If you are watching TV on a Wednesday night and it is not on a Sun Belt Conference football game, you are doing TV watching wrong.
The first SBC weekday game of the season started slowly, but ended in typical #FunBelt fashion as Arkansas State wide receiver Omar Bayless made an incredible touchdown catch with nine seconds left to help the Red Wolves pull out a 27-26 win over Georgia Southern, their first win of the season.
ASU, which had five turnovers on Wednesday, drove 70 yards with less than three minutes left in the game for the winning score. The big play in the drive came when quarterback Justice Hansen scrambled 18 yards on fourth and 15.
Warren Wand and Johnston White each had big nights running the football for the Red Wolves, whose offense had been in a huge funk going into the game. Wand ran for 140 yards and a touchdown, a 55-yard score in the third quarter. White added 126 yards.
The win reminds the rest of the conference that reports of the demise of the defending conference champs are greatly exaggerated. While the five turnovers almost cost them the game, the Red Wolves did prove that they can play against any team in the Sun Belt. ASU hopes to keep the momentum going at home against South Alabama next Saturday.
Meanwhile, this is a bitter loss for Georgia Southern, which played well enough to win except for one thing: the inability to score touchdowns in the red zone. The Eagles had two chances in the second half to score a touchdown to put the game away, and failed to do so. While kicker Younghoe Koo had four field goals in the game, he kicked two chip shots that really should have been touchdowns.
Georgia Southern will now head to Atlanta next week to face in-state Power Five foe Georgia Tech.
App State hopes to get Cox back soon
Appalachian State running back Marcus Cox had two big performances before injuring his quad muscle in his left leg against Miami, and has missed the last two games.
On Monday, head coach Scott Satterfield told the Winston-Salem Journal that Cox will try to give it a go in practice this week in preparation for next Wednesday’s game at Louisiana-Lafayette.
In Cox’s absence, sophomore Jalin Moore has stepped up big. Moore has ran for 257 and 149 yards in his two starts. If Cox can play and be somewhat productive, App State could have a monster duo in the backfield that few Sun Belt defenses could stop.
Cajuns hit with injuries
App State’s opponent next Wednesday, Louisiana-Lafayette, also is dealing with key injuries. Defensive lineman LaDarrius Kidd and backup quarterback Jalen Nixon both suffered broken ankles and are out for the year, Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth said on Monday.
Losing Nixon for the year all but seals that Anthony Jennings will be the starter at QB for the near future. Jennings had a shaky game at Tulane and was off to a rough start at New Mexico State. He was also lifted for Nixon for a drive. However, Jennings returned and almost led the Cajuns to a win at NMSU; the Aggies won 37-31 in double overtime, but the Cajuns’ offense came alive.
The game against the Mountaineers is ULL’s last chance to stay in the conference title hunt. Another loss would put the Cajuns at 1-2 in SBC play and with key games against Texas State and Georgia Southern coming up. That is a tough task for a team that is struggling on offense and hurting on defense.
The resistible force versus the movable object
The first of only two Sun Belt games this Saturday features 2-2 Texas State against winless Georgia State at the Georgia Dome. Both the Bobcats and Panthers want to get their first conference win of the season, but the real struggle will be between the soft Texas State defense and the sputtering Georgia State offense.
How bad are both units? Well, Georgia State is ranked 128th (dead last in the FBS) in total offense, while Texas State is 123rd in total defense. GSU averages 13.8 points per game, dead last in the Sun Belt. Texas State gives up 44.2 points per game, also dead last in the SBC.
The Panthers’ running game is nonexistent, rushing for only 56.2 yards per contest, while the passing attack gets only 189 yards per game. The Bobcats defense’ has been susceptible to the pass, giving up 292.2 yards per game, while the run defense gives up 227.5 yards per tilt.
It may not be pretty when Georgia State has the ball, but the game may come down to whether Texas State’s high-flying pass offense can move the ball against the GSU pass defense, which is the best in the SBC.
Despite the numbers for both teams being so even on both sides of the ball – and the season-ending injury of Georgia State wide receiver Penny Hart – GSU is still a 10-point favorite over Texas State.