Sun Belt Conference News and Notes
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
ARKANSAS STATE: Arkansas State (8-3, 6-1 Sun Belt) was off this week, and it will take on Middle Tennessee this Saturday with the conference championship on the line.
FIU: The Panthers fought hard against the bowl-bound ULM Warhawks, even forcing overtime in the final minute of regulation on a 58-yard touchdown pass from E.J. Hilliard to Willis Wright, but they ultimately fell in the extra session, 23-17. Hilliard was impressive under center, completing 22-of-31 passes for 226 yards and a pair of scores. Wayne Times was busy in the receiving game, hauling in a career-high 11 receptions for 63 yards. The defensive effort was spectacular, holding the high-powered Warhawks to just 235 yards of offense while sacking Kolton Browning four times. FIU (3-9, 2-6 Sun Belt) will be shut out of bowl season.
FLORIDA ATLANTIC: The Owls (3-8, 2-5 Sun Belt) did not play this week, and they will wrap up their season at home this Saturday against Louisiana.
LOUISIANA: In their home finale, Louisiana made easy work of South Alabama, winning 52-30, amassing 538 yards of total offense in the process. Terrance Broadway completed just 11-of-19 pass attempts, but those completions resulted in several big plays as he finished with 305 yards and two touchdowns. Javone Lawson (three receptions, 113 yards) and Harry Peoples (five receptions, 166 yards) both had huge days and each caught a touchdown pass, as did Jacob Maxwell (two receptions, 19 yards). Broadway also added 65 yards rushing and a score on the ground, while Effrem Reed (81 yards, two TDs) also had an effective afternoon rushing the ball. Louisiana (7-4, 5-2 Sun Belt) plays Florida Atlantic this week before playing in a bowl game.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE: The Blue Raiders were able to keep their hopes of a Sun Belt Conference championship alive as they escaped with a 24-21 victory over Troy. The defense was the difference maker, as the unit forced five Trojan turnovers, including a Kevin Byard interception in the fourth quarter, which he returned 77 yards for the game-winning touchdown. It was Byard's second pick of the day. Jordan Parker crossed the century mark on the ground for the third straight week, racking up 141 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. Logan Kilgore completed 18-of-36 passes for 176 yards. Middle Tennessee (8-3, 6-1 Sun Belt) will take on Arkansas State on Saturday in a showdown of first place teams, with the winner coming away with the conference crown.
NORTH TEXAS: Up two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the Mean Green appeared to be on their way to a win in their season finale, but Western Kentucky scored 15 unanswered points as they fell, 25-24. Derek Thompson completed 18- of-25 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions, one of which went the other way for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Brandin Byrd (102 yards) and Jeremy Brown (64 yards) were both effective on the ground, with each plunging into the end zone. Darnell Smith tallied five receptions for 49 yards and a score. North Texas (4-8, 3-5 Sun Belt) will not be going to a bowl game.
SOUTH ALABAMA: The Jaguars put forth one of their best offensive efforts of the season in the finale against Louisiana, but the defense let them down as they ultimately fell to the Ragin' Cajuns, 52-30. Ross Metheny had a career- day, completing 27-of-44 passes for a school-record 360 yards and two touchdowns. Eight different players caught a pass in the game, paced by Wes Saxton with seven receptions for 83 yards. The defense allowed Louisiana to generate 538 yards of total offense in the rout. South Alabama (2-10, 1-7) will finish the 2012 season and its two-year transition to the FBS this Saturday at Hawaii.
TROY: The Trojans appeared to be in a favorable position to win their season finale at Middle Tennessee, but Deon Anthony threw a fourth-quarter interception that was returned 77 yards for the go-ahead touchdown as they fell to the Blue Raiders, 24-21. It was one of five turnovers on the afternoon for the visiting team. Corey Robinson (22-of-36, 183 yards, TD, INT) and Anthony (9-of-12, 98 yards, TD, INT) both saw action under center with middling results, and Anthony also rushed for a touchdown. Shawn Southward gained 116 yards, giving him 1,012 rushing yards on the season, and he also finished with a team-high five receptions for 54 yards. Troy (5-7, 3-5 Sun Belt) had its bowl aspirations dashed with the heartbreaking defeat.
ULM: It was an offensive struggle for the Warhawks, who gained just 235 total yards, and they nearly blew the game when they allowed a long touchdown pass in the final minute of regulation to force overtime, but Kolton Browning connected on a 15-yard touchdown pass to Brent Leonard in the extra session as they prevailed, 23-17. Browning finished by completing 31-of-38 passes for 218 yards with the touchdown, and while he had just two yards rushing, he also added a score on the ground. Leonard was fantastic, grabbing 13 receptions for 98 yards, including the game-winner. The ULM (8-4, 6-2 Sun Belt) defense stepped up its play, forcing two turnovers and sacking FIU quarterback E.J. Hilliard six times. The win put ULM in good shape to earn its first-ever bowl bid.
WESTERN KENTUCKY: The Hilltoppers were able to snap a three-game losing streak with a come-from-behind win over North Texas, scoring 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to claim the 25-24 victory. Antonio Andrews had another outstanding afternoon, rushing for 230 yards and a touchdown -- his third game this season with at least 200 yards rushing. He finished the day with 323 all- purpose yards, leaving him 274 yards from breaking Barry Sanders' single- season NCAA record of 3,250, and WKU (7-5, 4-4 Sun Belt) hopes that Andrews will have one more chance at breaking it in a bowl game. Kawaun Jakes completed just 14-of-29 yards for 173 yards, with a touchdown and an interception against the Mean Green. The defense got into the scoring act in the fourth quarter when Jonathan Dowling returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown.
11/26 10:44:21 ET