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CFB Week 7 Previews: Sun Belt Conference

Week 7 Previews Sun Belt Conference

Thu., Oct. 14 @ 6:30 pm CT
Georgia Southern Eagles at South Alabama Jaguars
Series History
Overall Record……………………………………………..GS leads, 7-0
In Statesboro……………………………………………… GS leads, 4-0
In Mobile……………………………………………………. GS leads, 3-0
At Neutral ……………………………………………………….Never Met
Wommack vs. GS……………………………………………..Never Met
Whitley vs. USA ……………………………………………….Never Met
Whitley vs. Wommack……………………………………..Never Met
Current Streak……………………………….GS, Won 7 (2014-2020)
Last Meeting ……………………………………GS 24, USA 17 (2020)
Longest GS Streak………………………….GS, Won 7 (2014-2020)
Longest USA Streak………………………………………………….N/A
Largest GS Win…………………………..52-0 at Statesboro (2017)
Largest USA Win……………………………………………………….N/A
GS vs. current Sun Belt Members……………………….52-50-1
GS vs. teams from Alabama …………………………………..21-13
GS in state of Alabama…………………………………………….11-9

Georgia Southern Eagles at South Alabama Jaguars
Of Note
• Georgia Southern leads the series with South Alabama 7-0 after downing the Jaguars last season 24-17 in Statesboro on a Thursday night. In the seven previous games between the two squads, GS has outscored South Alabama by a combined 251-79 (35.9-11.3) with South Alabama having yet to top the 20-point mark against the Eagles. The Jaguars have only scored eight touchdowns in the series.

• In the seven previous contests, the Eagles have run for 2,339 yards on 387 carries (334.1 YPG) against USA. Twenty-seven of the 32 Eagle touchdowns have come on the ground, as well.

• Georgia Southern is 10-5 all-time in games played on Thursdays, 5-2 at home and 5-3 on the road.

• Georgia Southern is 7-4 all-time on short rest (less than seven days). The Eagles played last night Saturday at Troy, returned home after 5 a.m. on Sunday morning from a six-hour, 340- mile bus ride only to fly back to Mobile Wednesday afternoon.

COUNTDOWN TO KICKOFF
10 – Georgia Southern has won 10 of its 15 games all-time played on Thursday, including its past five (Texas State and App State in 2018; South Alabama and App State in 2019; and South Alabama last year).

9 – The Eagles have nine second quarter scores this season: six via the run, two via field goals and one via pass. The 57 points scored in the second quarter are the most of any quarter for Georgia Southern.

8 – Georgia Southern has allowed just eight total touchdowns in seven games against South Alabama.

7 – Southern has won seven of its 11 games all-time played on short rest (less than seven days).

6 – The Eagles feature six players on their roster from the state of Alabama, including starting receiver Emil Smith (Attalla) and starting linebacker Michael Edwards III (Trussville).

5 – All but five of Georgia Southern’s 32 touchdowns in the previous six contests against South Alabama have come via the ground.

4 – The last time the two played in Mobile (2019), South Alabama mustered just four first downs against the Eagles. That total is the lowest allowed in program history.

3 – This will be the third-straight Thursday night game between the two programs.

2 – After having two more punts downed inside the 20-yard line last week against Troy, punter Anthony Beck II has had 12 punts downed inside the 20-yard line this season.

1 – This will be Georgia Southern’s first game played in Hancock Whitney Stadium, the new home of the Jaguars. The Eagles won all three games against the Jaguars and won the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl against
Bowling Green in USA’s former home, Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile.

Notable Streaks and Trends Entering the Game
• The Eagles have a +43 turnover margin over the past 51 games, taking the ball away 87 times against just 43 turnovers.

• Georgia Southern has had a 100-yard rusher in 32 of its past 48 games.

• Since the start of the 2018 season, Georgia Southern has had 32 100-yard rushing performances, coming from nine different players. The nine different 100-yard rushers is the most in the conference during that span.

• GS has outrushed its opponent in 70 of the past 94 games dating back to the start of the 2014 season.

• Georgia Southern has forced at least one turnover in 38 of its past 48 games, but had yet to force a turnover in four games this season before forcing four against Arkansas State.

• Dating back to 2017, the Eagles have won 18 of their past 23 games when not committing a turnover.

