GODADDY BOWL
Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5) vs. Ball State Cardinals (10-2)
Jan. 5, 2014 | Ladd-Peebles Stadium
Mobile, Ala. | 8:00 p.m.
Radio: 
EAB Red Wolves Sports Radio Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
Television:  ESPN
Live Stats: 
AStateRedWolves.com

ON TAP: Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State will make its third consecutive appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl, facing a 10-win Ball State team from the Mid-American Conference in an ESPN-televised game at 8 p.m. on Jan. 5 at Mobile, Ala.’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium.  The contest can be heard live on 107.9 FM in the Jonesboro area as part of the EAB Red Wolves Sports Radio Network.  The live radio broadcast can be can also be accessed through the A-State athletics Web site (AStateRedWolves.com).

THE PRINCIPALS:  Arkansas State, winners in four of its last five games, will carry a 7-5 overall record into the GoDaddy Bowl after finishing the regular season with a 5-2 league record to claim a share of the Sun Belt Conference title with Louisiana-Lafayette.  The Red Wolves have won three consecutive Sun Belt championships and have played in the last two GoDaddy Bowl games, holding a 1-1 record in those contests.  This year’s game will mark the third consecutive year A-State has played an opponent that won at least 10 regular-season games, facing a Ball State squad that holds a 10-2 record and finished runner-up in the MAC’s West Division with a 7-1 league mark.

BY THE NUMBERS . . .
1 of just 22 FBS programs to win at least 27 games over the last three years.
1.1 passes defended per game by Rocky Hayes ranks 36th in the nation.
2 players named to Sports Illustrated’s All-America Team, including LB Qushaun Lee and WR J.D. McKissic.
2 extra points needed by Brian Davis to break the Sun Belt Conference career record (157).
3 consecutive Sun Belt championships by A-State (2nd time in school history its won 3 straight league titles).
3 straight appearances in the GoDaddy Bowl, unprecedented in the game’s 16-year history.
3 consecutive winning seasons, including 2013, by A-State for the first time since 1985-87.
3 interim HC’s in A-State’s 3 GoDaddy Bowl appearances (David Gun, 2012; John Thompson, 2013-14).
4 games with over 300 yards total offense by Adam Kennedy.
4 consecutive seasons with a victory over the top team in the Sun Belt Preseason Coaches Poll, including 2013.
5 out of the last seven games Qushaun Lee has posted double-figure tackles (11.4 tpg over that span).
5 players named to one of college football’s major award watch lists.
5 victories by A-State this season when tied or trailing at halftime.
6 of the last nine seasons have seen A-State achieve bowl eligibility, including 2013.
6 players named a Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week a combined seven times this season.
9 victories in last 10 games that were decided by seven points or less.
9 consecutive winning seasons at Liberty Bank Stadium, including 2013.
9.9 tackles per game by Qushaun Lee is ranked as the 18th highest average in the nation.
10 victories by A-State over its last 11 Sun Belt Conference road games.
10 win seasons in 2011 & 2012, making ASU the first team in SBC history w/ back-to-back 10-win campaigns.
10 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 11 years.
11 Bowl game appearances, including 2014, by A-State. The Red Wolves hold a 3-6-1 record in those games.
12 players named All-Sun Belt Conference, which were the most in the league.
13 turnovers lost by A-State is the seventh fewest in the nation.
13 & 11 passes defended by Rocky Hayes & Artez Brown, respectively, are more than any ASU player last year.
13 votes in the final 2012 USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll, ranking A-State No. 32 in the nation.
15 victories by A-State over its last 16 games when scoring at least 30 points.
15 players named to the most recent Sun Belt Conference Commissioner’s List (3.5 GPA or higher).
20 college graduates on the team, which is tied for the third most in the nation.
20 statistical categories in which A-State ranks among the top 50 teams in the nation.
20 Sun Belt Conference victories over its last 23 league games.
23 receptions by Darion Griswold are the most by an A-State tight end since Trevor Gillott (24) in 2009.
24 sacks by the A-State defense are five more than it had for all of the 2012 season.
25.2 yards per kickoff return by ASU is ranked 7th in the nation, and 18.9 ypr KO coverage is ranked 21st.
26 A-State wins over its last 36 regular-season games dating back to 2011.
26 freshmen or sophomores currently listed on A-State’s depth chart, including six All-SBC selections.
27 players named to the most recent Sun Belt Conference Academic Honor Roll (3.0 GPA or higher).
28 votes in the final 2012 Associated Press Top 25 poll, ranking A-State No. 32 in the nation.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 25 of its last 35 games (71 percent), including the last four in a row.
30.0 kickoff return average by J.D. McKissic is the third highest in the nation.
37 All-Sun Belt Conference selections over the last three years combined.
69.4 completion percentage by Adam Kennedy is ranked fourth in the nation.
87 tackles by Ryan Carrethers are the fourth most in the nation by a defensive lineman.
119 tackles by Qushaun Lee this year makes him the first ASU player since 2002-03 with 100 stops in consecutive seasons.
176 career receptions by J.D. McKissic, the most ever by an Arkansas State player.
300 yards or more of total offense recorded by ASU in 44 of its last 50 games.
400 or more yards total offense by A-State in seven of its first 12 games.
414.2 yards total offense per game is the third highest average in school history for a single season.
26.7 million-dollar football facility project in Liberty Bank Stadium’s north end zone announced.

