The Sun Belt had itself a nice little Saturday in the second full week of the season.
Granted, it’s still early. A lot can happen. However, the Sun Belt is living up to high expectations for the year. Both Marshall and Appalachian State defeated teams ranked in the top ten with victories over #8 Notre Dame and #6 Texas A&M, respectively. Georgia Southern also added the first signature win of the Clay Helton era with a 45-42 victory against Nebraska.
Elsewhere, James Madison put up 63 on Norfolk State. Louisiana overcame a bad first half to keep their historic win streak alive. Carter Bradley and South Alabama also improved to 2-0. Coastal Carolina squeaked out a win at home against Gardner Webb thanks to five forced turnovers from their defense. ULM, Texas State, and Troy did what they were supposed to at home against bad opponents. Arkansas State, Georgia State, and Southern Miss have positives to take away from losses to P5 opponents. Finally, while Old Dominion also had some positives, they faltered in the fourth quarter with a loss at East Carolina.
Here were some general observations from the league this week.
All those upsets I mentioned above? They all came from teams in the Sun Belt East. This division showed why it was touted in the preseason as the best division in the G5.
Marshall kicked things off with their second-ever victory against a top ten opponent. As running back Rasheen Ali continues his leave of absence from the program, Florida State transfer Khalan Laborn has done a strong job in his stead. Laborn is up to 265 rushing yards on the season off of 43 carries. Sophomore Ethan Payne is also contributing with 124 yards on 16 carries.
On Marshall’s victory, Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill told Underdog Dynasty that “It exposes the whole country to how good Sun Belt football is. That’s really what we’re trying to do is spread the message about the quality of football we play in this league and wins like that really amplify that kind of knowledge and let people know that Sun Belt football is really good.”
Appalachian State controlled their game in College Station from the jump and were just a few small miscues away from blowing it wide open. Appalachian State picked up 22 first downs and allowed just nine to Texas A&M. Chase Brice threw for 134 yards on 15 completions out of 30 attempts. Camerun Peoples had 19 carries for 112 yards. Obviously, it was cause for celebration back in Boone.
Boone, NC is ELECTRIC after App State upset No. 6 Texas A&M 17-14— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 11, 2022
(via @KiukRyan) pic.twitter.com/LzQN3ktmdo
We’ll get another look at just how much Boone loves their Mountaineers next week when the campus hosts ESPN’s College Gameday.
Clay Helton implemented a more pro-style offense at Georgia Southern in the offseason - a process made easier by the Eagles’ addition of quarterback Kyle Vantrease. Vantrease threw the ball 56 times, completing 37 attempts with two interceptions, a touchdown, and 409 yards. The running game also chipped in five touchdowns, including one by Vantrease, and 233 yards. They made just a few more plays than Nebraska, got the win, and were Scott Frost’s last opponent as the leader of the Huskers.
Coastal Carolina and James Madison also picked up wins, though not in as dramatic a fashion. We’ve said it since the spring, but this division is going to have a crowded race for that spot in the league title game.
Even In A Win, Troy Looked Sloppy
Jon Sumrall will “never apologize for a win,” especially his first as a head coach. However, he was noticeably frustrated with his team’s performance in this game.
Troy beat Alabama A&M 38-17 on Saturday. They didn’t score until the closing seconds of the first half and they lead 7-3 at halftime. Their first half also included an interception, a lost fumble, and a turnover on downs for the Troy offense.
The Trojans’ defense also allowed 356 total yards to Alabama A&M, a team that lost 59-0 to UAB the week prior.
Part of it is due to injuries. Carlton Martial was injured in the third quarter of this game and didn’t return. Their other usual starting linebacker K.J. Robertson didn’t play due to an ankle injury suffered in practice. But still, you don’t turn the ball over three times and get beat in time of possession, and still manage to win against good FBS teams. The Trojans have 5-6 of those types of games left on their schedule. Two games in, Sumrall seems aware that there are things that need to be fixed.
“We’ve got a long way to go as a football team. A Long way to go.”
Remember, Troy plays App State in Boone in front of the ESPN College Gameday audience. It would not be ideal to play the way they did this week against an App State team that is clearly very physical and very well coached.
Best Wishes For Texas State and Chris Mills
In Texas State’s win against FIU, Bobcat defensive back Chris Mills took an awkward hit near the FIU sideline and reportedly appeared to lose consciousness. He was subsequently carried off of the field on a stretcher. On Sunday evening, it was confirmed that Mills had been released from the hospital Mills’ mother also tweeted that he was recovering.
The player injured was Texas State DB Chris Mills. https://t.co/T3kUqmpOtU— Eric Henry (@EricCHenry_) September 11, 2022
Good news: I’ve confirmed that #TXST DB Chris Mills has been released from the hospital and is back with the team. Not sure the extent of his injuries but it’s at least not as serious as feared. https://t.co/znw1jotc0Y— Keff Ciardello (@Keff_C) September 11, 2022
Thank you for the well wishes for my son. We are truly grateful that God’s protection is upon him. He is recovering. Please keep the prayers and well wishes coming. #HeisachildofGod #my2ndheartbeat— Tangela Mills (@TangelaMills3) September 11, 2022
At the end of the day, it’s just a game. Hopefully Mills’ injury isn’t too serious.