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November 29, 2012

Sun Belt Week 14

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Publishers from across the Rivals.com network give their picks on final week of the 2012 season in the Sun Belt Conference.

Who's playing

About the game

Our pick

at

The conference might not have an official conference championship game, but the winner of this game will get the trophy.  The Red Wolves are red hot and give the Blue Raiders their second conference loss and fourth overall.
at Louisiana-Lafayette is already in a post season bowl but looking to pick up their eighth win of the season.  The Cajuns roll as they prepare for the New Orleans Bowl.
at Not eligible for a conference title or post season due to being in the transition from FCS, this game is the Jaguar's de facto Bowl.  It's a long way out to the islands and a longer way back with their 11th loss of 2012.

Team News and Notes

Arkansas State Red Wolves

A-State extended its winning streak to six games with its 41-34 road victory over Troy . . . The Red Wolves have now won their last eight Sun Belt Conference road games, its longest streak in school history as a member of any league . . . A-State has won 14 of its last 15 conference games dating back to the 2011 season, including its last six in a row . . . ASU has won 18 games since the start of the 2011 season, its most over a 2-year span since 1974-75 . . . The Red Wolves have won eight games in a season for the 12th time in school history and will finish the year with at least six Sun Belt victories for the second time ever (8 in 2011) . . . Senior QB Ryan Aplin broke the Sun Belt Conference record for career passing yards during the Troy game, finishing with a season-high 369 yards to push his four-year total to 10,307 and move him past FAU's Rusty Smith (10,112 yards from 2006-09) . . . Aplin also finished the game with a school-record 454 yards total offense and recorded a career-high four passing touchdowns to match the most by an SBC player this year and the second most in A-State history . . . Senior wide receiver Taylor Stockemer posted six receptions for 117 yards, both season highs, and one touchdown to give him a school-record 16 career receiving scores . . . Redshirt freshman wide receiver J.D. McKissic matched his season high for receptions with 12 and now has 34 catches over the last three game. McKissic also racked up a season-high 138 receiving yards . . . Senior LB Nathan Herrold recorded a team-high 10 tackles against the Trojans, giving him four games this season and seven for his career with double-figure stops. He now needs only one more tackle to become the first ASU player to record 100 in a season since the 2007 campaign . . . Head coach Gus Malzahn has recorded the second most victories ever by a head coach in his first season at Arkansas State with seven. Out of 28 all-time head coaches at A-State, Malzahn is one of just five to win at least six games in his first season.

Florida Atlantic Owls

The Florida Atlantic University football team found itself on the losing end of an offensive shootout against rival FIU, falling 34-24 in a nationally televised contest Friday, November 16, at the FAU Stadium.

Senior quarterback Graham Wilbert threw for 403 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.

 FAU (3-8, 2-5 Sun Belt) will close the 2012 season, the first under the direction of head coach Carl Pelini, at home against the University of Louisiana on December 1, at 3 p.m. FAU, which will honor its 2012 senior class, holds a 5-2 all-time series lead, but fell to the Cajuns in 2011 37-34.

 FAU will bid farewell to seniors like offensive lineman Andy Czuprynski, who has started the last 35-consecutive games and Graham Wilbert who used his senior campaign to solidify himself as one of the top-four quarterbacks in FAU's history. David Hinds will play in his last FAU game. Hinds has been a team leader the last two seasons and has ranked among the league leaders in each season. In all, 14 seniors will bid farewell to a program that they have been instrumental in rebuilding.

FIU Panthers

With the 2012 season now complete, FIU says goodbye to nearly 30 student-athletes who spent the past four to five seasons wearing the blue and gold. Four seniors, Chuck Grace, Junior Mertile, Andre Pound and Jacob Younger, witnessed the opening day of FIU Stadium versus a nationally-ranked South Florida Bulls squad on September 20, 2008, while seniors who arrived for the 2009 season were the first Panthers to experience the amenities of the beautiful state-of-the-art R. Kirk Landon Fieldhouse, a spacious home locker room, massive weight room complex, dedicated football sports medicine facility, individualized position film rooms and grand team meeting room.

