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Three things we learned in the Sun Belt: Week Four

UL-Lafayette has the worst defense in the FBS.

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - Southern Miss v Louisiana Lafayette
Mark Hudspeth’s squad better figure out some answers during the bye week.
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

We’ve played four weeks of football and this past Saturday was another crazy one in the Sun Belt. We saw ULM pick up the biggest win of the Matt Viator era while Troy avoided a huge potential home upset. Appalachian State let one slip away against Wake Forest and Texas State was crushed by their heated rival. It’s fair to say that the entire league has a long way to go.

Cajuns have the worst defense in the country

Entering 2017, it looked like the UL-Lafayette defense ran by Mike Lucas was going to be one of the better groups in the Sun Belt. The Cajuns had a ton of experience coming back on the defensive line and Joe Dillon figured to be the top pass rusher in the conference. The secondary had a ton of potential and it was expected that this group would lead the way as new offensive coordinator Will Hall brought in a new scheme.

Well, that hasn’t worked out.

The Cajuns are scoring points in bunches, but there defense is just not getting stops as Mark Hudspeth’s squad is off to a 1-3 start to begin 2017. For the season, UL-Lafayette is last in scoring defense allowing 53.8 points per game. Opponents are averaging right at seven yards per play as they are getting gashed both on the ground and in the air.

It hit rock bottom for the program on Saturday as ULM sophomore quarterback Caleb Evans had a career day as he threw for 343 yards on 34 attempts and ran for 129 yards on 16 carries. The Warhawks dropped 43 points on the Cajuns in regulation and would go onto win in double overtime at Cajun Field.

UL-Lafayette is having a really difficult time getting their defense to keep up with the hurry up offense that is currently running under Hall. It’s obvious at this point that some schematic changes must be made as the squad enters a bye week before they head out to Moscow to take on Idaho.

Joey Jones is feeling the heat

It was a 50/50 game this past Saturday when South Alabama fell to Idaho at home. The game went to double overtime where the Vandals would squeak out a 29-23 win. The Jags fell to 1-3 to start the season and Jones made an interesting move by dismissing offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent on Monday morning. Per Jones, it was a mutual agreement and a move both parties believed made sense going forward. However, on the surface, it seems fishy.

South Alabama was totally retooling the passing game in 2017 so the expectations were not great for this offense. The Jags laid an egg against Oklahoma State but have been serviceable in their other contests. This may have been a move out of frustration as South lost a huge home game against Idaho and seem to be wasting solid defensive efforts.

Jones has yet to post a winning season since taking over in Mobile and the Jags have lost at least six games in four consecutive seasons. Jones is entering his ninth year overall and this is a program that many think could be a powerhouse in the Sun Belt. This move seems to be one out of desperation and South needs a spark if they are to get back to the postseason. If it’s another losing season, we could see a coaching change coming as soon as this season ends.

Georgia State shows improvement

In week one, no team looked worse than Georgia State as they were thoroughly outplayed by FCS Tennessee State in their home opener. The Panthers looked to be in some big trouble and first year head coach Shawn Elliott had a lot of work to do.

Fast forward a few weeks later and the Panthers are improving. GSU picked up their first road win since 2015 as they beat Charlotte to collect a nice non-conference win. It was the second game in a row that the Panthers ran for over 100 yards as Glenn Smith led the way with 90 yards on 31 carries on Saturday. The yards per carry numbers are still ugly, but it’s clear that Elliott and offensive coordinator Travis Trickett are laying the foundation for how this offense will operate in the future.

The defense pitched a shutout for the first time since joining FBS as they held Charlotte to 94 yards rushing and only 273 total yards. The defense produced two takeaways and the win here will allow GSU to carry some momentum into Sun Belt play.

After a brutal start, this was a very nice bounce back for Shawn Elliott.