4, 3-1)

THIS WEEK’S GAME: vs. Texas State, 7:30 p.m. ET


–QB Adam Kennedy had another stellar, efficient game in a big, 42-14 win against Louisiana-Monroe. The senior transfer from Utah State threw for 235 yards and a touchdown and is now completing 68.4 percent of his passes this season.

–RB Michael Gordon, filling in for the suspended David Oku, scored three times on the ground and averaged 4.2 yards per carry. His 17 carries and three TDs were each season highs.

–WR J.D. McKissic now has at least five receptions in six straight games. The sophomore caught seven more passes for 75 yards in the ULM win.

Georgia State (0-9, 0-4)

THIS WEEK’S GAME: vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Saturday, 2 p.m. ET.


–QB Ronnie Bell had one of his better games of the season against the conference’s best pass defense in a 44-28 loss to Western Kentucky on Nov. 2. The sophomore threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns on 16 of 41 passing.

–WR Robert Davis, a freshman, continues to come on strong. He caught four passes for 84 yards and a score Nov. 2 and is closing in on 500 yards receiving for the season.

–RB Jonathan Jean-Bart scored his first career touchdown in the loss to WKU. A true freshman, Jean-Bart had 10 carries for 53 yards.

Louisiana-Lafayette (7-2, 4-0)

THIS WEEK’S GAME: at Georgia State, Saturday, 2 p.m. ET.


–RB Elijah McGuire is averaging nine yards per carry. The freshman totaled 82 yards on just seven carries against Troy and scored once.

–LB Justin Anderson added 10 tackles to add to his conference-leading 95 this season. The senior averages 10.6 per game.

–QB Terrance Broadway only completed eight passes last week, but two went for a touchdown and he averaged 14.2 yards per completion.

Louisiana-Monroe (5-4, 3-2)

THIS WEEK’S GAME: OFF; at South Alabama, Nov. 23, 7 p.m. ET.

–QB Kolton Browning was shut down against Arkansas State in a 42-14 loss. The senior threw two first-half touchdowns, but also accounted for two interceptions. He finished with 191 yards passing and 55 more on the ground.

–WR Rashaon Caeser caught five more passes for 118 yards and scored both his team’s touchdowns. All three of the sophomore’s touchdowns have come in the past two games and he’s averaging 14.3 yards per catch this season.

–LB Hunter Kissinger made 13 tackles — 1 1/2 for a loss — and recovered a fumble against Arkansas State. The sophomore now leads the team with 6 1/2 tackles for loss this season.

South Alabama (3-5, 1-3)

THIS WEEK’S GAME: at Navy, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

–QB Ross Metheny continues to put up significant numbers for the young Jaguars. The senior was 15 of 29 for 228 yards in a 17-16 loss to Arkansas State on Nov. 2 and also rushed for 77 yards. He now has 2,176 yards of offense this season.

–LB Enrique Williams, a senior, has a team high 73 tackles — four for a loss — to go along with a sack and a forced fumble.

–WR Shavarez Smith has at least three receptions in six straight games. His three catches for 77 yards against ASU on Nov. 2 brought his season total to 29 receptions for 551 yards this year.

Texas State (6-3, 2-2)

THIS WEEK’S GAME: at Arkansas State, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET.

–QB Tyler Jones, a freshman, continues to improve by the week. His 19 of 23 passing for 228 yards and two scores was key in the Bobcats’ 37-21 win at Idaho on Nov. 2. The past two weeks, Jones is 34-for-48 for 446 yards and four touchdowns.

–RB Robert Lowe is arguably Texas State’s most-consistent piece this season. The durable sophomore rushed for 61 yards on 17 carries against Idaho on Nov. 2 and bowled his way in for two touchdowns in the win at Idaho.

–LB Damion McMiller has taken over the team lead in tackles with 58. The senior has three tackles for loss on the Bobcats’ stout defense.

Troy (5-5, 3-3)

THIS WEEK’S GAME: at Mississippi, Saturday, Noon ET.

–QB Corey Robinson completed just one touchdown pass in Troy’s loss at Louisiana-Lafayette. The senior threw for 271 yards on 25 of 44 passing, but couldn’t complete the comeback against the league’s top team.

–RB Brandon Burks totaled 126 yards on 15 carries — an 8.4 average — against ULL. The yardage and average were both season highs for the sophomore.

–WR Eric Thomas caught five passes for 93 yards and a score. The senior has at least five receptions in each of the past six games and is 1 65 yards from 1,000 for the season for the first time in his career.

Western Kentucky (6-4, 2-3)

THIS WEEK’S GAME: OFF; at Texas State, Nov. 23, 7:30 p.m. ET.


–RB Antonio Andrews is second in the nation in rushing with 1,407 yards and first in the nation in all-purpose yards per game with 219.2.

–RB Keshawn Simpson has six rushing touchdowns in seven games played this season. He scored four times against GSU inside the 3 to help cure some WKU red zone woes.

–QB Brandon Doughty threw his 14th interception of the season, but also led his offense on an 87-yard drive in the final minutes for a 21-17 win at Army. Doughty went 16 of 24 for 199 yards.