Against ULM, the FIU defense held the Warhawks to a season-low 235 total offensive yards, 106 yards less than their next lowest output. The Panthers also held ULM to season-low nine rushing yards and quarterback Kolton Browning to a season-low two rushing yards. Browning's 218 passing yards was his second lowest in the 10 full games he played in 2012.

 Seniors Johnathan Cyprien (S), Rupert Bryan, Jr. (OT), Winston Fraser (LB) and Tourek Williams (DE) each finished their respective collegiate careers with the most starts at their positions at FIU. Senior Jose Cheeseborough had the second-most starts at cornerback.

 Despite nagging injuries at quarterback and runningback throughout the season, the 2012 team still put up some top program-comparable offensive numbers, including: No. 3 in rushing yards (1,744), No. 2 in rushing attempts (489), No. 2 in rushing TDs (20), No. 1 in passing yards (2,861), No. 2 in passing TDs (17), No. 2 in passing efficiency (136.4), No. 3 in total offensive yards (4,605) and No. 2 in total offense per game (383.8)

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

Louisiana-Lafayette closed the 2012 regular season this week, traveling to Boca Raton, Fla. to face Florida Atlantic on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 3:00 p.m. EST.

 The Cajuns are coming off a 52-30 win over South Alabama on Saturday, a win that improved the Cajuns record to 8-4 on the year and 5-2 in Sun Belt games. A win over the Owls will allow the Cajuns to finish in a second place tie in the final league standings.

Following the South Alabama win, Louisiana-Lafayette accepted an invitation to play a Conference USA school in the 2012 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 22 in New Orleans. After ending a 41-year bowl-less stretch last year, the Cajuns will appear in bowls in back-to-back years for the first time in program history.

The win over South Alabama improved the Cajuns to 5-1 at home this year and 10-1 in the two seasons under head coach Mark Hudspeth.

Senior Harry Peoples continued his remarkable senior campaign, making five catches for 166 yards and a touchdown. In his last five games, Peoples has made 41 catches for 513 yards and three touchdowns to move into fourth in the Sun Belt in both catches (60) and yards (772).

Kicker Brett Baer was perfect on all seven extra point attempts to break the school records for career extra points made (112) and attempted (119). He surpassed Drew Edmiston, who was 108-for-114 from 2006-08.

 Quarterback Terrance Broadway was 11-for-19 for 305 yards passing, his third 300-yard passing game of the season. Broadway ranks fourth in Cajuns history in total offense in a season (2,896) and is sixth in passing yards (2,358).

ULM Warhawks

ULM closed the regular-season on a two-game win streak to improve to 8-4 overall and 6-2 in the Sun Belt Conference... The eight wins by the Warhawks are the most of the FBS-era (1994-pres.) and the last time the squad won eight or more games was during the final year of FCS (1-AA) play in 1993 (9-3).

 With the 23-17 win over FIU on Saturday night, the Warhawks improved to 6-2 all-time against the Panthers (the 2005 win by FIU was later vacated)... The meeting in Miami between the two schools was the final meeting as conference members as FIU will join Conference USA beginning next season.

The overtime game against FIU was the fourth overtime contest of the season for the Warhawks... ULM finished with a 3-1 mark in overtime games during the 2012 regular season.

 ULM is now 8-3 in overtime games and the squad only played seven OT games prior to this season (1996, 1997 [2], 2002, 2007, 2010, 2011).

 Senior Brent Leonard moved within one reception of Mack Vincent's career mark of 203 receptions as he caught 13 passes for 98 yards at FIU... Leonard's final catch of the night came in overtime and his 15-yard TD reception gave ULM a 23-17 win... Vincent and Leonard are the only two Warhawks to ever tally 200 or more receptions in a career.

 Leonard pushed his season reception total to 97 with his 13 grabs at FIU and is now third in the Sun Belt Conference record books (single-season).

