Some Signs of Life: Sun Belt Autopsy Week One
The Sun Belt didn’t exactly deliver The Sizzle in Week One, but it did offer the occasional burst of heat.
Week One pulls the dark curtain on all hyperbolic conjecture, including my own. Appalachian State isn’t going 12-0. Brandon Silvers isn’t going to throw 4,000 yards. Georgia State isn’t even going to start the season 1-0 in its new stadium.
The Sun Belt was lukewarm to open the season, (mostly) delivering the expected wins while failing to pull in big victories. Still, positives can be extrapolated from the trash heap of negatives. Let’s see if we can find them.
Tennessee State Tigers 17, Georgia State Panthers 10
“It was a great way to open this stadium — except for the game itself,” said first year head coach Shawn Elliot after the game. Yup. The Panther’s anemic running game offered no punch against Tennessee State’s FCS-level line, with Taz Bateman leading all Panthers with 31 yards on eleven attempts. Elliot, formerly the offensive line coach at South Carolina, needs to find a solution to salvage the season.
Next Up: @ 6 Penn State
Sacramento State Hornets 6, Idaho Vandals 28
See? This is how you host an FCS opponent. Though it wasn’t the cleanest victory (Matt Linehan threw two picks in addition to two TDs), the Vandals took care of the proverbial business in Week 1, led by underrated RB Aaron Duckworth’s 142 yards and a score.
Next Up: UNLV
ULM Warhawks 29, Memphis Tigers 37
ULM outscored Memphis 15-0 in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Tigers were already up 37-14 and were probably just wanting to get out of the rain. Caleb Evans and Garrett Smith combined for 279 passing yards and a pair of TDs, and Alabama transfer Derrick Gore notched his first TD of the season. That should be enough to handle the Seminoles, right?
Next Up: @ 3 FSU
New Mexico State Aggies 31, Arizona State 37
Holy hell, the Aggies damn near notched the upset over one of the worst defenses in the PAC 12, putting up 18 points in the final quarter before finally running out of steam in Tempe.Tyler Rogers carved the Sun Devils up for 398 yards and three touchdowns PLUS ONE RUSHING. (He did throw a damaging Pick 6, tho, so nobody is perfect.) Larry Rose III was a not-so-rosy 60 yards on 13 carries, but Rogers’ performance threatens to put him in Sun Belt Elite QB territory.
Next Up: New Mexico
Troy Trojans 13, Boise State Broncos 24
What kind of a score is that, Troy? The showdown between Brandon Silvers and Brett Rypien was supposed to be a pointsplosion™, but the Trojans’ only TD came off a 53 yard Pick 6 from Blace Brown. Silvers finished the game with a puzzling 139 yards passing and zero scores. (Rypien wasn’t much better: 160 yards, no scores). RBJordan Chunn was also ordinary, compiling 41 yards on 11 ho-hum carries. The Broncos is a tough team, especially in Boise, but we may have overestimated Troy’s offensive capabilities.
Next Up: ALABAMA! (State)
Appalachian State Mountaineers 10, Georgia Bulldogs 31
This game was prefaced with about 9,000 ESPN video tributes of the Mountaineers’ upset victory for Michigan 10 years ago, which was probably just enough to provoke the ire of Kirby Smart and his Bulldogs. Appalachian State didn’t score until the fourth quarter, with Taylor Lamb averaging 4.2 yards per toss, compiling 128 total passing yards. Lamb was the Mountaineer’s leading rusher (66 yards and a score) as the Bulldogs stymied the Sun Belt Player of the Year, Jalin Moore, to just 38 yards on 12 carries. Apps defensive line had no answers for RB Nick Chubb, who chugged in two TDs on 95 yards rushing.
Next Up: Savannah State
UMASS Minutemen 28, Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 38
Thank you, Chants, for delivering the Sun Belt’s highest quality victory in Week One. That’s right. Coastal Carolina, playing as a FBS program for the very first time, was the only SBC program to best and FBS opponent. The conference was so impressed, it even made RB Osharmar Abercrombie (149 yards, 2 TDs) the SBC Offensive Player of the Week.
Next Up: UAB
Southeastern Louisiana Lions 48, Louisiana Ragin Cajuns, 51
So much for that crazy talk of the Cajuns sporting a tough defense. Louisiana surrendered six touchdowns to the Lions, three on the ground, and needed Joe Dillon to run into the house a 98-yard fumble ON A TWO POINT CONVERSION to secure a win for their in-state FCS opponent. Yuck! In all, the Lions racked of 514 yards of offense predicted by some (i.e. me) to be one of the best in the conference. My bad.
Next Up: @ Tulsa
Houston Baptist Huskies 11, Texas State Bobcats, 20
Twenty to eleven is a weird score, but at least the Bobcats avoided the Lone Star State’s amusing trend of absorbing crushing defeats this week. Mississippi State transfer Damion Williams averaged 4.8 yards per pass, finishing with 135 passing yards and zero TDs (though he did chip in 48 yards rushing and a score). You can’t learn too much from a win against Houston Baptist, tho.
Next Up: @ Colorado
Georgia Southern Eagles 7, Auburn Tigers 41
Is it too much to ask that a rebuilding Eagles team that’s starting a freshman QB to put up decent numbers away against the no. 12 team in the land? Yeah, it was. Auburn completely shut down Georgia Southern’s triple option, only surrendering Tomarcio Reese 22 Yd Fumble Return in the first quarter. QB Shai Werts was 4 for 8 passing for 8 (yes, eight) yards. More depressing, the freshman rushed 23 times for a net of 16 yards.
Next Up: New Hampshire
South Alabama Jaguars 27, Ole Miss Rebels 47
The magic that propelled the Jags to wins last season over 19 San Diego State and Mississippi State last year could not be summoned against an Ole Miss team in disarray. Some within Rebel Nation begrudged even allows South Bama 27 points, but the Jaguars’ real victory was possessing the ball – 31:51 vs 28:09. Victories are claimed where victories are available.
Next Up: @ Oklahoma State
Arkansas State Red Wolves 36, Nebraska Cornhuskers 43
The reforged offensive line performed well, QB Justice Hansen threw from 415 yards and 3 TDs, and the defense flashed bursts of brilliance, but the Red Wolves still came away from Lincoln with the L. Arkansas transfer Kendrick Edwards WR put up an even 100 yards and a score, and punt returner Blaise Taylor took one to the house. But with two seconds to go, and only a hand-full of yards to the end zone, Hansen’s pass was a bit too high for Edwards pull in, and the Cornhuskers avoided the upset.
Next Up: Miami (of FL)
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.