• Dating back to 2014, the Eagles have won 31 of their past 44 games when winning the turnover battle.

• GS has won 27 of the past 34 games when winning the rushing battle.

• Dating back to Furman in 2013, Georgia Southern has lost its last 25 games when being outrushed. The last time the Eagles won a game while being outrushed was
against The Citadel (14-12) in 2011.

• The Eagles have won 44 of the past 46 games when they’ve rushed for 300 yards or more.

• Georgia Southern has won 23 of its past 27 games when having a 100-yard rusher.

• The Eagles have won 63 consecutive games when rushing for at least 400 yards.

• In the modern era, GS is 241-18 when scoring 30 or more points, 105-139-1 when scoring less than 30 points. As a member of the FBS (since 2014), the Eagles are
35-4 when scoring 30 or more points, 17-36 when scoring less than 30 points.

• GS is 216-1 all-time when having a lead of 18 or more points at any point in the game. That lone loss came in 2005 when the Eagles led at Texas State 35-16 in
the third quarter and lost 50-35.

• The Eagles are 209-33 in the modern era (since 1984) when winning the turnover battle in a game, 66-95-1 when losing it, and 70-29 when the margin is tied.

• Since 1984, Georgia Southern is 192-16 when allowing 17 points or less. The last time the Eagles lost a game when allowing less than 18 points was in 2013, a 16-14 loss to Furman at home. The current streak of victories when allowing 17 or less points is at 28.

• Georgia Southern has had five 500-yard rushing performances since joining the FBS in 2014. The rest of the league has combined for three 500-yard rushing games during that span.

South Alabama Jaguars
No Notes Available

Sat., Oct. 16 @ 2:00 pm CT
Troy Trojans at Texas State Bobcats

Series
Series (Overall): 10-1
Series in Troy: 7-0
Series in San Marcos: 3-1
Neutral Site: 0-0
Lindsey vs. TXST : 2-0

Troy Trojans
Did You Know?
• Troy has won six straight games in the state of Texas (North Texas – 4, Texas State – 2) dating back to a 13-10 victory over North Texas in 2005

• Kimani Vidal ranks eighth in the Group of Five and 19th nationally averaging 3.73 yards after contact this season (min 70 carries); he was second nationally among freshmen last year with a 3.83 average

• Troy’s defense has held nine of its last 12 opponents to 21 points or fewer dating back to last season; in those games the Trojan defense has allowed an average of just 12.6 points

• Javon Solomon is the only FBS player to have at least seven sacks and eight tackles for loss this season; he has 7.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss

• Troy has targeted its tight ends 15 times through six games with 14 receptions; in the previous seven seasons COMBINED, Troy’s tight ends had been targeted 18 times with 12 receptions

• Troy is 11-18 during Chip Lindsey’s tenure on coin tosses and 3-3 this season. Troy has received the opening kickoff in 21-of-29 games under Lindsey and has scored on 13 of those possessions. The Trojans have elected to kick just three times when winning the coin toss

• Troy has 15 players on its roster who have already earned their undergraduate degrees — QB Taylor Powell, LB Carlton Martial, WR Luke Whittemore, LB Jordan Anthony, CB Devan Barrett, P Luke Magliozzi, OL Bubba Hudson, OL Austin Stidham, WR Reggie Todd, P Kyle Coale, DE John Hines, OL Dylan Bradshaw, LS Cameron Kaye, DT Cherokee Glasgow, RB B.J. Smith

• Troy’s 43 wins since the start of the 2016 season are the 22nd most in the country and seventh most among Group of Five programs

• Troy is throwing the ball 56.19 percent of the time the last three seasons, that is the ninth highest percentage nationally and the fifth highest in the G5

• Troy is 9-2 when winning the time of possession battle under Chip Lindsey; the Trojans’ victory over Georgia Southern was just their fourth when possessing the ball for fewer than 30 minutes

The Series
• Troy leads the all-time series with Texas State 10-1, and the Trojans have won the last nine meetings. Texas State’s lone victory in the series was a 31-17 victory in 1997 in San Marcos.

• Troy is 2-0 at Bobcat Stadium since Texas State joined the Sun Belt Conference; Troy has won those two games by a combined 103-34 margin.

On a Roll
• Troy has won 45 of its last 69 games dating back to the 2015 season

• Broken down even further, Troy has won 35 of its last 56 games and 30 of its last 48 games.

