Middle Tennessee State entered the Camellia Bowl 121st in the country in turnover margin and had lost the battle in nine of their 12 games this season. Arkansas State was only a little bit better in the same category, ranking 81st in turnover margin in 2017. Predictably those kinds of statistics came into play on Saturday night in the Camellia Bowl as the two sides played a bit of hot potato — six giveaways — before MTSU hung on for a 35-30 win to cap off the first day of bowl season in college football.
Blue Raiders quarterback Brent Stockstill had a game that could have been a nightmare for a veteran quarterback but ended up being alright thanks to his defense continually picking him on a night where chunk plays were hard to come by. The signal-caller threw the first of his three interceptions on the night on the first drive of the game but bounced back over the final three quarters, throwing for 232 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. That kind of performance, which included several big throws in the second half, helped secure the first bowl victory of his career and give him the rare distinction of being able to win a postseason game with his father Rick as head coach.
It wasn’t all about the Stockstill combo for MTSU however as their run game produced a pair of touchdowns behind tailbacks Terelle West and Tavares Thomas, and the team’s defense had one of their best outings of the season to limit the Sun Belt’s highest scoring offense to well below all their season averages. Linebacker Darius Harris led the way when his unit was on the field, flying from sideline-to-sideline and racking up 12 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a two pass break ups. His running mate at linebacker, D.J. Sanders, was equally productive with seven tackles and a 54 yard fumble return for a touchdown just before halftime.
The Red Wolves did what they could to threaten to make things interesting down the stretch but never could get over the hill. The team ran a fake punt to open fourth quarter, resulting in a 21 yard strike from the punter to gunner Chris Murray along the sidelines and appeared to seize momentum after a subsequent touchdown to Warren Wand. However the defense failed to get a stop and then Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year Justice Hansen (337 yards, 3TD, 1 INT) threw a fourth down pass out of the end zone to all but seal a rather lackluster loss for a team that had won six of the last eight coming into the bowl.
Arkansas State also came up a bit short in the record books on the defensive side of the ball as well. In addition to allowing 35 points to MTSU, conference player of the year Ja’Von Rolland-Jones failed to record a sack and thus couldn’t break the NCAA career record (held by former Arizona State and current Baltimore Ravens star Terrell Suggs) of 44 career sacks after entering the game just shy of the mark with 43.5. While the pass rusher did manage to sack Stockstill in the game, the play was negated by a penalty to keep him from taking over on the all-time list.
The victory pushed Middle Tennessee over the .500 mark for the fifth time in six seasons and likely meant a little bit more to the program given how many key injuries the team suffered over the course of 2017 before capturing their first bowl win in eight years. Arkansas State did their best to prevent that from happening as they dropped to 7-5 on the season after a rather bizarre Camellia Bowl that had a little bit of everything.
In filling a hole on his Vanderbilt football coaching staff, Derek Mason turned to an assistant with extensive experience in the SEC.
Tuesday, Vandy announced the addition of Tony Ball to Mason’s on-field staff. Moving forward, Ball will serve as the Commodores’ wide receiver.
Ball will replace Aaron Moorehead, who left for a job with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.
As previously noted, Ball certainly has a deep history in the conference to which he’s coming. From 2006-14, he was the wide receivers coach (2009-14) and running backs coach (2006-08) at Georgia. In 2015, he was Les Miles’ receivers coach at LSU.
His other Power Five experience came as receivers coach at Virginia Tech from 1998-05.
“Tony Ball is a quality man who brings a wealth of experience and coaching success to our staff. We’ve attracted one of the nation’s top receivers coaches in Tony,” the Vanderbilt football head coach said in a statement. “Tony has been part of several successful programs, including Georgia, LSU and Virginia Tech. With Tony, we are getting a coach with a long track record of bringing the best out in his student-athletes.”
This past season, Ball served as the receivers coach and passing-game coordinator at UT-San Antonio. The two years prior to that, he was Louisiana Tech’s running backs coach.
Vanderbilt football is coming off a 3-9 season, its worst record since posting the same mark in Mason’s first season in 2014. In November of last year, athletic director Malcolm Turner confirmed Mason would be returning for the 2020 season. Three months later, Turner abruptly resigned his post.
Arkansas will host Louisiana Tech on Nov. 23, 2024, the programs announced Tuesday.
The game will be at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.
The meeting will be the fifth between the border neighbors. Arkansas has won the previous four, most recently taking a 21-20 decision in Fayetteville in 2016. The programs’ first meeting came in Ruston way back in 1901, a 16-0 Hogs victory. The two in-between meetings, in 1996 and ’97, both came in Little Rock.
The game completes Arkansas’s 2024 non-conference schedule. The Razorbacks previously arranged an Aug. 31 home date with Arkansas-Pine Bluff, a Sept. 7 visit to Oklahoma State and a Sept. 14 home game with Kent State.
Louisiana Tech still has one blank slate for the 2024 campaign. The Bulldogs are slated to visit NC State on Sept. 7 and host Tulsa two weeks after that.
As an independent, scheduling is a never-ending battle for Army, and the Black Knights scored a victory on Tuesday.
Tulsa announced it has agreed to a 4-game series with West Point, beginning in 2025. The series will begin Sept. 13, 2025 at Michie Stadium, then head to Tulsa on Sept. 19, 2026. The series will move later in the fall for the return trip to West Point — Nov. 13, 2027 — and then wrap up Oct. 21, 2028 at Tulsa’s Chapman Stadium.
The programs have met just once previously, a 49-39 Golden Hurricane victory on Nov. 17, 2007 at West Point.
Tulsa has two games on the slate already for each of the four seasons: at Oklahoma State and vs. Louisiana Tech in 2025; vs. Oklahoma State and at Arkansas in ’26; vs. Arkansas and at Oklahoma State in ’27; and then at Louisiana-Lafayette and home against Oklahoma State in 2028.
Army now has 10 games on the docket for 2025 and ’26, seven for 2027 and eight for 2028.
The SEC is famously incestuous in its hiring practices, and within that large, cross-bred family is a series of clans that really like to hire off of each other. For instance, South Carolina likes to hire former Georgia players and coaches, and Georgia likes to hire away from Alabama.
And Texas A&M and LSU really like to hire each others’ people, with most of the traffic going east to west.
On Monday, TexAgs owner Billy Liucci reported that Texas A&M is set to hire LSU running backs coach Tommie Robinson for the same post in College Station.
At A&M, Robinson will work for former LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and former LSU tight ends coach Darrell Dickey and alongside former LSU wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig.
(By the way, A&M also employs former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Henson as its offensive line coach and former Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley as its tight ends coach.)
LSU’s running backs coach from 2017-19, Robinson helped develop Clyde Edwards-Helaire and sign 4-star Chris Curry (2018), 5-star John Emery, Jr. (2019) and 4-star Tyrion Davis-Price (2019). For that, he was the highest-paid running backs coach in the nation at $600,000 per year.
Presumably, he crossed state and enemy lines for a hefty raise.
With Robinson out the door, LSU moved quickly in tabbing former Tiger Kevin Faulk as its new running backs coach. The school’s all-time leading rusher with 4,557 yards and 46 touchdowns, Faulk was already on staff as director of player development.