INTERIM HEAD COACH JOHN THOMPSON: John Thompson, a coaching veteran with over 31 years’ experience at the collegiate level as both an assistant and head coach, is in his second season as Arkansas State's defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.  He was named A-State’s interim head coach for the Red Wolves’ appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl for the second consecutive year.  Thompson led the Red Wolves to a 17-13 victory over then-ranked 25th Kent State in the 2013 GoDaddy Bowl.  The victory was A-State's first in a bowl game since 1970 and also marked its first win over a top-25 team since it joined the FBS in 1992.  Thompson was part of A-State's staff in 2012 that led the Red Wolves to a 10-3 season and a Sun Belt Conference championship with a 7-1 league mark.  Thompson helped lead A-State to a third consecutive conference title in 2013 with a 7-5 overall record and 5-2 mark in league play.

IN THE INTERIM:  Arkansas State will enter the GoDaddy Bowl with an interim head coach for the third straight year.  Former A-State running backs coach David Gunn, now the Assistant Athletics Director for Football at Auburn, led the Red Wolves in the 2012 game after Hugh Freeze accepted the head coaching position at Ole Miss.  John Thompson is now serving as A-State’s interim head coach for the second straight year, filling the role in 2013 after Gus Malzahn left for Auburn’s head position and again this season after Bryan Harsin became the head coach for Boise State.  Out of eight interim head coaches serving in a bowl game last season, Thompson was one of four to claim a victory.  The other three interim head coaches that won their bowl game last season were Kent Baer (San Jose State), Steve Stripling (Cincinnati) and Chris Thomsen (Texas Tech).  The GoDaddy Bowl will feature an interim head coach for at least one of the teams for the fifth consecutive year.

FAMILIAR TERRITORY:  Arkansas State is playing in the GoDaddy Bowl for an unprecedented third straight year in the game’s history.  The Red Wolves will also be under the direction of an interim head coach and face a MAC opponent with at least 10 victories for the third straight year as well.  A-State fell 38-20 against Northern Illinois (10-3 record entering the game) in 2012, but knocked off then-ranked No. 25 Kent State (11-2 record entering the game) 17-13 last year.

A-STATE TURF:  Not only is Arkansas State playing in its third consecutive GoDaddy Bowl, the Red Wolves will be playing at Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the fourth time over the last three seasons.  A-State holds a 1-1 record in its two GoDaddy appearances and also claimed a 17-16 victory over South Alabama this year in Mobile to run their record at Ladd-Peebles to 2-1 over that span.