• Troy is 21-12 in its last 33 Sun Belt Conference games.

• Troy is 22-10 at home since the start of the 2016 season.

• Troy’s six Sun Belt championships ties Arkansas State for the most in conference history; the Red Wolves joined the Sun Belt three seasons before Troy.

The Skinny on the Coin Toss
• Troy has elected to receive the opening kickoff 8-of11 times it has won the toss under Chip Lindsey (Troy had deferred three straight wins prior to the 2021 Ga. Southern game).

• Troy is 11-18 on coin tosses under Chip Lindsey.

• Troy has received the opening kickoff in 21-of-29 games under Chip Lindsey and the Trojans have scored on the opening drive in 13 of those 21 games — eight touchdowns, five field goals.

Points on the Board
• Troy has been shutout just six times since moving to FBS in 2001 with three of those coming during the 2003 season.

• Troy has only been shutout once (North Texas, 2003) by a non-Power Five school — the Trojans have played 184 straight games against non-Power Five schools without being shutout.

• Troy was shutout by Georgia, 66-0, on Sept. 20, 2014, which snapped a streak of 99 straight games without being shutout (Nebraska, 56-0, on Sept. 23, 2006).

• Troy’s current overall streak stands at 88 games.

Texas State Bobcats
SERIES HISTORY
• Texas State will be looking for its second overall win in its series against Troy, and first win against the Trojans since joining the Sun Belt Conference.

• This marks the 12th meeting between Texas State and Troy in a series that began on Oct. 19, 1996, when both schools were in the FCS and members of the Southland Conference. Texas State’s lone win came on Oct. 4, 1997, in San Marcos.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
• Jake Spavital is in his third season as the head coach at Texas State and in his second year calling the offensive plays for the Bobcats in 2021. The Bobcats are averaging 151.4 yards rushing per game this season, and that is the highest average for the Bobcats since 2015. Texas State also averages 346.0 total yards and 26.2 points per game after averaging 131.2 yards rushing, 369.7 total yards, and 27.7 points per game in 2020. Those totals last season were the most total yards since 2015 and the most points scored since 2014. Spavital took the reins at Texas State on Nov. 30, 2018, after overseeing some of the nation’s most prolific offenses at West Virginia, California, and Texas A&M. He is Texas State’s 20th head coach since the program began in 1904. In addition, he is the third-youngest FBS head coach this season.

• Texas State has two new coaches on its coaching staff. Brian Gamble is coaching the inside linebackers after serving three seasons as linebackers coach at Louisiana Tech. He went to Louisiana Tech after serving 10 seasons on the coaching staff at Incarnate Word, including five seasons as defensive coordinator. Jim Turner begins his first season as the offensive line coach after coaching the past two seasons in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals. He also served two stints as the offensive line coach at Texas A&M in 2016-18 and 2009-11.

• Offensive coordinator Jacob Peeler uses the name “Nasty Wide Outs” as his Twitter handle. Like his previous stops at California and Ole’ Miss, Texas State’s wide receivers have adopted the nickname for their position group. Bobcat wide receivers enter the Troy game, having caught 76 passes for 858 yards and nine of Texas State’s 16 touchdown passes this season.

• The game between Texas State and Troy matches two teams looking for their second straight win after winning last-minute victories. The Bobcats won a 33-31 decision over South Alabama in four overtimes, while Troy defeated Georgia Southern 27-24 in the final two minutes after Brooks Bruce kicked a 24-yard field goal with 1:46 left to play.

• This season marks the first time Texas State has won two overtime games in the same year and the first time that the Bobcats have won a game that went into four overtimes. Texas State played two overtime games in the same year, just one other time in 2008 when they fell 34-31 at Northwestern State and defeated Sam Houston State 45-42 to win the Southland Conference championship. In addition, the Bobcats have played two other games that went into four overtimes against Nicholls State, falling 47-45 in four overtimes in 2010 and 49-36 in five overtimes in 1996.

KICKING THINGS OFF
• Texas State is in its 121st season, and 10th season in the NCAA Division I FBS ranks in 2021. The Bobcats played their first game in 1904 and have a record of 541–474–35 entering the Troy game. Texas State has won two NCAA Division II national championships and 14 conference championships during its history.

