The Rimel Report - Sun Belt Week #9

Guest columnist Duane Rimel, a long-time contributor to the Vandal email list, provides a week-by-week look at the Sun Belt Conference, with a special focus on the Idaho Vandals (of course). We appreciate the opportunity to reprint his group's analysis of each SBC game, each and every week of the season.<br> <br> This week, redshirt freshman offensive tackle <b>Hank Therien</b> (6-7, 318) and the Vandals head to Lafayette, Louisiana to take on the Ragin' Cajuns.

North Texas maintains their conference lead and wins their fourteenth consecutive conference game by defeating Utah State. Middle Tennessee picks up their second conference win by whipping Idaho in overtime, setting up a first place show down with North Texas this weekend in Murfreesboro. Louisiana Lafayette escapes the conference cellar with a win over hapless New Mexico State. Arkansas State and Louisana Monroe had the weekend off.

There were no non-conference games, so the Sun Belt's non-conference record remains the same at 4-34. It is all conference action this weekend, with only two CONTENDERS (no conference losses) left - NT and MTSU. ON THE EDGE (one conference loss) are ASU and USU, while the ELIMINATED (two or more conference losses) group has grown to four - UI, ULL, ULM, and NMSU. Since Arkansas State plays at Utah State this weekend, one more team will be eliminated by Saturday evening. And since North Texas plays at Middle Tennessee this Saturday, one of them will join the ON THE EDGE group.

The Vandals teased us again by jumping out to 14-0 and 21-10 leads, but simply could not hold on in spite of a very spirited effort. The Blue Raiders rolled up 520 yards on the Vandals and would have won by more except for several crucial take-aways by the Vandal defenders. The Vandals gained 391 yards, led by Orlando Winston's 10 catches for 144 yards and Zach Gerstner's 110 hard fought yards on 33 carries. Two missed FG's late in the fourth quarter could have won it for UI, but both missed. Another sad, sad loss as UI drops to (1-2, 1-7) and out of the conference race, while the MTSU (2-0, 2-5) looks forward to a first place showdown with North Texas this weekend. The Vandals will now play for pride and need at least one more win to avoid the conference basement for the third consecutive year.

Next up for UI is at ULL as surprising 4 point favorites. Since ULL is coming off their first win and the Vandals have never won a game in the Southeast under Tom Cable, we will have to go with ULL.
ULL 31 UI 28

A better effort from the Aggies than we expected and a strange game, with 55 points scored in the first half and only 9 in the second half. It was 14 all in the first quarter when NT (3-0, 4-3) exploded for three consecutive TD's and 20 points that essentially put the game away. It was 34-21 at haltime and 37-21 after 3 quarters. USU (1-1, 1-6) was only outgained by 318 to 308, but as usual the Mean Green used the punishing running of Patrick Cobbs (205 yards on 36 carries) to control the game. Congratulations to the NT coaches and players for their fourteenth consecutive Sun Belt Conference win! We are impressed!! Next up for USU is a visit from ASU, and the Aggies are favored by 9. We think USU will win, but not by that much. USU 35 ASU 30. Next up for NT is the first place show down with MTSU in Murfreesboro and NT is only favored by 2. We think the Blue Raiders have been somewhat lucky to win their first two conference games. It will take a lot more than luck to snap the Mean Green winning streak. We like NT in a big way.
NT 38 MTSU 19.

ULL gets a 21 yard field goal with 8 seconds left to hand NMSU their fourth consecutive loss, all games they should have won. The poor Aggies are truly "snake bitten", as they again outgained their opponent by a significant margin (438 yards to 370) only to lose the game in the closing seconds. ULL (1-3, 1-7) gets their first win of the year and climb out of the conference basement, and are replaced in the cellar by poor NMSU (0-3, 1-6). Next up for NMSU is a trip to a well rested and well prepared ULM, who had the weekend off. NMSU is favored by 6 and eventually they will figure out how to win a game - but not this weekend. We like the homestanding Indians in a mild upset.
ULM 37 NMSU 35.


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