BOWL HISTORY: Not including this year’s GoDaddy Bowl, Arkansas State has played in 10 bowl games all-time and holds a 3-6-1 record in those contests. A-State split the last two GoDaddy Bowl games, defeating Kent State 17-13 last year and falling 38-20 against Northern Illinois in 2012.  ASU dropped a 31-19 decision versus Southern Miss in the 2005 New Orleans Bowl, which was the first time since 1970 that the Red Wolves played in a bowl game. A-State played in seven bowl games from 1951-70, including the Pecan Bowl (1970, 1969, 1968), Tangerine Bowl (1954, 1952) and Refrigerator Bowl (1952, 1951). The Tangerine Bowl was played in Orlando, Fla., and is now known as the Capital One Bowl. The Pecan Bowl was played in Arlington, Texas, and the Refrigerator Bowl in Evansville, Ind.

THE ARKANSAS STATE - BALL STATE SERIES:  The 2014 GoDaddy Bowl will mark the first ever meeting between Arkansas State and Ball State.

A-STATE vs. THE MAC:  While Arkansas State has never played Ball State, it has faced eight other current members of the MAC.  The Red Wolves are 7-13 all-time against current members of the league, but eight of those games have been played against
Northern Illinois.  A-State is 1-7 against the Huskies and a combined 6-6 against Akron (1-1), Bowling Green (0-1), Central Michigan (1-0), Eastern Michigan (2-1), Kent State (1-0), Toledo (0-2) and Western Michigan (1-1). The last time A-State played a MAC team was in the 2013 GoDaddy Bowl, where it defeated Kent State 17-13.

99th SEASON:  Arkansas State kicked off its 99th season of football Aug. 31, 2013, vs. UAPB.  A-State now holds a 433-462-37 record since its inaugural 1911 season and has played in 10 bowl games (11 including 2013).  ASU did not field a football team from 1942-44 due to World War II.  Arkansas State also didn’t have a team in 1918 as World War I was ending.

THREE-PEAT:  Arkansas State is the third program in Sun Belt history to claim at least a share of the conference championship, joining Troy (2006-10) and North Texas (2001-04).  The Red Wolves have also won three league championships in a row for the just the second time in school history, also claiming the Southland Conference titles from 1968-70.  Making the back-to-back-to-back championships even more impressive, they were all won with a different head coach at the helm (Hugh Freeze in 2011, Gus Malzahn in 2012 and Bryan Harsin in 2013).

SUN BELT CHAMPIONS:  Arkansas State has won 10 conference championships all-time, including the last three Sun Belt titles.  A-State won the Southland Conference seven times (1986, 1985, 1978, 1975, 1970, 1969, 1968).  ASU also won the 2005 Sun Belt Conference title, but it was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions.

WINNING OVERALL RECORD:  Arkansas State secured three consecutive winning seasons from 2011-13 for the first time since 1985-87.  A-State has won 27 games since 2011 for its most over a three-year span since claiming 29 victories from 1985-87 as well.

WINNING CONFERENCE RECORD: With a 5-2 conference record this year, A-State posted a winning Sun Belt record for the sixth time since the league’s inaugural season in 2001. A-State has put together three straight winning records against conference opponents for the first time since 1984-86 when it was a member of the Southland Conference.