• Texas State looks even its record to 3-3 and begin Sun Belt Conference play with a 2-0 record for the first time when the Bobcats host Troy on Oct. 16. Texas State won its third consecutive Sun Belt opener with a four-overtime 33-31 victory over South Alabama at Bobcat Stadium on Oct. 9.

• The Bobcats look to even their 2021 home record to 2-2 when they host Troy on Oct. 16. Texas State opened the season with setbacks against Baylor and UIW before edging South Alabama.

• Texas State looks to win two consecutive Sun Belt Conference games for the first time since 2014 when it hosts Troy. The Bobcats defeated Arkansas State and Georgia State in the 2014 season’s final two games.

• Texas State and Baylor played in front of 26,573 on Sept. 4. The crowd was the sixth-largest ever to attend a game at Bobcat Stadium and the largest-attended Bobcat football game since Texas State played UTSA (31,333) on Sept. 23, 2017.

FOUR DOWNS WITH TROY
• Chip Lindsey is in his third season as a head coach at Troy. The Trojans have taken the game’s opening kickoff in a game and scored 13 times under Lindsey after kicking a field goal on their opening drive against Georgia Southern.

• Troy leads the Sun Belt Conference in rushing defense after giving up an average of 96.2 yards per game after holding Georgia Southern to just 82 yards rushing on 38 attempts.

• The Trojans are holding opponents to just four touchdowns in 12 red zone scoring attempts. The four touchdowns are the fewest allowed by a Sun Belt team this season.

• Troy leads the nation with 4.5 sacks per game and has two of the top four national individual sack leaders. Javon Solomon ranks third with 1.25 sacks per game after he tallied 7.5 sacks in six games. Richard Jibunor is fourth with 1.20 sacks per game after recording 6.0 sacks in five games. Solomon also leads the nation in tackles for loss with 12.0.

Sat., Oct. 16 @ 6:00 pm CT
Liberty Flames at ULM Warhawks

Liberty Flames
Storylines
1) Liberty (5-1) will seek bowl eligibility and its fi rst-ever win in Louisiana on Saturday, when the Flames travel to ULM (2-3, 1-2 Sun Belt).

2) Saturday’s contest is the back end of a home-and-home series. Liberty topped ULM 40-7 on Oct. 10, 2020 in Lynchburg during the first-ever meeting between the two programs.

3) The Flames’ 21-13 victory at Troy on Sept. 11 marked Liberty’s fourth consecutive win over a Sun Belt opponent. The Flames are 7-1 all-time versus Sun Belt opposition, including victories in each of the last two Cure Bowls (vs. Georgia Southern and Coastal Carolina).

4) In his third season as Liberty’s head coach, Hugh Freeze has posted a 23-7 record, including a 17-2 mark over the last 19 games. Freeze is 2-0 all-time versus ULM, including a 24-19 win by Arkansas State over the Warhawks during the 2011 season.

5) Liberty QB Malik Willis has accounted for 20 TDs (13 passing/7 rushing) during the season’s first six games. He and Matt Corral of Ole Miss are the only two QBs ranked among the top 30 nationally for both rushing TDs and passing TDs in 2021.

6) The Flames’ defense ranks No. 5 nationally for yards allowed (266.2 ypg), No. 6 for points allowed (14.3 ppg) and No. 11 for sacks (3.33/game). Dating back to last season, Liberty has held eight of its last 10 opponents to 20 points or fewer.

“4 DOWNS” WITH THE WARHAWKS
Saturday will mark Liberty’s first visit to Malone Stadium, and the Flames will be seeking their first win in Louisiana. Earlier this season, Liberty earned its first triumph in Alabama with a 21-13 triumph at Troy on Sept. 11. The Flames are one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the third consecutive season, while ULM is aiming to qualify for a bowl for the first time since 2012.

Liberty will face a first-year ULM coaching staff featuring a pair of former Power 5 head coaches: HC Terry Bowden (Auburn) and OC Rich Rodriguez (Michigan & Arizona). The Warhawks have already won two more games in 2021 (2) than they did in all of 2020 (0). Both the Flames and Warhawks have defeated Troy this season, and the two squads will face Louisiana on back-to-back weeks to close out the regular season.

