Sun Belt Week 3 Autopsy: Mostly Dead
The Sun Belt has endured it’s worst three week stretch in recent memory. Is the conference dead on arrival?
On Saturday night, The Vandals entered the 4th quarter with a 28-19 lead over Western Michigan. The Broncos are without all-world receiver Corey Davis, and P.J. Fleck is now rowing the boat with Minnesota, but knocking off the program that had gone toe-to-toe with Wisconsin’s in lat year’s Cotton Bowl would have been a very good win for Idaho. Larger picture, it would have been a very good win for the Sun Belt, who had, so far, exactly two wins over OOC FBS programs – Coastal Carolina’s victory over hapless Massachusetts, and New Mexico State’s triumph over rival New Mexico.
The Broncos won the game 34-28. Somehow, the Vandals suddenly had no answers for sophomore QB Jon Wassick, who scrambled for 22 yards for one score, then punched one in from a yard out for the go-ahead. Poof. No win for the Vandals.
The Sun Belt had already let opportunity slip from its fingers earlier that day, when Louisiana failed to hold a halftime lead over Texas A&M. In Monroe, ULM never saw a lead over visiting Southern Miss. And poor Georgia State was completely out of its league against Penn State.
Oh, the Sun Belt had victories – two, even, over FBS opponents. Does it matter that those defeated opponents were also Sun Belt teams? Appalachian State spent a surprising amount of effort to put Texas State away, and Troy managed to stave off New Mexico State. Two other wins came at the expense of overmatched FCS programs.
Overall, the Sun Belt is a lousy 9-18 versus non-Sun Belt opponents, with seven of those wins (and two of those losses) coming against FCS programs. That really sucks.
My friends, it is time to adopt some very, very serious concerns for the state of Sun Belt football.
Louisiana Ragin Cajuns 21, Texas A&M Aggies 45
It was a Tale of Two Louisianas. First Half Ragins pouring on 21 points in the 2nd quarter to take a stunning 21-14 lead over the Aggies. Texas A&M was not amused by the fan reception at halftime.
No worries, Aggie Fans! Second Half Cajuns were held scoreless for the remainder of the game as Texas A&M piled on 31 unanswered points, capped by a 67 yard TD run to seal the deal.
Next Up: ULM
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 23, UAB Blazers 30
The Chants lost the Battle of Teams That Didn’t Play FBS Football in 2016, falling to the Blazers despite Osharmar Abercrombie 75 yards and two TDs. The quarter-by-quarter stat line for Coastal Carolina is pretty fascinating:
2 3 8 10
Yep. We’re reduced to marveling at oddly numbered stat lines in the Sun Belt.
Next Up: Western Illinois
Appalachian State Mountaineers 20, Texas State Bobcats 13
What should have been a thumping for the Mountaineers turned into a triumph over an unexpectedly stout Bobcat defense. Texas State actually led 10-7 at the half with Mississippi State transfer QB Damian Williams turning in his best performance of the year (23/35, 260, 1 TD). But Appalachian State robbed us of the chaos of a Bobcats win by slogging out a win. Big question? What the heck is going on with Jalin Moore (9 carries for 14 yards)?
Next Up for Appalachian State: Wake Forrest
Next Up for Texas State: UTSA
UAPB Golden Lions 3, Arkansas State Red Wolves 48
Junior QB Justice Hansen tied a school record with 5 TD passes to lead the Red Wolves over the Golden Lions. RB Warren Wand recorded 6.9 yards per carry, which was #nice.
Next Up: SMU
Idaho Vandals 28, Western Michigan Broncos 37
The defense, which is not exactly and Vandal selling point, collapsed in the fourth quarter to give the Broncos the win. Matt Linehan had three TDs. I already talked about it enough.
Next Up: South Bama
Alabama A&M Bulldogs 0, South Alabama Jaguars 45
South Bama destroyed the Bulldogs more thoroughly than Vanderbilt (42-0). Now that’s a victory for the Sun Belt! I’m calling it a victory.
Next Up: Idaho
Southern Miss Golden Eagles 28, ULM Warhawks 17
Defeating CUSA is an unwritten mandate scribbled somewhere in the Sun Belt bylaws. I swear its somewhere. Look in the Super Dome basement. Anyway, the combined might of Caleb Evans and Garret Smith produced 112 passing yards and zero touchdowns. Weirdly, Evans was ULMs second leading rusher with 90 yards and two TDs.
Next Up: Louisiana
Georgia State Panthers 0, 5 Penn State Nittany Lions Fifty-Freaking-Six
I had the privilege of catching much of this needless slaughter at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Jonesboro. It was, like, on five huge screens. Conner Manning threw 3 INTs and the Georgia State offense managed to eek out 320 yards. Don’t let the zero points take anything away from Taz Bateman’s 100 yard rushing day, tho.
Next Up: Charlotte
Troy Trojans 27, New Mexico State Aggies 24
Because the Sun Belt loves weird football numbers, the Aggies outscored the Trojans 8-0 in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t quite pull off the victory in Las Cruces. Brandon Silvers (finally) notched a couple TD passes, (finally) finding Deondre Douglas for 101 yards and a score. As expected, it was the Trojans defense that mattered most, keeping the Aggies under 30 points for the first time this season.
Next Up for Troy: Akron
Next Up for New Mexico State: UTEP
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.