Week two is officially over and it was another exciting weekend in the Fun Belt. We had two scheduled byes (Coastal Carolina and Georgia State) while Arkansas State and ULM had their games canceled due to Hurricane Irma. It was a light schedule but we learned a lot this weekend. We’re starting to separate the contenders from pretenders as we enter week three.
Aggies Are Real
For the second consecutive game, NMSU accumulated 500 yards of offense led by quarterback Tyler Rogers in the upset win over New Mexico. Rogers tossed for 401 yards and four touchdown passes last night in Albuquerque. He is now fifth nationally in passing yardage as this offense has been razor sharp in its first two contests. Rogers already has 114 pass attempts on the season and has only thrown two interceptions. That’s really solid and the senior from Arizona has been the best player in the Sun Belt in the first two weeks.
Rogers is currently spraying the ball all over the yard as six different NMSU receivers have at least six receptions. Jaleel Scott has been a monster early in the season as he has 16 grabs for 240 yards and three scores. Meanwhile, sophomore Izaiah Lottie has two receptions for two touchdowns. That’s pretty efficient.
The rushing game is off to a slow start, but senior Larry Rose III started to return to form in the second half last night. With as potent as this passing game is, running lanes are going to be wide open and Rose will have the chance to produce some gaudy numbers as the season progresses.
The defense has been giving up yards and points, but they are finding ways to make negative plays. For the year, the Aggies have posted 18 tackles for loss. Malik Demby has led the way from his defensive back position with 5.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. NMSU has also posted eight sacks while forcing four turnovers on the year.
We’ll learn a lot about Doug Martin’s squad when they host Troy this Saturday night, but it’s looking very likely that this is a squad that can contend for the Sun Belt title this fall. The Aggies should break that brutal postseason drought in 2017.
Trouble in Statesboro
Due to Hurricane Irma, Georgia Southern moved their home opener to Birmingham where they would host FCS New Hampshire at Legion Field. We were suppose to see the option offense get back on track as Southern would pick up their first victory of the season.
It would be ugly as the new offense under offensive coordinator Bryan Cook’s offense has only accumulated 303 yards on 104 carries in 2017. That’s good for a 2.9 average. For an offense that is completely built on running the football, that is not good.
It’s been a rough start for starting quarterback Shai Werts. The redshirt freshman is leading the team in rushing but is only averaging 2.6 yards per carry. The passing game is not much better as Werts is only averaging 3.4 yards per attempt and has thrown two interceptions to go with only 101 yards passing. Summers and Cook have decided not to try another option at quarterback.
The defense has flashed some good signs this season and they kept Georgia Southern in the game against New Hampshire on Saturday. Logan Hunt has been very disruptive early on the defensive line as he’s posted four tackles for loss and two sacks. But when you have an offense this bad, there is only so much a defense can do.
It’s a rough spot for Summers as this was a big year this season. His record now stands at 5-9 since taking over in Statesboro and fans are very reasonably livid. The Eagles have a bye week to figure some things out before consecutive road trips to Indiana and Arkansas State.
Idaho and UL-Lafayette Have Issues
Both the Vandals and the Cajuns were entering the weekend after questionable home victories against FCS competition. They both had significant non-conference games that would be used as measuring sticks. Both programs have a long way to go.
Idaho was hosting UNLV a week after the Rebels suffered the biggest upset in college football history. The Vandals entered the game as about a touchdown favorite and were looking to ride a 2-0 record into their road trip to Western Michigan.
After impressive performance in the opener, Paul Petrino’s defense was toasted for 351 yards on the ground and 550 total yards as UNLV dropped the hammer in the Kibbie Dome. The third quarter would be the difference as UNLV would drop 24 points and enter the fourth leading by a score of 34-10.
The offense for Idaho has struggled out of the gate as Matt Linehan is only throwing for 212 yards per game and has tossed three interceptions. The passing game is trying to find weapons on the outside and they’re laboring a little bit right. For a defense that was suppose to be much improved, Saturday night was a letdown performance.
Meanwhile, UL-Lafayette brought in offensive coordinator Will Hall to call the shots and the Cajuns are posting up some monster numbers. The Cajuns are averaging 46.5 points per game while currently having a 7.2 yards per play average. Jordan Davis is completing 60% of his passes and freshmen running backs Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas are combining to average 165 yards per game on the ground at a 9.7 yards per carry clip. From having one of the worst offenses in the Sun Belt the last two seasons, this group looks like it may be the best in the league.
However, the defense has really struggled to work with this new offensive style as they are giving 57 points per game. They were gutted by Tulsa running back D’Angelo Brewer as they are giving up six yards per carry to opponents. They are forcing turnovers but not doing much else.
Mark Hudspeth definitely need to fix this squads offensive issues and he has done that. But is it going to be worth? It appears the bottom has completely fallen out for the defense.