ULM is one of three Sun Belt opponents Liberty is facing this season, along with Troy and Louisiana. This is the most Sun Belt foes the Flames have ever matched up against during a single year. This is the third time Hugh Freeze has coached against ULM. Prior to last season, Freeze’s Arkansas State team won 24-19 at ULM, Oct. 8, 2011.

This will be the fourth straight season a Liberty player has faced his former team on the gridiron. First-year Flames LB Rashaad Harding played three seasons (2017-19) at ULM. The Flames are in the midst of a stretch of four out of five games played on the road. Liberty is 7-6 in road games under Hugh Freeze, including 2-1 this season.

LAST MEETING WITH ULM
OCT. 10, 2020
LIBERTY 40, ULM 7
LYNCHBURG, VA. (WILLIAMS STADIUM)
• Liberty scored three special teams TDs and held ULM to 198 yards of total offense in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

• The Flames scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone (Treon Sibley), blocked punt recovery (Chance Smith) and punt return (Demario Douglas).

• Malik Willis passed for 177 yards while rushing for a team-high 77 yards and a score for the Flames.

• ULM avoided the shutout when Jeremy Hunt hit Kadyn Roach for a 15-yard TD pass with 3:34 to play.

LOUISIANA FIRST
Liberty will look for its first-ever win in the state of Louisiana. The Flames are 1-1 all-time against teams from Louisiana, including a 35-14 loss at Louisiana on Sept. 7, 2019 and a 40-7 home win over ULM on Oct. 10, 2020. Earlier this season, Liberty picked up its first two wins ever in the state of Alabama, defeating Troy on Sept. 11 and picking up a victory at UAB on Oct. 2 On Nov. 6, Liberty will look to win its first-ever game in Mississippi when the Flames take on Ole Miss.
The Flames have won games in 19 different states and the District of Columbia.

SUN BELT SUCCESS
Liberty has found much success against Sun Belt opponents, going 7-1 versus the conference. The Flames won their first four meetings with Sun Belt opponents, starting with a 41-33 win at Georgia State on Oct. 3, 2015. Liberty’s only Sun Belt loss was Sept. 7, 2019, a 35-14 loss at Louisiana. Liberty has ended each of the last two seasons with an FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl win over a Sun Belt team (2019 – 23-16 over Georgia Southern; 2020 – 37-34 (OT) over Coastal Carolina). Six out of the eight all-time Sun Belt meetings have been decided by eight or fewer points, with Liberty winning all of those close games.

FREEZE VS. BOWDEN
Current Liberty Head Coach Hugh Freeze (2012-16, Ole Miss) and current ULM Head Coach Terry Bowden (Auburn, 1993-98) have both been head coaches at the SEC level.

FREEZE VS. THE WARHAWKS
Current Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze is 2-0 all-time against ULM, leading Arkansas State to a 24-19 win at ULM on Oct. 8, 2011. He led the Red Wolves to a perfect 8-0 Sun Belt record that year, with fi ve of those wins coming against 2021 Liberty opponents ULM, North Texas, Louisiana, Middle Tennessee and Troy.

SLOW START ON ROAD
While Liberty has outscored opponents 72-31 in the first half of its three home games, The Flames have scored 24 total fi rst-half points and allowed 24 first-half points in three away games.

SECOND HALF, HE WE GO
Liberty has outscored its opponent in the second half in all six games this season, including second-half shutouts of Campbell and Old Dominion. In total, Liberty has outscored its opponent 116-31 during the second half this season, compared to 96-55 in the first half.

Trends/Streaks
• Following a setback at Syracuse on Sept. 24, Liberty bounced back with a convincing 36-12 road win at UAB on Oct. 2. Liberty has won five of its last seven road games.

• The Flames are currently in a stretch where they are playing four out of five games on the road. Liberty is 7-6 in road games under head coach Hugh Freeze.

• Liberty’s 41-13 Homecoming win over ULM on Saturday extended its program record home win streak to 14-consecutive games.

• Liberty’s 14-game home win streak currently ranks fourth best among FBS teams in the country.

• During the Flames’ current 14-game home winning streak, Liberty has outscored opponents by an average of 25.7 points per game (Liberty 44.2 ppg; Opponent 18.5 ppg).

• Liberty has gone 17-2 in its last 19 games overall, a stretch that began with a win over New Mexico St. on Nov. 20, 2019.