At FIU, Kolton Browning finished 31-of-38 for 218 yards with one passing touchdown and one rushing touchdown... Browning's first quarter TD run was the 16th of his career and it gave ULM an early 7-0 lead... His 15-yard TD pass to Leonard in overtime was the 27th TD pass of the season for the junior and 58th of his career.

 With 27 TD passes on the season, Browning is just two-shy of tying the single-season ULM record... Robert Cobb holds the record after tossing 29 TD passes durring the 1993 season.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Freshman Jordan Parker set a school record with a 98-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter against Troy. That broke the previous long run of 92 yards by Jim Bostic against WKU in 1941. The 98-yard run also went down as the longest in the history of the Sun Belt, breaking the previous mark of 89 yards set by Tyrell Fenroy of ULL vs. ULM on Oct. 4, 2008. Parker broke Middle Tennessee's single-season freshman rushing record with his 144 yards against Troy. Parker now has 778 yards on the year and surpassed the previous record of 735 yards set by Eugene Gross in 2003. Parker recorded his third straight 100-yard rushing game with 144 yards against Troy. Parker is the first Raider to have three consecutive games with 100 or more yards since D.D. Kyles in 2009.

Redshirt freshman Kevin Byard had a career-best two interceptions against Troy but none bigger than the one he hauled in late in the fourth quarter. With under six minutes to play and MT trailing, 21-16, Byard stepped in front of a Corey Robinson pass and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown. It went down as the sixth longest return in school history. Byard now has a team-best four interceptions on the season.

Carlos Lopez hit his 17th field goal of the season and that ranks as tied for the second most in a single-season at MT (18 is record).

North Texas Mean Green

North Texas finished with its second straight winning season at Apogee Stadium. It is the first time since 2003 and 2004 that the Mean Green has had back-to-back winning seasons at home.

 North Texas has more wins in the last two seasons than the previous four seasons combined. The Mean Green defense allowed the fewest points a game since the 2006 season.

 North Texas hit the 2,000 yard rushing mark for the season. It was only the 18th time in school history that North Texas has rushed for 2,000 yards a team.  

The Mean Green defense held four opponents to 14 points or less this season, the most in a single season since 2003.

For the season, North Texas finished with 4,731 yards of total offense, which is the fourth most in school history. It is the sixth straight season that North Texas has had 4,000 yards of total offense, which is a school record.

 Quarterback Derek Thompson finished with 2,649 passing yards on the year, which is the fourth most yards in a single season.

 North Texas allowed just six sacks the entire season and in nine of the 12 games the Mean Green offensive line did not allow a single sack

South Alabama Jaguars

USA's game at Hawai'i Saturday will be its final contest of 2012, completing the program's two-year transition to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision level. It marks the first time in school history that the Jags will finish the year away from home, as well as will the first time they will play a game in December in four seasons. It's also the first non-Sun Belt Conference game for the Jaguars since visiting nationally-ranked Mississippi State on Sept. 22, and the first time they will play back-to-back road games since visiting North Carolina State on Sept. 15 and MSU the following week. QB Ross Metheny recorded school records for completions, passing yards and yards of total offense in Saturday's game at Louisiana-Lafayette after he completed 27-of-44 attempts for 360 yards with a career-high-tying two touchdowns and no interceptions. It's the first time in USA history that an individual has thrown for 300 or more yards and completed 25-plus passes, as his efforts helped the Jaguars record their second-highest offensive output of the season with 414 total yards while averaging nearly six yards per play. It was the fourth time in the last five games that the junior has posted at least 200 yards through the air, and the first time he has thrown for multiple touchdowns since USA's game at Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 27. Chapuseaux tied a career high with three field goals, connecting from 45, 33 and 50 yards out in the second quarter, finishing with 12 points in last week's matchup with Louisiana-Lafayette. With the effort - his third outing the fall with a double-digit point total - the senior set a school season record with 83 points while taking over the Sun Belt lead with 20 field goals this season. Two of the senior's six kickoffs went for touchbacks, as his efforts helped USA's coverage unit allow just over 20 yards per return. Scott had six total tackles - including five unassisted - with one behind the line of scrimmage, and he also forced a recovered a fumble in the second quarter of the Jaguars' game at UL-Lafayette to account for the defense's only takeaway of the day. It was the eighth time in the last nine outings that Scott has been credited with at least five stops, while the tackle for loss was his first since USA visited Louisiana-Monroe Oct. 27. Senior ILB Jake Johnson paced the Jags with nine stops in the ULL contest, the second straight game - and seventh occasion this season - that he has been the team's top tackler. He was credited with an assist behind the line of scrimmage against the Ragin' Cajuns, giving him at least one stop for loss in every outing this fall; he ranks fourth in the league with 1.17 per contest.

