Well, that was a wild weekend. On week seven in the Fun Belt, we had two weekday games and then a handful of exciting contests on Saturday evening. We saw our first monster conference upset of the season, the preseason favorite stole one on the road, and Shawn Elliott grabbed the lead for the coach of the year race.
There were many storylines to take from this past weekend, but here were the three big ones that stood out.
South Alabama does it again
For the fourth time in three seasons, South Alabama pulled off a double-digit upset as the Jags knocked off Troy in Veterans Memorial Stadium in the Battle for the Belt. It was a game dominated by South Alabama for 60 minutes and it featured an excellent gameplan from Joey Jones and his staff.
South Alabama’s front seven completely dominated the Troy rushing offense and defensive coordinator Kane Wommack had Neal Brown’s offense on their heels all night. The Jags were able to consistently get some pressure on Brandon Silvers and tackled very well in space. Offensively, the Jags were not flashy but they were able to win the time of possession battle and took care of the football. Switching to Dallas Davis at quarterback made a huge difference and the junior played a big role in South’s only long touchdown drive of the night. Davis should get the start against ULM.
For the third season in a row, the South Alabama program went on the road and pulled off an upset win as at least a 17-point underdog. Under Jones, the Jags are becoming known as giant killers. Now we get to find out if they can back it up with a consecutive good performance unlike the last two seasons.
Travis Trickett’s emergence
One of the first hires Shawn Elliott made when taking over the Georgia State program was bringing in Trickett to run the offense. Trickett is 32 years old and the son of longtime Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett and brother of former West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett. With the work that Trickett did as the play-caller at Florida Atlantic, expectations were high.
The Panthers returned a senior quarterback and possibly the best wide receiver in the Sun Belt. If Trickett could figure out something with this rushing attack, the Georgia State offense could be something to see this season.
Well, that hire has seemed to work out.
The Panthers set numerous school records on Saturday in the road upset over ULM as Georgia State scored 47 points, had 670 total yards, Conner Manning threw for 446 yards, and Penny Hart had 11 receptions for 190 yards with three touchdowns. However, the surprise was the rushing attack.
Georgia State posted 224 rushing yards as eight different players received carries. The Panthers averaged 5.5 yards per carry and this was easily their high mark for the season. As a program, Georgia State hasn’t averaged over 100 yards rushing in three seasons. At the half way point, their 126.6 rushing yards per game average would be the program’s highest since 2011.
One of the biggest reasons for the Georgia State three-game winning streak is the success of the offense. The willingness to keep running the football has created some balance and is giving Conner Manning time to make throws from the pocket. That is resulting in success and is setting up this program to have an excellent shot at becoming bowl eligible for the second time in school history.
Arkansas State is explosive
For the third time this season, Blake Anderson’s offense posted at least 43 points as the Red Wolves dropped 51 in the homecoming win over Coastal Carolina. The defending conference champ is averaging 39.8 points per game and 6.2 yards per play. After a tough year in 2016, the offense has found the big plays in 2017.
Justice Hansen has been pretty good to start the season and the only time the offense bogged down is when he was knocked out of the SMU game. For the season, the junior is throwing for 317.4 yards per game and has tossed 19 touchdowns while averaging 8.4 yards per attempt.
Where the Red Wolves are really excelling is in the big play department. Arkansas State has had 36 pass plays longer than 15 yards and 19 pass plays longer than 25 yards. The deep ball has been a huge threat all year as the Red Wolves have had seven players already record 11 receptions.
After being built on defense last fall, the tables have been turned this season in Jonesboro and the Red Wolves are making each game a shootout.