• The Flames opened the month of October with a 36-12 win over UAB on Oct. 2. The Flames have won six-consecutive games in October and are 8-1 all-time in October under head coach Hugh Freeze.

• The attendance of 19,935 at the Middle Tennessee game was the eighth-highest attendance in Williams Stadium history, and third-highest for a Homecoming game.

Offense
• For the fourth time this season, Liberty racked up 400-plus total offensive yards as they finished the Middle Tennessee game with 449 yards on a season-high 72 plays (6.2 yards per play).

• The Flames currently rank No. 35 in the country in total offense, averaging 444.8 total offensive yards per game.

• LU set a new program record in 2020 by averaging 482.7 total offensive yards per game, ranking No. 15 in the country.

• The Flames’ offense has shown versatility during first two years under head coach Hugh Freeze. Liberty set a school record for passing yards in 2019 (3,756) and rushing yards in 2020 (2,776).

• Liberty posted its third 200-plus yard rushing performance of the year against MTSU, finishing the game with a season-best 227 rushing yards on 42 carries (5.4 yards per rush).

• The Flames are averaging 197.0 rushing yards per game with 14 rushing touchdowns through their first six games.

• Liberty outgained MTSU on the ground (Liberty rushing – 227 yards; MTSU rushing – 35 yards). The Flames are 5-0 in 2021 when outrushing their opponent and a perfect 19-0 when outrushing their opponent under head coach Hugh Freeze.

• Liberty outscored MTSU 17-6 in the second half. So far this season, Liberty has outscored opponents a combined 116-31 in the second half.

• The Flames had their least successful day through the air against MTSU, completing only 17-of-30 pass attempts with three interceptions. Liberty currently ranks No. 17 in the country in completion percentage (101-of-146/68.2 percent).

• Liberty entered the MTSU game as one of five teams in the country without having a pass intercepted in 2021; however, MTSU intercepted the Flames three times in the game.

• The Flames won the time of possession battle against Middle Tennessee (35:19 to 24:41) and has won the TOP battle in all five of their wins in 2021. Liberty currently ranks No. 9 in the country in average time of possession (33:17).

• Liberty is a perfect 16-0 when winning the time of possession battle during three seasons under head coach Hugh Freeze. The Flames is 7-7 under Freeze when being edged in TOP.

• Liberty has struggled to protect its quarterbacks in 2021 and ranks No. 106 in the country in sacks allowed per game (3.00/18 in six games).

• QB Malik Wills continues to be Liberty’s top offensive threat, accounting for 68.4 percent of the Flames’ total offensive yards in 2021 (Team Yards: 2,669/Willis: 1,825 – Rush 498, Pass 1,327).

Defense
• Middle Tennessee was the fourth team Liberty has held below 300 total offensive yards this season with the Blue Raiders finishing the game with 265 yards on 65 plays (4.2 yards per play).

• Liberty currently ranks No. 5 in the country in total defense, limiting opponents to 266.2 total offensive yards per game.

• Middle Tennessee is the fourth team Liberty has held below 100 rushing yards, as MTSU finished the game with 35 total rushing yards on 21 carries.

• Liberty outscored MTSU 17-6 in the second half. So far this season, Liberty has outscored opponents a combined 116-31 in the second half.

• The Flames currently rank No. 19 in the country in rushing defense, allowing 101.7 rushing yards per game and just six rushing touchdowns.

• The Flames currently rank No. 6 in the country in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 14.3 points scored per game.

• Liberty has held five of its six opponents in 2021 below 20 points and is 13-1 in three seasons under head coach Hugh Freeze when hold opponents below the 20-point mark.

• The Flames ranked No. 22 nationally in 2020 in scoring defense (20.5 points per game/226 points allowed) after allowing its lowest point total since 2013 points.

• The Flames finished the Middle Tennessee game with 3.0 sacks (19 yards) and currently ranks No. 12 in the country in teams sacks (3.33 per game).

• The Flames continue to be tough on third-down plays, ranking No. 19 in the country in third-down conversion defense (25-for-81/30.9 percent). Last year, Liberty ranked No. 14 in the country in the same category (31.9 percent).

• Liberty’s defense has only created five turnovers in 2021 (4 interceptions; 1 fumbles caused). Liberty currently ranks No. 103 in turnovers gained after ranking No. 35 in the same category last year (11 interceptions; 6 fumbles caused)

Special Teams
• Demario Douglas was named to the Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America team after ranking No. 9 in the country in punt returns (10.5 yards per return).

