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Football: Team News & Notes for Week of September 7th, 2009

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Football: Team News & Notes for Week of September 7th, 2009

Sun Belt Conference Team News & Notes for Week of September 7th, 2009

Arkansas State Red Wolves

ASU won its fifth consecutive home opener with a 61-0 victory over Mississippi Valley State , improving to 7-1 all-time in home openers at ASU Stadium under head coach Steve Roberts .  The Red Wolves improved to 27-8 at ASU Stadium under Roberts and picked up their fourth consecutive home victory.   ASU won its season opener for the third time over the last four years.  ASU shutout an opponent for the first time since defeating Florida Atlantic 3-0 in three overtimes in 2005, a span of 41 games.  The Red Wolves’ 61 points were their most scored since hanging 83 on Texas Southern in their second game of the 2008 season .

Senior quarterback Corey Leonard became ASU’s all-time leader in total offense, finishing the game with a combined 136 rushing and passing yards to push his total to 7,433 career yards.  Leonard became just the second player in ASU history and sixth in SBC history to record over 6,000 career passing yards (6,032).

Senior running back Reggie Arnold scored a career-high four rushing touchdowns that tied the third most in school history and second most in Sun Belt history.  Arnold posted his 15th career 100-yard rushing game, tying the second most in school history.

Arkansas State will play nationally-ranked Nebraska for the first time ever Saturday, making the Huskers the 10th Big 12 opponent all-time for ASU, which picked up an 18-14 victory at Texas A&M last season for its first ever win against a member of the league.

Nebraska will be the ninth ASU opponent ranked at the time of a game with the Red Wolves under head coach Steve Roberts.  The Cornhuskers will be the third ranked opponent from the Big 12 a Steve Roberts coached ASU team will play, most recently catching then-ranked No. 4 Texas in a 21-13 setback to open the 2007 season and the other being then-ranked No. 17 Missouri in 2004.

Florida Atlantic Owls

Florida Atlantic University’s football team faced its 17th opponent ranked among the countries top 25 last Saturday. It was the second-consecutive season the Owls have opened with a team ranked among the top-25.

While the outcome was not what the squad had practiced prepare for, there were several positives that could be taken from the game. Seven new starters took to the field including a trio of new linebackers.  Michael Lockley, who steps into the shoes of Frantz Joseph who led the SBC in total tackles the last two seasons and was listed No. 2 nationally, led the team with nine total tackles. He combined with Edward Bradwell and Malik Eugene for 21 of the team’s 60 tackles.

Offensively, sophomore Alfred Morris moved to running back from fullback during the spring. Morris made good of the move by tallying 85 yards in his college debut at tailback (18-85). The offensive line also put in a hard night’s work facing one of the nation’s premiere nose tackles.  The line provided openings for the Morris runs and protected both Rusty Smith and Jeff Van Camp who were not sacked and completed 20 of 41 passes.

FAU will have a bye week to prepare for its next opponent South Carolina . It will mark the second meeting between the two schools.

FIU Golden Panthers

2008 was a turnaround season for FIU. After the four win improvement over 2007’s record, several FIU players are being recognized among the best in the nation. TY Hilton received even more accolades recently, being named to the Belitnikoff Award Watchlist. He joins center Brad Serini, who was named to the Rimmington Award Preseason Watchlist, as Panthers receiving preseason accolades

FIU’s talented crop of returners, which includes 10 of 11 offensive starters, along with the highly-touted group of incoming players will be put to the test immediately as the Panthers travel to Tuscaloosa for a matchup with perennial Southeastern Conference power Alabama . The Crimson Tide is coming off an impressive 34-24 victory over No.7 Virginia Tech. The Alabama defense allowed just 155 yards of total offense.

This isn’t the first time FIU has made its way to the unfriendly confines of Bryant -Denny Stadium. The Panthers played the Crimson Tide on October 28, 2006 in front of 92,138 fans. In that game, FIU took the first lead with a 37-yard Dustin Rivest field goal. However, it was all Crimson Tide from then on as Alabama rolled to a 38-3 victory.

Several current members of FIU’s team were on that 2006 squad and saw action in the game. Daunte Owens returned five kicks in that game for a total of 72 yards. Quarterback Paul McCall threw two passes, completing one of them. On the other side of the ball, Tyler Clawson and Jeremiah Weatherspoon each recorded three tackles.

Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns

The Cajuns start the season with a pair of home games vs. for the first time since 1989.  Kansas State ’s trip to Cajun Field marks the only BCS automatic qualifying school to visit the state of Louisiana for a non-conference game in 2009.  The Wildcats defeated UMass in their season opener by a final score of 21-17.

The Cajuns hosted 41,357 for their home-opener vs. Southern .  The crowd was the largest in Cajun Field and Sun Belt home venue history.  UL now holds the top two largest single-game home-field crowds in the SBC.  Four of the top 15 attendance marks in the 38-year history of Cajun Field have occurred since 2004.

Newly named starting quarterback Chris Masson had a terrific debut as a starter.  The Miami native completed 18-of-24 passes (75%) for 283 yards and two scores.  His 283 passing yards rank as the 24th most in a single game in school history.  Masson recorded an efficiency rating of 201.55, while adding five carries for 36 yards and a score.  The Cajuns 325 yards passing were the most since Jerry Babb went 29-of-45 for 334 yards at New Mexico State on 10/9/04.

UL had five touchdown drives of at least 80 yards in their season opener.

Wide receiver Richie Falgout has more career touchdown passes (4) than any of the Cajuns top three quarterbacks (Masson – 3, McGuire – 2, Gautier – 0).  Falgout’s career passing line is 4-of-4 for 110 yards and four touchdowns.  His career passing efficiency stands at 661.00.

The Cajuns running back corp entered the season with just 73 career carries for 283 yards (3.9ypc) and 3TD, but put up 32 carries for 146 yards (4.6ypc) and 2TD vs. Southern .

The Cajuns defense, who return nine full-time starters from last season’s defense and 13 players who started a game on defense in 2008 (Benoit, Bentley, Blount,  Brooks, Davis, Fleming, Lewis-Buchanan, McCoy, Richardson, Rogers, Washington, Williams and Zanders), collected three interceptions vs. Southern …It was the Cajuns first three INT game since Sept. 29, 2007.

Cajuns punter Spencer Ortego (career 39.0 yard-per-punt), boomed two punts vs. Southern for 108 yards (54.0 avg.), including one inside the Jaguars 20-yard line.

ULM Warhawks

The ULM Warhawks opened the season at No. 2 Texas this past weekend and despite losing the game 59-20, the Warhawks have many things to be proud of heading into the final 11 games of the season.

The Warhawks forced Texas into three turnovers, including a Otis Stamps interception of Heisman Trophy finalist Colt McCoy in the second quarter – he threw just eight all of last year. The three turnovers forced by the Warhawks are the most against a Texas team since a three turnover performance against Texas A&M on Nov. 23, 2007.

Sophomore wide receiver Luther Ambrose, who averaged 18.1 yards per touch last season, showed his big play ability again this season with 207 all-purpose yards on nine touches (23 per touch). He hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass from Trey Revell – the 75 yards covered eclipsed any play executed by the Warhawk offense all of last season.

Place kicker Radi Jabour got off to a nice start connecting on all four of his kicks – two field goals and two extra points.

Offensive linemen Emmanuel Lockett and Jonathan Gill and kickoff specialist Grant Clayton all made the first starts of their collegiate career against the Longhorns.

ULM opens the home portion of its schedule this upcoming Saturday against Texas Southern at 6 p.m.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Dwight Dasher finished with 204 yards through the air for his third-career 200-yard passing game. He completed 20-of-42 including a long of 43 yards to Blissard.

Senior receiver Chris McClover came up with his first career touchdown reception against Clemson. McClover came into the game with 14 career receptions that he set as a junior. The Ft. Lauderdale , Fla. , products score came on an 18-yard pass from Dwight Dasher.

Walk-on wide receiver Shane Blissard made his collegiate debut and turned in an impressive first effort. The former Oakland High School star caught a team-high tying four passes for a Blue Raider-best 68 yards and started the second half. On Middle Tennessee’s scoring drive to open the second half, Blissard reeled in two key receptions including a 43-yarder.

Senior defensive end Chris McCoy picked a good time to come up with his first collegiate touchdown. Early in the second quarter against Clemson, McCoy picked up a fumble by QB Willy Korn and went 68 yards untouched to the end zone to make the score 10-7, Tigers. It was McCoy’s fourth career fumble return and the first return for a touchdown by the Blue Raiders since Rod Issac went 42 yards on Oct. 20, 2007 against Arkansas State .

