Sun Belt Conference News and Notes

8:39 AM, Nov 5, 2012   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -

ARKANSAS STATE: The Red Wolves went on the road and spoiled North Texas's Homecoming, winning 37-19, and thanks to some shake-ups in conference play, they are now in a three-way tie for the Sun Belt lead with Middle Tennessee and ULM. Ryan Aplin was surgical on the afternoon, completing 25-of-32 passes for a season-high 328 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also added a rushing score. It marked the first time since Sept. 8 against Memphis that the senior topped 300 yards passing. J.D. McKissic continued his outstanding freshman campaign, hauling in a career-high 10 balls for 96 yards. Josh Jarboe caught five passes for 93 yards, and Julian Jones (one reception, 59 yards) and Kedric Murry (one reception, four yards) were on the receiving end of the two Aplin touchdowns. As far as the rushing attack was concerned, both David Oku (71 yards) and Rocky Hayes (58 yards) scored touchdowns. Arkansas State (6-3, 4-1 Sun Belt) has a short week to prepare for Thursday's battle for first place against ULM.

FIU: The Panthers won their first Sun Belt Conference game of the season by going on the road to defeat South Alabama, 28-20, snapping a seven-game losing streak in the process. Kedrick Rhodes sparked the offense with 149 rushing yards and a touchdown. It was Rhodes' eighth-career 100-yard rushing game, which is the most in program history. Jake Metlock was not at his best, completing just 9-of-19 passes for 153 yards, but he tossed two touchdown passes, ran in another score, and didn't record an interception. Willis Wright caught just one pass but it was for a 26-yard touchdown, giving him at least 100 yards receiving or a touchdown in four consecutive weeks. Jacob Younger (two receptions, 62 yards) was on the receiving end of the other Medlock touchdown. The FIU (2-8, 1-5 Sun Belt) defense played one of its best games of the year, recording 2.5 sacks and logging four takeaways (two INTs, two fumble recoveries). It will try to make it two wins in a row for the first time this season when it next hits the field on Nov. 16 versus Florida Atlantic.

FLORIDA ATLANTIC: The Owls fought hard on the road against Navy but could not pull off a fourth-quarter comeback as they fell, 24-17, to lose for the seventh time in the last eight games. Jonathan Wallace set career-highs with 111 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and his first-quarter score gave his team a lead less than a minute into the game. Wallace was also the leading receiver with seven catches for 34 yards. Graham Wilbert played well, completing 25-of-35 passes, but he failed to score a touchdown for the first time all season. William Dukes (five receptions, 75 yards) caught at least five passes for the fifth consecutive game. The FAU (2-7) defense did all it could to keep the team in the game, holding Navy's potent rushing attack to a modest 4.8 yards per carry. The Owls return to Sun Belt action this week when they fly into Bowling Green to take on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

LOUISIANA: Behind a career-high 460 total yards from Terrance Broadway, the Ragin' Cajuns bounced back from consecutive conference losses to defeat first- place ULM on the road, 40-24. Broadway completed 23-of-32 passes for 373 yards (one yard shy of his career-high set last week against Arkansas State) with four touchdown passes and an interception, and he also led the team in rushing with 87 yards and a score. Assisting Broadway in his monster performance was Jamal Robinson, who caught just three passes but tallied a career-high 153 yards and two touchdowns. Harry Peoples (six receptions, 74 yards, TD) returned to action after missing the previous game to give the receiving corps a boost. Alonzo Harris (61 yards, TD) and Torrey Pierce (72 yards) were an effective one-two punch at running back. Louisiana (5-3, 3-2 Sun Belt) steps out of conference this Saturday to take on nationally-ranked Florida in Gainesville.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE: Reggie Whatley broke a tie game midway through the fourth quarter with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as the Blue Raiders went on the road to upset Western Kentucky, 34-29, to move into a tie for first place in the Sun Belt standings. With the win, Middle Tennessee (6-3, 4-1 Sun Belt) becomes bowl eligible for the third time in the last four years, and it marks the earliest in the season it has reached six wins since 2001. Jordan Parker led an impressive rushing attack with 32 carries for 149 yards, which included a 58-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Logan Kilgore completed just 11-of-17 passes in the game, but he tossed a pair of crucial touchdowns to Anthony Amos (five receptions, 66 yards). In addition to his kick return theatrics, Whatley also recovered a fumble on special teams which led to Carlos Lopez field goal. Middle Tennessee is idle this week, and won't return to action until Nov. 17 when it travels to Mobile to take on South Alabama.