• The Flames capped their magical run in 2020 when Elijah James blocked a potential 42-yard game-tying field goal in overtime against No. 9 Coastal Carolina in the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl, giving Liberty its 10th win in 2020 and its second Cure Bowl victory in a row.

• Max Morgan started at punter the last three games (Syracuse, UAB and Middle Tennessee) in place of an injured three-year starter Aidan Alves. The true freshman is averaging 46.7 yards per punt with 6-of-13 punts inside the 20-yard line.

ULM Warhawks

FIRST-AND-10 –
• The ULM Warhawks play the middle game of a three-game homestand at 6 p.m. Saturday when they host the Liberty Flames at Malone Stadium. ULM is coming off a 55-21 loss to Georgia State on Saturday in Monroe to drop to 2-3 overall and 1-2 in the Sun Belt Conference. Liberty has won back-to-back games after Saturday’s 41-13 home win against Middle Tennessee to improve to 5-1 overall. Liberty is an FBS Independent.

• Saturday’s game marks the second meeting between ULM and Liberty. The Flames won the inaugural meeting last year, 40-7, in Lynchburg, Virginia. LU racked up 400
yards of total offense and limited ULM to just 198 yards. Three of Liberty’s touchdowns came on special teams through a fumble recovery, blocked punt and a punt return.

• Former ULM linebacker Rashaad Harding returns to Malone Stadium with Liberty. Harding, who is listed as the starting Mike linebacker for the Flames, lettered three seasons at ULM from 2017-19. He registered 132 career tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss (38 yards) and 4.5 sacks (22 yards.) for the Warhawks.

• This weekend, the ULM L Club Sports Hall of Fame welcomes three new members, in Ray “Smoke” Laval (baseball coach, 1994-2000), Dave Roberts (football coach, 1989-93) and Robert Williamson (assistant athletic trainer, 1983-2008). This class, originally selected in 2020, had its induction delayed last fall due to COVID-19 protocols. Planned activities for this Hall of Fame weekend include a reception Friday, Oct. 15, beginning at 6 p.m. at the L Club House, inside Malone Stadium, as well as the official induction ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 16 at 10 a.m. at Bayou Pointe. In addition, the Class of 2020 will be introduced at halftime of Saturday’s ULM-Liberty football game in Malone Stadium.

• ULM super senior Ty Shelby, who continues to be a menace for opposing quarterbacks, has been added to the Watch List for the Ted Hendricks Award, presented annually since 2002 to the nation’s top defensive end. The Houston, Texas, native has posted five sacks through five games, including a sack for a safety on Sept. 25 vs. Troy. His five sacks rank third in the Sun Belt Conference and eighth in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision at 1.0 sacks per game. He has 23 tackles, six tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery through five games.

• Fifth-year senior placekicker Calum Sutherland leads the Sun Belt Conference and ranks 13th in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision with 1.80 field goals made per game. Through five games, he leads the Warhawks in scoring with 34 points, connecting on 9-of-12 field-goal attempts and 7-of-7 extra-point tries.
A native of Keller, Texas, Sutherland connected on all three of his extra-point attempts and missed a field-goal attempt from 41 yards on Saturday against Georgia State.

• ULM senior linebacker Traveion Webster and senior cornerback Adam Sparks rank among the top tacklers in the Sun Belt Conference. Webster leads ULM with 38 tackles. His 7.6 tackles per game is good for fourth in the SBC. He has 1.5 tackles for loss, half a sack and a pass break-up. Sparks is second on the team with 35 tackles. His 7.0 tackles per game is sixth in the SBC. He has two pass break-ups, one quarterback hurry, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

• ULM freshman quarterback Chandler Rogers has started the last two games following an injury to junior Rhett Rodriguez. The Mansfield, Texas, native had his first 200-yard passing game on Saturday vs. Georgia State, completing 15-of-23 passes for 208 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also led the Warhawks in rushing for the second consecutive game, picking up 72 yards on 14 carries.

• ULM leads the Sun Belt Conference and ranks 11th in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision in turnover margin at +1.0 per game. The Warhawks have recorded eight takeaways (5 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions) in five games. By comparison, ULM totaled 10 takeaways (6 fumble recoveries, 4 interceptions) in 10 games during the 2020 season.

