After rough weekend, Sun Belt attempts rebound

The Sports Xchange

September 14, 2014 at 9:11 pm.

In 10 nonconference games Saturday, the SBC went 0-10 and Troy lost at home to Abilene Christian out of the FCS.

“Well, we obviously are not in very good shape right now,” Troy coach Larry Blakeney said after a 38-35 loss. “We haven’t won a game. We are a proud program that has not won a game. There is a lot of frustrations and energy in that (locker) room. If we hadn’t jumped on it and gotten it straightened out, there probably would have been a fight with some kids.”

Troy (0-3) was not the only team with problems Saturday. Four other teams lost by at least 20 points and four more lost by at least 10. Four Sun Belt teams fell at home and Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama combined to score a total of 18 points.

Troy’s defeat actually turned out to be the closest when all was said and done behind Georgia Southern’s four-point loss at Georgia Tech.
“Offensively, we were just bad,” ULM coach Todd Berry said after a 31-0 loss at LSU. “I’ve been doing this a long time, been around a lot of offensive football — that’s about as bad as it gets. To LSU’s credit, they’re good, but we’re — it was just bad. We just got our tails whipped on everything. We couldn’t get open, we couldn’t block anybody. There was nothing there. I’ve seen us separate from people, I’ve seen us block people before that were as good as what LSU has. We just didn’t show up. Offensively, that was an embarrassment.”

Louisiana-Lafayette felt ULM’s pain, getting whipped at Mississippi 56-15. South Alabama empathized after a 35-3 home loss to Mississippi State.

Arkansas State, Georgia State, Idaho, Texas State and UTEP all lost by 21, 10, 12, 14, and 18, respectively.

The league’s profile may only get worse before it gets better. Week 4 includes matchups against Washington, Illinois, Georgia, Utah State and Boise State.


Game: OFF.

Next: at Southern Mississippi, Sept. 20.


Game: Miami (Fla.) 41, Arkansas State 20. The Hurricanes scored two TD passes of 63 yards and on runs of 27 and 33 to swirl past Arkansas State in Florida. The Red Wolves trailed 27-14 at the half, then UM scored 14 unanswered in the third quarter to pull away. State turned the ball over twice and was held to 93 yards rushing. Quarterback Fredi Knighten passed for 217 yards.

Takeaway: The Red Wolves can take solace they were able to hang around with the big boys in consecutive weeks. Losses to Tennessee (34-19) and Miami (41-20) were not embarrassing in any way and the ASU offense was able to move the ball in both games. Coach Blake Anderson’s team continues a tough nonconference schedule this week when Utah State pays a visit to Jonesboro, Ark, after an off week.

Next: at Utah State, Oct. 4.

GEORGIA STATE (1-2, 0-1)

Game: Air Force 48, Georgia State 38. The Panthers couldn’t keep pace with Air Force, falling behind 31-10 at the half. State outscored AF by 11 in the second half, but it was too little, too late. Quarterback Nick Arbuckle threw for 414 yards and three scores, but GSU allowed 315 yards on the ground to the Falcons.

Takeaway: After breaking a long losing streak to start the season, Georgia State has started another. Consecutive losses to New Mexico State and the Air Force has forced the Panthers back to the drawing board — and now coach Trent Miles’ team must travel to Washington before resuming Sun Belt Conference play against league favorites Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State. Quarterback Nick Arbuckle continues to play well, but the GSU defense is allowing 39.6 points per game.

Next: at Washington, Sept 20.


Game: Georgia Tech 42, Georgia Southern 38. The Eagles scored 28 straight second-half points to take a 38-35 lead at Georgia Tech, but Favian Upshaw’s fumble with 8:49 to go led to Deon Hill’s 13-yard TD reception from Justin Thomas giving the Yellow Jackets the lead with 23 seconds to go. Southern trailed 35-10 at the half before storming back and finished with 528 yards — 283 on the ground and 245 via the pass. Quarterback Kevin Ellison ran for 107 yards and threw for 164 for GSU.

Takeaway: For the second time in three weeks, Georgia Southern let an ACC opponent off the hook. In losses at North Carolina State and Georgia Tech, the Eagles held fourth quarter leads and were driving for more when fumbling the win away. Georgia Southern is in its first year of FBS and Sun Belt football under first-year coach Willie Fritz and has shown it can hang with anyone offensively — but the defense has to improve if the Eagles want to be a contender.

Next: at South Alabama, Sept. 20.


Game: Mississippi 56, Louisiana-Lafayette 15. Louisiana-Lafayette turned the ball over four times and allowed Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace to throw for 316 yards and four scores in a second blowout defeat. The Ragin’ Cajuns allowed 554 total yards of offense and were 4 of 14 on third down. ULL quarterback Terrance Broadway was 15 of 30 for 129 yards and threw three picks.

Takeaway: The Cajuns have been outscored 104-35 in back-to-back weeks against Louisiana Tech and Ole Miss. The Sun Belt’s preseason favorites have acted anything but since an opening-week win against Southern. ULL’s road doesn’t get any easier with a trip to Boise State this week. “When you turn it over four times on the road in the SEC against a top-15 team, there is no hope of winning a football game,” ULL coach Mark Hudspeth said. “We have to do a much better job. That has been our Achilles’ heel so far this season and until we figure it out, it’s going to be tough.”

Next: at Boise State, Sept. 20.