THREE-YEAR WINS TOTAL:  Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2010 and 2011 and seven more this year, the Red Wolves have recorded 27 victories for their most over a three-year span since winning 29 from 1985-87 as an NCAA I-AA (now FCS) member. The Red Wolves 27 total wins over the last three seasons also ranks tied for the 21st most in the nation.
NCAA FBS WINS SINCE 2011
Team: 2011, 2012, 2013, Total
Alabama: 12, 13, 11, 36
Northern Illinois: 11, 12, 12, 35
Oregon: 12, 12, 10, 34
Stanford: 11, 12, 11, 34
Florida State: 9, 12, 13, 34
LSU: 13, 10, 9, 32
South Carolina: 11, 11, 10, 32
Clemson: 10, 11, 10, 31
Boise State: 12, 11, 8, 31
Oklahoma State: 12, 8, 10, 30
Oklahoma: 10, 10, 10, 30
Ohio State: 6, 12, 12, 30
Georgia: 10, 12, 8, 30
Michigan State: 11, 7, 12, 30
Cincinnati: 10, 10, 9, 29
Baylor: 10, 8, 11, 29
Louisville: 7, 11, 11, 29
Wisconsin: 11, 8, 9, 28
Kansas State: 10, 11, 7, 28
Notre Dame: 8, 12, 8, 28
Arkansas State: 10, 10, 7, 27
Nebraska: 9, 10, 8, 27
Virginia Tech: 11, 7, 8, 26
Central Florida: 5, 10, 11, 26
Michigan: 11, 8, 7, 26
BYU: 10, 8, 8, 26
Ohio: 10, 9, 7, 26
Utah State: 7, 11, 8, 26
USC: 10, 7, 9, 26
Texas A&M: 7, 11, 8, 26
Louisiana-Lafayette: 9, 9, 8, 26

AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . .:  Give it eight or more wins for the third straight year . . . Mark the first time since 1969-70 that it won a bowl game in back-to-back seasons . . . Make the Red Wolves 2-2 in bowl games as an FBS member . . . Give it two victories in the GoDaddy Bowl, tying Tulsa, Miami (OH), Marshall and Southern Miss for the most in the game’s history.

TELEVISION TIME:  Every Arkansas State football game this season has been or will be televised for the first time in school history.  The Red Wolves previous school record for televised games in a season was in 10 in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

BOWL ELIGIBLE:  Arkansas State has been bowl eligible six times over the last nine seasons, including the last three in a row.

STRONG IN THE SECOND:  Five of Arkansas State’s seven victories this season have come when it was either tied or trailing at halftime, including the last four in a row.  The Red Wolves’ five victories under those circumstances equals its total for the previous five seasons (2008-12) combined and are its most ever since returning to NCAA Division I-A (now FBS) status in 1992.

ROAD WARRIORS:  Arkansas State has won 10 of its last 11 road conference games.  It had a 10-game winning streak in such games snapped in its 2013 regular-season finale, which was its longest streak ever as a member of any league.  The Red Wolves went 4-0 in conference road games in both 2011 and 2012 and was 2-1 in 2013.  Its previous longest road conference winning streak was seven against Southland foes from 1973-75.

HOME SWEET HOME:  With a 5-1 home mark this season, Arkansas State secured its ninth consecutive winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005.  ASU is now 41-9 at Centennial Bank Stadium since the 2005 season and has won 16 of its last 18 home games.  The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 133-72-1 since it opened in 1974. ASU’s six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.

FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH:  Arkansas State has 26 underclassmen (sophomores or freshmen) listed on its 2-deep.  The list includes 15 sophomores, eight redshirt freshmen and three true freshmen.  Among the underclassmen, six are listed as starters on the offensive or defensive side of the ball.  Additionally, six of A-State’s 12 players on the All-Sun Belt Conference team were sophomores.

SENIOR DAY:  The Red Wolves held their annual Senior Day on Nov. 23 against Georgia State, recognizing their senior class for their contributions to Arkansas State University and the football program.  This year’s 22 seniors are LaAngelo Albright, Phillip Butterfield, Jake Campbell, Ryan Carrethers, Brian Davis, Amos Draper, Darius Dunaway, R.J. Fleming, John Gandy, Steven Haunga, Julian Jones, Adam Kennedy, Carlos McCants, Cliff Mitchell, Allen Muse, David Oku, Cade Oliver, Eddie Porter, Patrick Ryan, Dexter Samuel, Sirgregory Thornton and Aaron Williams.

