By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sun Belt off to good start in bowls
Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers (12) celebrates after defeating North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl, Saturday, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. - photo by Associated Press

    NEW ORLEANS — When Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers glanced around the Superdome, his eyes would stop on the name of Archie Manning, who has become one of his mentors, or on spots in the stands where he's sat during games he attended as a fan.

    During his next visit, he'll be able to look at spots on the field where he threw four touchdown passes, as well as the end zone where he ran for a short score, to help the Trojans beat North Texas 50-30 in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday.

    "Just being on that field today is going to be one of my great memories for a long time," Silvers said.

    Silvers, a former counselor at Manning's football camp, threw for 305 yards, completing 24 of 31 passes. The Orange Beach, Alabama, native was intercepted once on a deep throw, but that hardly mattered in a game controlled by Troy's defense, which produced five North Texas turnovers.

    "Our ability to get pressure on quarterback was probably the difference," said Troy coach Neal Brown, who has presided over 21 victories in the past two seasons.

    Josh Anderson, filling in for injured starter Jordan Chunn, rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns for Troy (11-2).

    Two of Silvers' TD passes went to Damion Willis, whom Silvers targeted more than usual because of an early injury to receiver Deondre Douglas. Willis had 136 yards on a New Orleans Bowl-record-tying 11 catches.

    "I hated that Deandre went down, but like coach said, you can't flinch," Willis said. "I didn't flinch today."

    Mason Fine passed for 303 yards and three touchdowns for North Texas (9-5), but was intercepted twice and fumbled twice. He finished with Mean Green single-season records of 4,052 yards and 31 TDs passing.

    "Their font seven— that defensive line — gave me fits all day," Fine said. "We never got in a rhythm. We never got comfortable."

Georgia State 27, Western Kentucky 17
    ORLANDO, Fla. — From 0-12 to Cure Bowl champions in four years.

    Georgia State's fledgling football program took a bow Saturday, celebrating a 27-17 victory over Western Kentucky — the first postseason win in school history.

    Conner Manning threw for 276 yards and a touchdown for the Panthers (7-5), who had a winning record for the second time in the program's eight-year history and set a school record for victories in a season.

    "I told them before we stepped on the field that the team that wanted this game the most was going to win," first-year coach Shawn Elliott said.

    "There was no doubt in my mind that we were the team that wanted it and we were going to win it," Elliott added. "We're a bunch of misfit coaches and misfit players that learned how to work hard and fight every day."

    The Panthers (7-5) started their program from scratch in 2010, going 6-5 as an FCS independent. They began the transition to FBS with a 1-10 record in 2012, then sank to a program-worst 0-12 the following year — Georgia State's first in the Sun Belt Conference.

Saturday's appearance in the Cure Bowl was the team's second in three years. The Panthers lost to San Jose State 27-16 here in 2015, finishing 6-7.

"Coming into the year a lot of us believed we could have a special year," Manning said. "The new coaches brought a lot of energy, and we started this during the winter. We got to work early with the goal of being in this position."

Manning threw a 42-yard TD pass to Roger Carter, Demarcus Kirk scored on a 26-yard run, and Kyler Neal finished a 16-play drive consuming nine minutes of the fourth quarter with a 1-yard TD run that put Georgia State up 27-10.

Mike White tossed TD passes of 54 and 4 yards to Deon Yelder, finishing with 351 yards — the senior's eighth consecutive 300-yard game passing — for Western Kentucky (6-7). Yelder had five receptions for 112 yards for the Hilltoppers.

Georgia State star Penny Hart, the Sun Belt Conference leading receiver, did not start and played sparingly because of an ankle injury. His lone reception — for 27 yards midway through the third quarter — came on the play before Manning threw his TD pass to Carter.

Western Kentucky finished with a losing record in their first season under coach Mike Sanford. The Hilltoppers also were denied in their bid to set a school record with four consecutive bowl wins.

"Today's game, honestly, it's been what's ailed us all year," Sanford said.

"We needed to identify opportunities to run the football, I thought we had some early opportunities but not enough," Sanford added. "That made us one dimensional and more difficult to throw the football. To win championships we have to run the ball effectively, and we didn't do that."