The Sun Belt was, once again, not short on drama in the fifth week of action. That paved the way for some fascinating story lines to emerge as a result.
To kick things off, Coastal Carolina broke out the heroics in a win against Georgia Southern that saw CJ Beasley leap a defender for the winning score. Since the start of the 2020 season, the Chants are 27-3, tying them with the Georgia Bulldogs for the second-best record in all of FBS during that stretch.
Then, South Alabama picked up their first-ever win in Lafayette to continue their push for a division title.
James Madison was dominant in a win against Texas State and continued to be the league’s best scoring offense and scoring defense. App State and Marshall had little trouble dispatching FCS opponents. Arkansas State looked solid in a win against ULM.
Meanwhile, Georgia State looked the best they have this year dispatching Army. Troy had something of a storybook ending in a win against Western Kentucky
Finally, Old Dominion didn’t quite have enough in a home game against Liberty.
This is what made me pay attention over the weekend.
Georgia State Is Finally In The Win Column
Despite leading Army 17-0 at the half, the Panthers’ first win of the season ended up needing a second-half push to put it away. The ground game and the defense saw to that.
Senior running back Tucker Gregg’s 57-yard touchdown run was the 20th of his career, making him the GSU career record holder for rushing touchdowns. With 16 carries, Gregg also became the Panthers’ all-time leader with 389 career rushing attempts. Gregg needs about 250 more rushing yards to become the program’s career record holder in that category as well.
Defensively, Georgia State forced a disciplined Army team to commit three turnovers with two fumble recoveries and an interception. This was in addition to four fourth down stops against the Army offense.
“We still have a long way to go, but what you saw out there today was what I had envisioned for our first four contests,” head coach Shawn Eliott said postgame.
Veteran Leadership Has Troy In A Good Spot
A few weeks ago, Troy linebacker Carlton Martial became the Sun Belt’s career leader in tackles. After Troy’s weekend victory over Western Kentucky, his career total has risen to 487. He needs 59 more tackles to become the FBS career leader in tackles. At his current pace, it’s hard to imagine Martial not hitting that mark before the end of the season.
Also on the defensive side of the ball, third-year sophomore defensive end T.J. Jackson leads the Sun Belt with 7.5 tackles for loss.
On offense, senior quarterback Jarret Doege entered the season as the active leader in career passing yards (10,494) and passing touchdowns (79). Despite that, he lost the QB1 battle at Western Kentucky and subsequently transferred to Troy where he has been backing up Gunnar Watson. In Saturday’s win, Watson went down with an injury in the fourth quarter.
Doege stepped in and did a phenomenal job, completing seven passes on eight attempts with two touchdown passes, plus 71 yards through the air. Jon Sumrall has indicated that Watson’s return this week is likely, but Doege has shown he has the tools in his game to lead the Trojans should he be called on again.
“I pride myself on preparing to be the best player on the field. I just had a little feeling all week that this is going to be my time. I mean, you can’t write it any better. I just kept preparing and waiting for my opportunity and took advantage,” Doege said postgame.
The Trojans are 3-2 and 1-1 in conference play to start the year.
This Could Be South Alabama’s Best Team Ever
South Alabama did need a 43-yard game winner from kicker Diego Guajardo to get a win over the defending Sun Belt champions at Louisiana. Even so, given their wins and the level of competition that they’re facing, this Jaguars’ team is making their case for a place in the USA record books.
In the program’s early days following its inception in 2009, the Jags had plenty of wins, but they came against teams from the FCS and below. Since they became an FBS member in 2013, the Jags have only won six games three times. They’re up to four wins already with a real shot to finish the month of October with bowl eligibility clinched.
Still, it shows that this team can still get better. Kane Wommack said as much, postgame. Saturday marked the first time that the Jaguars have not scored at least 30 points in a game this season.
“It’s a great feeling to go into the bye week at 4-1 with our best football ahead of us,” Wommack stated. “The challenge for this team will be having the target on our chest, we said we had to come down here and take something from Louisiana and we did. The standard is now in Mobile, and we have to continue to work to keep that and not just in games but in practices. I am excited to see where we go from here.”