Things started off on a strong note for the Sun Belt Conference with three straight bowl wins. Troy, Southern Miss, and Marshall all won their respective postseason matchups. Frank Gore Jr. and Daylen Gill of Southern Miss and Troy’s Richard Jibunor were all named to the AP All-Bowl Team for their efforts.
Then, things took a turn as the league lost their final four bowl matchups of the 2022 season. South Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia Southern, and Coastal Carolina all failed to put their best foot forward, all in games against other G5 opponents.
While four straight losses isn’t exactly what you want to see from a league continuing to prove its case as the premier conference outside of the power five, there were still several positives to take away from Sun Belt’s time in the postseason spotlight.
Frank Gore Jr. Broke Four Records In One Game
Simply put, Frank Gore Jr.’s performance in the LendingTree Bowl was one of the best individual efforts in recent college football history.
The Southern Miss “super back” ran for an astonishing 329 yards on 21 attempts with two rushing touchdowns. That rushing total was a new Southern Miss single-game record, a Sun Belt single-game record, a LendingTree Bowl record, and an FBS bowl record. Gore also threw for two completions and a passing touchdown.
“He’s a special guy,” head coach Will Hall said of his back after the victory. “He’s really learned how to be a leader. He’s really learned how to handle the responsibility of being Frank Gore Jr., and he’s embraced that...I’m just proud he was able to have a performance like this on a national stage.”
Gore’s work to secure Southern Miss’ first bowl win since 2016 will be remembered by the Golden Eagle faithful for a long time. Plus, his reaction when a family member came to join the postgame celebration on the field was a meme-worthy moment we won’t soon forget, either.
FRANK GORE JR IS UP TO 329 YARDS & 3TD’s THIS IS NOT NORMAL!! pic.twitter.com/T1TVvx8HDz— Kyron Samuels (@kyronsamuels) December 18, 2022
Frank Gore Jr. telling his auntie to chill after his career day was COMEDY pic.twitter.com/w6Q7obUEHN— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 18, 2022
Troy Ended The Season With 11 Consecutive Victories
After losing a thriller in week three to Appalachian State, Jon Sumrall’s team rattled off 11-straight wins to end the season, culminating in a Sun Belt championship, a #24 ranking by the CFP committee, and a Cure Bowl victory over C-USA champion UTSA. Troy have now won all of their last five postseason appearances.
While UTSA started the game with a 12-0 lead, Troy scored 18 unanswered points and the defense secured turnovers on four consecutive possessions, five in all. Junior linebacker Richard Jibunor forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, intercepted a pass, and had a sack in the game.
“The turnovers were timely, and we were fortunate enough to get ‘em. If we don’t get them or those stops, we don’t win,” first-year head coach Jon Sumrall said. “To hold those guys to 12 points, I don’t know what to say. We stayed together all year, and I could not be more proud. I just hope they keep us in the Top 25.”
Final CFP rankings will be released following the National Championship game between Georgia and TCU.
Marshall Won Their First Bowl Since 2018
In his second season as head coach, Charles Huff made significant progress with the Thundering Herd. Marshall finished the season with a five game win streak to finish with nine wins for the second time since 2015. That included a 28-14 win over UConn in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.
Running back Rasheen Ali was named the MVP of the game with 92 yards and a touchdown run. Ali missed the first ten games of the season for reasons that were never publicly disclosed.
“I just knew I wanted to play hard for our last game,” Ali told media following the game. “I’m just super excited that I was able to get the trophy.”
“This 2022 team will always be remembered,” Huff said of his team postgame. “They will always be remembered as the first Sun Belt team, a team that found a way to go 4-0 in November, created opportunity for us to party in December, and will always be remembered as the 2022 Myrtle Beach Bowl champions.”
The bowl win was Marshall’s first since the 2018 Gasparilla Bowl.