ASU ANNOUNCES FOOTBALL FACILITY PROJECT:  Arkansas State University has announced a $26.7 million football facility project, including a two-level football operations building and 76,000 square-foot indoor practice facility in ASU Stadium’s north end zone.

INDIVIDUAL HONORS AND AWARDS

ALL-AMERICA:  Junior LB Qushaun Lee and sophomore WR J.D. McKissic were both named to Sports Illustrated’s All-America Team as honorable mention selections.  Lee earned the recognition at his linebacker position and McKissic as a return specialist.  Outside of the annual freshman and sophomore All-America teams, they were the first A-State players named to a postseason All-America squad since former safety Tyrell Johnson in 2007.

ALL-CONFERENCE:  Highlighted by four first-team selections at five different positions, A-State placed a league-high 12 players on the 2013 All-Sun Belt Conference Team.  The Red Wolves saw at least 10 players named all-conference for the fourth consecutive year and seventh time overall since the league’s inaugural football season in 2001.  A-State’s 12 players earning the recognition were its second most ever as a member of the Sun Belt.

ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICA:  Senior kicker Brian Davis was named a First Team Capital One Academic All-America selection, making him the first A-State player to earn a spot on the Division I’s top team since Brian Flagg in 2008.

DAVIS NAMED LOU GROZA AWARD SEMIFINALIST:  Senior kicker Brian Davis was named one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award.  Davis, also a semifinalist for the award in 2012, is 12-of-14 on field goal attempts this year with a career-long of 50 yards.

NFF RECOGNIZES DAVIS:  Senior kicker Brian Davis was announced as a National Football Foundation (NFF) Scholar-Athlete Awards candidate and a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes the top scholar-athlete in the nation.  Davis was among 170 national candidates, including 54 from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), for the NFF’s Scholar-Athlete Awards.

SUN BELT PLAYERS OF THE WEEK:  Six Arkansas State players were named a Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week a combined seven times this season.  The list includes defensive back Brock Barnhill, (Nov. 25, Special Teams), senior kicker Brian Davis (Nov. 18), senior quarterback Adam Kennedy (Nov. 11, Oct. 14), senior safety Sterling Young (Nov. 4), senior DL Ryan Carrethers (Oct. 28) and sophomore WR J.D. McKissic (Oct. 14, Special Teams).

CFPA HONORS:  Six Arkansas State players received one of the College Football Performance Awards’ (CFPA) weekly honors a combined 10 times.  The list includes jr. DL Dexter Blackmon, soph. running back Michael Gordon (three times), sr. kicker Brian Davis (three times), sr. DL Amos Draper, soph. TE Darion Griswold and sr. WR Allen Muse.

STUDENT-ATHLETES:  The Arkansas State football team currently features 20 players who have already earned their bachelor’s degree.  The Red Wolves’ 20 graduates are tied with Nebraska for the third most in the nation.  Alabama’s team currently includes a nation-high 28 graduates, while Kansas State has 22.  A-State players who have already graduated include LaAngelo Albright, William Boyd, Phillip Butterfield, Jacob Campbell, Ryan Carrethers, Kelsey Collins, Brian Davis, Amos Draper, Steven Haunga, Julian Jones, Adam Kennedy, Carlos McCants, Cliff Mitchell, Allen Muse, David Oku, Cade Oliver, Patrick Ryan, Dexter Samuel, Aaron Williams and Alan Wright.

OFFENSIVE NOTES

300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 44 of its last 50 games.  The Red Wolves have posted at least 300 yards total offense in all but three games this season and have gone over 400 seven times.

LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD:  Including seven games this season, A-State has posted at least 30 points in 25 of its last 35 regular-season games dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 15 of their last 16 games when scoring at least 30 points.

OFFENSIVE PACE:  Arkansas State is producing offensive numbers that are on pace to rank among the best in school history in several categories.  The Red Wolves are averaging 414.2 yards per game, 5.6 yards per play and 208.2 passing yards per game, which all rank among the top six in school history.  The total offense average is the third highest, while the yards per play and passing yards average are both the sixth highest.