Troy Trojans

Corey Robinson became the first Troy quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards in his first three seasons, as well as one of three active quarterbacks in the country to throw for over 3,000 yards in their first three seasons as a starter; joining Georgia' s Aaron Murray and Oklahoma's Landry Jones.

 For the first time in school history, the Trojans had a 3,000 yard passer (Corey Robinson), a 1,000-yard rusher (Shawn Southward) and a 1,000 yard receiver (Chip Reeves) in a single season.

 Deon Anthony became the 16th Troy player to catch a pass this season with a 12-yard reception from Corey Robinson.

 Anthony recorded his eighth rushing touchdown of the year with a six-yard run in the fourth quarter

 Corey Robinson's touchdown pass to Eric Thomas, was the 63rd touchdown in the junior's career, passing former Troy quarterback Mike Turk (1984-87) for second place in school history for touchdowns responsible for. 

Junior Jarod Lee picked up first career touchdown with a 4-yard reception from Deon Anthony in the third quarter to give the Trojans a 14-13 lead.

 Shawn Southward picked up fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season against Middle Tennessee and became the first Trojan since DeWhitt Betterson in 2004 to accomplish that feat; Southward finishes his Troy career third in school history in rushing attempts (545) and rushing yards (2,773) and second in career rushing touchdowns (33).

Wide receiver Chip Reeves finished his career with seventh all-time in career receptions (121) and in receiving yards (1,968).

The Trojans held Middle Tennessee scoreless on it's opening drive; marking the eighth time in 12 games the Trojans did not allow an opponent to score on its first possession.

WKU Hilltoppers

WKU scored 15 unanswered fourth-quarter points to come back for a 25-24 victory over North Texas Saturday on Senior Day at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.

 The Hilltoppers finished the regular season with a 7-5 record for the second straight year. That guarantees WKU of back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2006 and 2007.

 Running back Antonio Andrews finished with 230 rushing yards on 25 carries - his second straight game with over 200 yards on the ground, and third such performance this season. With 1,609 yards on the year, Andrews now ranks fourth on WKU's single-season rushing list and is just the fifth player in Hilltopper history to post a 1,500-yard season. In fact, it is the third straight year WKU has produced a 1,500-yard rusher as Bobby Rainey finished with 1,649 yards in 2010 and a school record 1,695 yards in 2011. Andrews also finished with 323 all-purpose yards in the contest (230 rushing, 12 receiving, 68 KO return, 13 punt return). He has now gone over 300 all-purpose yards in four straight games, racking up 1,397 yards over that stretch. With 2,977 all-purpose yards this season, he ranks third on the NCAA single-season list behind Pacific's Ryan Benjamin (2,995 yards in 1991) and Oklahoma State's Barry Sanders (3,250 yards in 1988). Andrews is just 274 yards away from breaking Sanders' single-season record set during his Heisman-Trophy winning campaign.

 WKU becomes the 5th program in NCAA history to have a 1,500-yard rusher in three consecutive seasons, joining Oregon (2009-11), Northern Illinois (2002-06), Marshall (1993-95) and USC (1978-81).

 Senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes threw a first-quarter touchdown to Jack Doyle, marking his 50th career TD pass. That ties the school record set by Justin Haddix from 2003-06.

 Andrew Jackson finished with a game-high 15 tackles to lead the Hilltopper defense. It was the sixth time in the last eight games that Jackson has posted double-digit stops, and gave him a new career high with 116 tackles on the season.



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