North Texas Mean Green

North Texas’ win at Ball State last week was just the second win in a season opener in the last 13 years.  Since the 1997 season, the Mean Green had been just 1-11 in season-opening games, with the only win coming at Middle Tennessee in 2005.  Eight of those 11 losses came at the hands of a Big XII Conference school, including Texas three times and Oklahoma three times.

The victory over Ball State was also a rare non-conference road win for the Mean Green, which had won just five of those games in the last 14 years before beating the Cardinals last week.  Technically speaking, the last non-conference road win for North Texas before last week was the 51-40 win at Western Kentucky last season when the Hilltoppers were in their last year of transitioning into the Sun Belt Conference.  Prior to that, the last non-conference road win was a 13-0 win at UL-Lafayette in 2000 when the Mean Green was a member of the Big West Conference.  There was also two wins at Texas Tech in 1999 and 1997 as well as a 24-21 win at Northern Illinois in 1996.  The trend that North Texas will try to break with this latest victory is that each of those previous four non-conference road wins came in losing seasons.

The 10 points that North Texas allowed Ball State last week was the lowest scoring output by a Mean Green opponent since it held Louisiana-Lafayette to seven points in a 16-7 win in 2006.  Over the past two years the North Texas defense allowed an average of 46.3 points per game and didn’t hold any opponent in 2008 below 33 points.

North Texas controlled the time of possession in the win over Ball State last week, holding the ball for 37:18 compared to just 22:42 for the Cardinals.  The second quarter was really lopsided when the Mean Green held the ball for 11:14 and Ball State just 3:46.  In that second quarter North Texas ran 27 plays compared to 10 for Ball State and had 142 yards compared to 30 for the Cardinals.

Troy Trojans

The Troy offense started the season on a high. The Trojans took the opening possession of the 2009 season against Bowling Green and needed just seven plays to drive 80 yards for a touchdown, using just 1:54 off the game clock. Troy scored on its opening possession six times during the 2008 season and had 21 touchdown drives of less than two minutes.

Troy senior QB Levi Brown completed his first seven pass attempts of 2009 against Bowling Green , hitting six different receivers. Overall, 10 different players had receptions in the game against BGSU. Last year, the Trojans led the nation with 22 different players credited with a reception.

Troy managed just 41 yards rushing, marking the ninth time since moving to the FBS that Troy has been held to fewer than 50 yards on the ground in a game. Since the start of the 2001 season, Troy has been held to less than 100 yards rushing in a game 31 times, but just five of those have come since the start of the 2007 season.

The Trojans held Bowling Green to just 50 net yards rushing in the season opener. For the Troy defense, it was the fewest rushing yards allowed in a game since holding North Texas to 26 on Oct. 20, 2007. Since moving to the FBS, Troy has held opposing teams to less than 100 yards rushing in a game 38 times, and to less than 50 yards in a game 12 times.

With four new starters in the Trojans’ secondary, Bowling Green was able to throw the ball with success in the opening game. In fact, BGSU quarterback Tyler Sheehan became just the sixth QB to pass for more than 300 yards in a game against Troy since the Trojans moved to the FBS in 2001.

WKU Hilltoppers

Ten of WKU’s 22 starters at Tennessee were on the field to start the game for the first time in their Hilltopper careers.  That number included seven first-time starters on the defensive side of the ball.  Brandon Smith also made his first start at quarterback.

Jihad Morris recorded a career and game-high 10 tackles at UT.  His previous high was eight last season at Kentucky .

True freshman Jamal Forrest made the start at one cornerback in his first collegiate game, and got his career off on the right foot by posting an interception on Tennessee ’s first offensive series of the game.  Forrest became the first WKU true freshman to pick off a pass in his debut since freshman cornerback Delvechio Walls picked off a pass in the 1995 season opener against Murray State .

Senior punter Jeremy Moore averaged 44.8 yards, and dropped two punts inside the 20 on Saturday.  Seven of his nine punts went for 41 yards or more, including kicks of 50 and 54 yards.  The 54-yard punt was two yards shy of his career high.

WKU will welcome South Florida to Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium on Saturday for the 2009 home opener, marking the first time a Big East school has faced the Hilltoppers in Bowling Green .  WKU played a four-game series with the Bulls from 1997-2000 when USF was beginning its football program.

The Hilltoppers are riding a streak of 13 straight wins in home openers enters Saturday’s date with USF.  They have also come out victories 19 of the last 20 seasons in the yearly debut at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Source:  Sun Belt Media Relations
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