NCAA RECORD:  A-State became the seventh FBS team in NCAA history to have four players (David Oku, Fredi Knighten, Michael Gordon, Sirgregory Thornton vs. UAPB) rush for over 100 yards in the same game.  The other teams include Arizona (1951), Texas (1969), Alabama (1973), Army (1984), Nebraska (2001) and Nevada (2009).

HITTING 1,000:  Senior WR Julian Jones went over 1,000 career yards receiving during the South Alabama game, making him the third player on the Red Wolves roster to accomplish the feat.  Sophomore WR J.D. McKissic leads the way with 1,600 to his credit (7th most in school history), while senior WR Allen Muse has 1,209 and Jones 1,112.

ON THE RISE:  Senior WR Julian Jones has recorded a career-high 51 receptions, which are the 10th most in a season at A-State and ranked fifth in the Sun Belt Conference (4.2 pg).  Jones’ 51 total receptions are 34 more than he had for his entire career entering the 2013 season.

RECEIVING RECORDS:  Just a sophomore, J.D. McKissic is already taking over the Arkansas State record books in almost every major receiving statistical category.  He holds the school record for receptions in a game (15), season (103) and career (176).  He is ranked seventh for career receiving yards with 1,600 to his credit and has nine receiving touchdowns that rank tied for ninth.  He is the only player in school history to have 70 or more receptions in two different seasons.

ON A ROLL:  A Freshman All-America selection last season, sophomore WR J.D. McKissic has caught at least one pass in all 25 games of his career at A-State.  He had a school-record 15 against Missouri earlier this season.  McKissic also finished the Missouri game with a season-high 117 receiving yards, marking the fifth time of his career he has posted 100 in a game.

100-YARD RUSHERS:  Five A-State players have rushed for over 100 yards in a game this season, led by sophomore RB Michael Gordon.  Gordon accumulated over 100 yards rushing a team-high four times, including two of the last three games.  Gordon posted 606 of his 717 rushing yards in conference games, averaging 86.6 yards per contest that ranked second in the league.  A-State’s other players to rush for over 100 yards in at least one game this season are senior QB Adam Kennedy, senior RB David Oku, senior RB Sirgregory Thornton and sophomore QB Fredi Knighten.

TOTAL OFFENSE PRODUCER:  Senior quarterback Adam Kennedy ranks fifth in the Sun Belt Conference in total offense with 238.6 yards per game, which also ranks 51st in the nation.  Kennedy recorded 358 yards of total offense against Auburn, 334 versus Missouri, a career-high 397 against Idaho and 337 against ULM.  He also just missed going over 300 versus Troy with 299 to his credit.  His 397 yards versus Idaho were the fifth most in school history.  He has recorded over 200 yards total offense in seven of the last 11 games.

MAKING A CONNECTION:  Senior QB Adam Kennedy tied the school record for completions in a game with 37 against Missouri (tied Ryan Aplin, 2011 vs. Western Kentucky).  Kennedy has already completed 215 passes, which ranks as the fourth most in school history for a single season.  He is ranked 48th in the nation in completions (17.9 pg) and fourth in completion percentage (.694).  His completion percentage currently stands as the highest in school history for a single season.

GRISWOLD VACATION TO THE END ZONE:  Senior tight end Darion Griswold tied his career high with five receptions for a career-high 89 yards and his first two career touchdowns against Idaho, earning CFPA national Honorable Mention Tight End of the Week for his efforts.  He has now caught 23 passes for 301 yards. His receptions total is the most in a season by an A-State tight end since Trevor Gillott recorded 24 in 2009, while his 301 receiving yard are the most by a player at the position since David Johnson had 356 in 2008.