• ULM is one of two NCAA FBS teams (Texas A&M) that hasn’t allowed a fourth-down conversion (0-for-4) in 2021.

ULM/LIBERTY SERIES NOTES –
Saturday’s game marks the second meeting between ULM and Liberty. The Flames won the inaugural meeting last year, 40-7, in Lynchburg, Virginia. LU racked up 400 yards of total offense and limited ULM to just 198 yards. Three of Liberty’s touchdowns came on special teams through a fumble recovery, blocked punt and a punt return.

THE LAST MEETING –
Liberty 40, ULM 7 (Oct. 10, 2020, in Lynchburg, Virginia): ULM stumbled into a Liberty ambush on Saturday and staggered out of Williams Stadium on the wrong end of a 40-7 decision. Overall, ULM’s punt team surrendered three touchdowns on a dropped punt, a blocked punt and a punt return, and gave up a lengthy return that set up another score. The Warhawks clearly weren’t early birds in 2020. With an 11 a.m. CDT kickoff for the nationally televised contest on ESPN2, ULM (0-5) trailed 14-0 after one quarter and 24-0 by halftime as the offense faltered and special teams made costly blunders. The Warhawks had been outscored 56-10 in the first quarter and 117-38 in the first half of their first five games. Quarterback Colby Suits came into the game as one of the nation’s most productive quarterbacks but struggled to ignite the offense against the Flames, as he completed 13-of-29 passes for 78 yards with two interceptions. ULM’s score came with 3:34 left in the game on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Jeremy Hunt to running back Kadyn Roach, the first of his career. In relief, Hunt completed 3-of-6 attempts for 42 yards and his first ULM touchdown pass. Liberty (4-0) won its sixth-straight game overall while facing ULM for the first time. The Flames outgained ULM in total yardage, 400-198, while the Warhawks were 1-of-16 on third-down conversions. Liberty’s offensive unit spent much of the first half in ULM territory. Traveion Webster’s fumble recovery helped ULM dodge early damage, with the takeaway coming one play after a 53-yard reception. However, a big special teams return by Liberty put the Flames right back in striking distance. Demario Douglas delivered a 38-yard punt return to the ULM 24 to set up Liberty’s first score. Four plays later, Peytton Pickett scored on a 15-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-1 play with 10:01 left in period as the Flames jumped out to a 7-0 lead. ULM’s early woes continued on the next offensive series as Javon Scruggs intercepted Suits at the Warhawks’ 41. Seven plays later, Malik Willis scrambled 6 yards for the score and Liberty led 14-0 with 6:11 remaining in the first quarter. Willis passed for 177 yards and rushed for 87 yards. In building a two-touchdown lead, Liberty outgained ULM, 166-18, in total yards and held the War- hawks without a first down.

The Flames were approaching the end zone again as the opening quarter ended but Austin Hawley picked off Willis two plays into the second and returned it 39 yards to the ULM 48. The Warhawks saw another drive fizzle though, turning it over on downs at the Liberty 31. ULM’s shaky special teams unit dealt the Warhawks another blow when punter Daniel Sparks dropped the snap in the end zone, allowing Liberty to recover for a touchdown. The Flames led 21-0 with 3:56 to go before halftime.
Adding to the misery index, Liberty intercepted Suits again with 2:59 left and took over at the ULM 22. Ty Shelby’s third-down sack forced the Flames to settle for a 42-yard field goal that extended the lead to 24-0 at the 1:46 mark. ULM’s first-half offensive numbers didn’t add up to much. The Warhawks managed one first down with 50 yards, offset by seven penalties for 54 yards. ULM was 0-for-9 on third down. ULM’s special teams’ woes continued in the second half as Liberty’s Treon Sibley blocked Sparks’ first punt attempt of the third quarter and Chancellor Smith recovered in the end zone for another touchdown and a 31-0 lead. Through three quarters, ULM stuck with Suits, who directed a promising drive that ended on downs at the Liberty 1, with Chandler Whitfield catching a 7-yard pass on fourth-and-8.
The Flames took over and marched 87 yards on 15 plays to kick a 30-yard field goal for a 34-0 lead early in the fourth quarter. With 10:47 left in the game, Douglas returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown that gave Liberty a 40-0 edge.

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