NORTH TEXAS: The Mean Green held a lead against Arkansas State for much of the first quarter, but the defense was burned by several big plays as the team ultimately fell, 37-19. Despite the loss, Derek Thompson continues to be one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the conference, completing 28-of-47 passes for a season-high 316 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and although he finished with negative-two rushing yards, he also scored on the ground. It is the seventh straight game that Thompson has thrown for at least 200 yards. Coming into the game with a total of seven catches for 128 yards, Darnell Smith caught seven balls for 107 yards. Antoinne Jimmerson was the team's leading rusher with just 35 yards on 13 carries, but he also caught two passes for 12 yards and a touchdown. North Texas (3-6, 2-3 Sun Belt) will need to win out to become bowl eligible, and it all starts with this Saturday's home final against South Alabama.

SOUTH ALABAMA: The Jaguars were down by three touchdowns at halftime and managed to crawl back to within striking distance, but their comeback attempt failed as they lost at home to FIU, 28-20. Ross Metheny threw for a career- high 270 yards, but it came with a lack of efficiency as he completed just 19- of-37 passes with one touchdown and two interceptions. In the receiving game, both Wes Saxton (six receptions, 92 yards) and Corey Besteda (three receptions, 96 yards, TD) had career days. Demetre Baker had a solid game rushing the ball (15 carries, 74 yards), but he lost a key fumble in the fourth quarter with his team down just one score. Jake Johnson was the team's defensive standout, recording 15 tackles and a sack. South Alabama (2-7, 1-4 Sun Belt) will try to snap a two-game losing streak this Saturday when it travels to Denton to take on North Texas.

TROY: The Trojans torched Tennessee for 721 yards, the second-highest output in school history, but they ultimately found themselves on the wrong end of a 55-48 shootout in Knoxville. The passing attack was on point all afternoon, as Corey Robinson completed 30-of-46 passes for 393 yards and a touchdown. Deon Anthony also saw plenty of snaps under center, finishing with 103 yards and two scores on 8-of-12 passing while also rushing for 51 yards and a touchdown. The big days from the quarterbacks led to a few stellar performances from wide receivers Eric Thomas (six receptions, 147 yards, two TDs) and Chip Reeves (five receptions, 144 yards, TD). Not to get lost in the shuffle was a fantastic rushing attack, led by 101 yards and two touchdowns from Shawn Southward -- his ninth-career multi-touchdown game. The defense spoiled the huge day on offense by allowing Tennessee to gain 718 total yards. Troy (4-5) plays another non-conference game this week when it hosts Navy.

ULM: The Warhawks lost their first Sun Belt Conference game of the season, falling at home to Louisiana, 40-24, but perhaps more importantly, they lost their star quarterback to injury in the first half. Kolton Browning was off to a fast start (5-of-7, 124 yards, TD) before leaving the game with an undisclosed injury. Cody Wells replaced him, and although he showed signs of being productive (18-of-31, 209 yards, two TDs, two INTs), there's no doubt that ULM (6-3, 4-1 Sun Belt) would be in big trouble if Browning needed to miss significant time. Brent Leonard caught 11 passes for a career-high 168 yards and a touchdown, and he's now tied for fifth all-time for most catches in program history. The running game could not get anything going, as it gained just 74 yards on 20 carries (3.7 ypc). It will have little time to dwell on the defeat as it travels to Jonesboro for a Thursday night showdown against Arkansas State with first place on the line.

WESTERN KENTUCKY: The Hilltoppers showed plenty of resiliency against Middle Tennessee last Thursday night, coming back to tie the game on three different occasions, but they surrendered a late-game kickoff return for a touchdown and ultimately fell, 34-27. Antonio Andrews did everything in his power to keep his team in the game, logging a career-high 392 all-purpose yards on the night (136 rushing, 54 receiving, 182 kick return) and a touchdown. It was his seventh straight 100-yard rushing game, which is the longest active streak in the nation by a running back. Andrews has crossed 1,000 yards rushing on the season and he is also just 130 all-purpose yards shy of breaking the school record of 2,101 set by Bobby Rainey in 2009. Kawaun Jakes was also impressive in the comeback bid, completing 19-of-30 passes for 283 yards with three touchdowns and one interceptions. Willie McNeal (seven receptions, 119 yards, TD) went over 100 yards receiving for the second time in the last three games. WKU (6-3, 3-2 Sun Belt) rounds out a brief two-game home stand this Saturday against Florida Atlantic.

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