A FLARE FOR THE DRAMATIC:  Sophomore RB Michael Gordon is responsible for three of the four longest runs by A-State this year, including a 92-yard outburst against UAPB that was the second longest in school history.  Gordon posted a 64-yard touchdown run against Troy and had a 40-yard touchdown rush against Texas State as well.  He is averaging 6.8 yards per attempt (106) that is the ninth highest in school history.

DEFENSIVE NOTES

TIGHTEN UP:  The A-State defense has been especially stingy around the goal line this season with a red zone defense that ranks 23rd in the nation.  A-State’s red zone defense scoring percentage is 76.9, and the Red Wolves have forced four turnovers in the red zone.

SACKS IMPROVEMENT:  Led by by sr. DL Ryan Carrethers, the A-State defense has posted 23 sacks this season that rank as the fourth most in the Sun Belt Conference.  A-State recorded 19 sacks last season, ranking sixth in the conference.  The Red Wolves have seen 12 different players record at least a partial sack, two more than last season.

HOLDING ON THIRD:  The A-State defense has taken care of business on third downs this season, ranking second in the Sun Belt Conference and 47th in the nation in third down percentage defense.  A-State has allowed just 67 conversions on 181 third down attempts by its opponents for a 45.6 percentage.

IN THE CLUTCH:  Junior safety Sterling Young came up with four clutch turnovers over the last five games of the regular season, helping spark the Red Wolves to strong second-half showings.  Young came up with an interception against both South Alabama and ULM and a fumble recovery versus Georgia State and Western Kentucky . . . Much like his pick against South Alabama, his interception against ULM came at a critical junction of the game and sparked a solid second-half performance by the Red Wolves . . . His interception against ULM came with score tied 14-14 and at the ULM’s 38-yard line, directly leading to a touchdown that started a 28-0 scoring outburst by A-State . . . His pick against South Alabama came with Red Wolves trailing 6-0 and in the back of A-State’s end zone.  It occurred on the Jaguars first drive of the second half, and the Red Wolves marched down the field for a touchdown and 7-6 lead on its ensuing drive . . . He returned a fumble 21 yards for a touchdown on Georgia State’s first drive of the second half to cut A-State’s deficit to just 17-14 . . . Young recorded another fumble recovery with 11:15 remaining in the fourth quarter against WKU, directly leading to a touchdown that gave A-State a 31-27 advantage.

COVERING AT CORNERBACK:  Sophomore corner Rocky Hayes has made a big impact in his first season on the defensive side of the ball, leading the team in both pass break-ups (10, tied for most) and interceptions (3).  He is ranked tied for second in the Sun Belt Conference in passes defended with 13, which is four more than the most by an A-State player for all of last season (Chaz Scales, 7 PBU, 2 INT).  Hayes is ranked 36th in the nation in passes defended.  Additionally, junior Artez Brown has a career-best 10 pass break-ups this season and has 11 passes defended.  Brown is ranked fourth in the Sun Belt Conference in passes defended.

LEAVE NO STONE UNBLOCKED:  Sophomore defensive end Chris Stone has made a habit of disrupting the opponent’s backfield this season, recording a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss that ranks tied for 10th in the Sun Belt Conference.  Stone has recorded at least one tackle for loss in seven games this season and a career-high two in two different games.  He had three tackles for loss last season as a redshirt freshman.

INSIDE FORCE:  A member of the Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy Watch Lists, senior defensive lineman Ryan Carrethers is ranked second on the team and 10th in the Sun Belt in tackles with 87.  He is averaging 7.3 tackles per game, 2.1 more than he averaged last season when he finished with 68 total for the most by an A-State interior defensive lineman since former NFL standout Jon Bradly in 2002.  His 87 tackles this season are the fourth most in the nation by a defensive lineman.  He posted a career-high 16 tackles against UL Lafayette, which hare also the most in the nation this season by a defensive lineman for a single game.

