Mid-week Fun Belt makes its return tonight in Statesboro, where Georgia Southern hosts Arkansas State. I am a longstanding and ardent supporter of Mid-Week Fun Belt; this October precursor to internet darling November #MACtion may not get quite as much attention, but has delivered plenty of its own memorable moments in nearly a decade of existence.
The Sun Belt replaced Conference USA on this midseason, mid-week time slot. C-USA debuted on ESPN mid-weeks in 2002 before signing a broadcasting deal with CBS, and the Sun Belt’s maintained the slot despite regular change in the league’s ranks.
In honor of the arrival of another Mid-Week Fun Belt, enjoy my five favorite moments in the series history.
Joe Tessitore Drops A Rocky Reference
Arkansas State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette | Oct. 23, 2012
Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette jockeyed for the Sun Belt championship for the better part of this decade’s first half, so it only made sense to give the national spotlight to these two programs.
The game itself was unremarkable in that the RedWolves rolled, 50-27, padding Gus Malzahn’s resume in preparation for his move to Auburn. Malzahn was the second of three Arkansas State head coaches to jump ship after one successful, sandwiched between Hugh Freeze and Bryan Harsin.
However, late in the contest, Joe Tessitore provided further evidence that he’s one of, if not the best calling college football games today. At 6:25 in the below clip is an A+ film reference following a Rocky Hayes touchdown.
Interestingly enough, I interviewed Tessitore that same week and mentioned how much I enjoyed the call. Tessitore shared that he’s always looking for ways to make the presentation more fun for those at home. Awesome.
The Night Elijah Ran Wild
Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Arkansas State | Oct. 21, 2014
In another installment of the Arkansas-ULL rivalry, the Ragin’ Cajuns got the best of the RedWolves in a 55-40 shootout behind a ridiculous 265 yards and four touchdowns rushing from Elijah McGuire. With just 19 carries, McGuire averaged 13.9 yards per rush.
#CollegeKickers Coming Through
FIU vs. Troy | Oct. 25, 2011
2011 was historic for FIU football. The Panthers beat Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville on a Friday night ESPN broadcast, reached a bowl game for only the second time in program history (the first was the season prior), and had one of the most exciting playmakers in college football, T.Y. Hilton.
Hilton was decent that night: 62 yards on four receptions, a 33-yard punt return. But the real star in the Panthers’ 23-20 win was place-kicker Jack Griffin.
Griffin was 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts, including one with 3:31 remaining in regulation to force a tie, then the game-winner in overtime.
Seeing Red in Jonesboro
Arkansas State vs. Georgia Southern | Oct. 5, 2016
Arkansas State has had a knack for scheduling like Fresno State in recent years. The RedWolves enter tonight’s Mid-Week Fun Belt at 1-2 after having played non-conference dates against Nebraska (which they arguably should have won), and resurgent SMU. They would likely be 1-3 had their Week 2 home date with Miami not been cancelled as a result of Hurricane Irma.
And yes, I write that in spite of having Nia Jax on their side.
— Nia Jax (@NiaJaxWWE) August 26, 2017
Last year’s non-conference slate took Arkansas State to 8-5 through a particularly circuitous route. The RedWolves opened 0-4 with losses to Toledo, Auburn, Utah State and Central Arkansas. A fifth straight defeat to open Sun Belt play seemed imminent, too, with the Eagles building a 13-point lead in the third quarter, and a nine-point advantage with 11:53 remaining.
After a field goal midway through the period, however, Arkansas State’s defense got the ball back and gave the RedWolves offense a chance to win. The ensuing drive was highlight-reel material.
MTSU Wins On A Prayer
MTSU vs. FAU | Sept. 30, 2008
Both MTSU and FAU are now members of Conference USA, but in 2008, they helped put Mid-Week Fun Belt on the map with this dramatic finish.
The first three quarters were uneventful, to say the least. The Owls — fresh off a historic, 8-win season under legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger — blanked the Blue Raiders for 55 minutes. MTSU didn’t get on the board until 5:22 remaining, cutting into a 10-0 FAU lead.
The Owls drove in the waning minutes, but mustered only a field goal despite getting inside the 10-yard line. Costly.
MTSU drove on the ensuing possession, culminating in a Hail Mary touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Craddock to wide receiver Malcolm Beyah.