Game: Louisiana State 31, Louisiana-Monroe 0. The Warhawks’ defense hung on for as long as possible before LSU pulled away in the second half. Down just 10-0 at the break, Darrel Williams scored from a yard out and Leonard Fournette scored from 24 yards away to break it open in the third quarter. Kenny Hilliard had a four-yard run in the fourth to ice it. Louisiana-Monroe’s offense was held to just 93 yards of offense and just 16 yards on the ground.

Takeaway: ULM’s defense continues to play well. Despite the loss at LSU, that side of the ball for the Warhawks hasn’t allowed more than 31 points to any opponent in three games. Junior safety Mitch Lane (14 tackles vs. LSU) and senior linebacker Ray Stovall (10 tackles vs. LSU) and senior safety Cordero Smith (10 tackles vs. LSU) are molding all-conference seasons. If ULM can find some offensive consistency, it may have much to say in the SBC race.

Next: vs. Troy, Sept. 27

IDAHO (0-2)

Game: Western Michigan 45, Idaho 33. Idaho lost its home opener by allowing Western Michigan to score 35 first-half points. The Vandals won the second half, 14-10, but didn’t have enough left in the tank to catch up to the Broncos. Jarvion Franklin rushed for 210 yards and three scores for Western and QB Zach Terrell finished with 218 yards and three scores on just eight completions.

Takeaway: Idaho has lost nine straight dating back to last season — a 1-11 campaign. Its defense is allowing 41.5 points and 509 yards per game. Second-year coach Paul Petrino appears to be in for another long season and, at this point, the Vandals are not considered a player in the Sun Belt Conference.

Next: at Ohio, Sept. 20.


Game: UTEP 42, New Mexico State 24. UTEP rushed for 344 yards and scored 21 fourth-quarter points to pull away from rival New Mexico State. The Aggies finished with just 90 yards on the ground and threw two interceptions in the passing game. Both those picks came from Tyler Rogers, who finished with 324 yards through the air and connected on two scores.

Takeaway: The Aggies started the season 2-0, matching their win total from a year ago. Saturday’s loss wasn’t a total defeat in that quarterback Tyler Rogers and the passing game still put up respectable numbers. Already 1-0 in league play thanks to a 34-31 win at Georgia State on Sept. 6, NMSU has two more non-league games to try and improve its defense — especially against the run — in games against rival New Mexico and LSU.

Next: vs. New Mexico, Sept. 20.


Game: Mississippi State 35, South Alabama 3. The Jaguars could do nothing to stop Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs’ offense in a 35-3 loss. Prescott ran for 148 yards and threw for 201 more. His 24-yard pass to Jameon Lewis gave MSU a 21-3 lead in the second quarter and his 40-yard TD run put the game out of reach in the third quarter. South had only 58 yards rushing.

Takeaway: Not expected to win the game against Mississippi State, South Alabama, at the very least, hoped for a better showing against its in-state rival. The Jaguars have only scored 10 points in their last six quarters. “We were doing some good things and playing fast,” USA coach Joey Jones said. “We had some good calls and just didn’t convert some of the throws. We got down inside the red zone a couple of times and didn’t convert. We knew they were big and we would have to try to run the ball down there, and it’s tough. They’re a very good defense, and we just didn’t convert. You have to convert in games like this to have a chance to win, and we didn’t play our best game offensively.

Next: vs. Georgia Southern, Sept. 20.


Game: Navy 35, Texas State 21. Navy busted out to a 28-7 lead and Texas State had no answer for the Midshipmen ground game in San Marcos, Texas. Navy ran for 352 yards, led by Noah Copeland’s 116, Tago Smith’s 85 and Chris Swain’s 68 — Smith scored twice and Swain once. Tyler Jones threw for 231 yards and rushed for 82 more in the losing effort for TSU.

Takeaway: The Bobcats missed a golden opportunity for a big home win in front of more than 32,000. Instead, the Texas State defense couldn’t stop Navy — despite an extra week to prepare — and the offense never got going until the game was well out of hand. In a conference which annually struggles to get more than two teams into bowl games, every nonconference win is coveted, which makes State’s loss all that much more damaging — the Cats now travel to Illinois and Tulsa in consecutive weeks.

Next: at Illinois, Sept. 20.

TROY (0-3)

Game: Abilene Christian 38, Troy 35. Abilene Christian rallied from an early 14-point deficit to stun Troy. Nik Grau booted a 27-yard field goal with six minutes to play in the game to give Abilene Christian the lead and Adrian Duncan iced the game with a nine-yard touchdown run with a little more than a minute to play. Brandon Burks pulled Troy within the final three-point margin with a one-yard plunge up the middle with 20 seconds to play. The Trojans were not able to recover the on-side kick attempt and ACU ran out the clock for the victory.

Takeaway: The Trojans are reeling. A once-proud Sun Belt Conference power, Troy is 0-3 and coming off a home loss to an FCS program. “We are in the throws of sadness after losing a game to a team that everybody thinks we were supposed to beat.” Troy led ACU 21 -7 at the break, then gave up 21 third-quarter points. The team’s defense is allowing 40 points per game and travels to Georgia for a game that will likely send them to 0-4 before beginning league play the following week at Louisiana-Monroe. Troy’s bowl eligibility hopes are quickly waning.

Next: at Georgia, Sept. 20.