ANOTHER 100:  Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee has recorded a team-high 119 tackles, making him the first A-State player to record over 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons since linebacker Les Echols in 2002 (105) and 2003 (123).  He is averaging 9.9 tackles per game, which is the 18th highest in the nation and second highest in the Sun Belt Conference.  Lee recorded a career-high 16 tackles at South Alabama and has at least 10 tackles in five of the last seven games, giving him nine career games with double-figure stops.  His 119 tackles this season are the 16th most in school history.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES

SPECIAL TEAMS TURNAROUND:  Not only has Arkansas State’s special teams shown significant improvement in several statistical categories, they are ranked among the top teams in the nation in many of them.  A-State is one 23 teams in the nation yet to give up a blocked kick and is ranked seventh in the nation in kickoff returns, tied for 16th in field goal percentage, tied for 20th in blocked kicks and 21st in kickoff return defense.  Below is a comparison between A-State’s 2012 and 2013 special teams numbers:
 2012 2013
Kick Return Average 19.2 25.2
Punt Return Average 4.3 8.7
Punting Average 35.5 40.4
Net Punting Average 31.4 36.4
Punts Inside 20 8 21
50+ Yard Punts 4 10
Average Per Kickoff 55.6 61.2

ALL-TIME LEADING SCORER:  Senior kicker Brian Davis became the Sun Belt Conference’s all-time leading scorer during the Texas State game, finishing with eight points to push his career total to 303 at the time (315 currently).  He became the first player in league history to record 300 points in the process.  Davis also owns the A-State career records for points by a kicker (315) and extra points made (156).  He saw his streak of 13 consecutive made field goals, which was the second longest in school history, come to an end against Georgia State.

BIG BLOCKS:  A-State blocked two kicks against ULM, making it one of just nine teams in the nation to block multiple kicks in a game this season.  The Red Wolves also blocked a punt versus Georgia State to give them three total blocks over the last four games of the regular season.  Senior DL Ryan Carrethers blocked a field goal attempt and redshirt freshman WR Booker Mays was responsible for a blocked punt against ULM, while junior defensive back Brock Barnhill came up with the blocked punt versus Georgia State.  The other teams to block multiple kicks in a game this season are Syracuse (3), UAB (3), Minnesota, Colorado State, Virginia Tech, Boise State, Akron, Oklahoma, North Texas and Texas A&M.

MAKING A RETURN:  Sophomore WR J.D. McKissic is ranked third in the nation in kickoff returns (30.0 ypr) and 36th in punt returns (8.4 ypg).  He recorded a career-high 125 kickoff return yards against Idaho, including a 98-yard return for a touchdown in the contest.  The return for a touchdown was the first by an A-State player since 2001.  Additionally, McKissic has posted 10 kickoff returns of at least 25 yards, including a 64 yard return vs. Georgia State and a 50-yarder against ULM.  His longest punt return covered 43 yards and was posted against Texas State.

PRESEASON NOTES

IN THE POLLS:  Arkansas State ended the 2012 season receiving votes in the final major polls, including 28 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and 13 in the USA Today Coaches Top 25 Poll.  Both totals placed the Red Wolves 32nd in the nation. The Red Wolves were also among “others receiving votes” in the 2013 preseason and week two USA Today Coaches Top 25 Poll.

PRESEASON ALL-SUN BELT CONFERENCE:   Arkansas State placed a league-high seven players on the 2013 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team.  Senior running back David Oku, sophomore wide receiver J.D. McKissic and sophomore center Bryce Giddens all represented the A-State offense on the preseason squad.  ASU’s defensive players earning a spot on the team were senior defensive lineman Ryan Carrethers, junior linebacker Qushaun Lee and junior safety Sterling Young.   Senior kicker Brian Davis, also made the list.

RED WOLVES TABBED THIRD IN PRESEASON SBC POLL:  The Red Wolves were picked third in the preseason coaches poll announced as part of the league’s annual Media Day.  A-State received 45 points and two first-place votes behind UL Lafayette and UL Monroe, which both received 57 points.