GAME 5: Arkansas State (2-2, 1-0) hosts Coastal Carolina (1-4, 0-2)
Oct. 14, 2017 | Centennial Bank Stadium
Jonesboro, Ark. | 6:00 p.m.
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
Live Stats: AStateStats.com/AStateRedWolves.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
ON TAP: Back-to-back Sun Belt champion Arkansas State will play just its second contest this season at Centennial Bank Stadium when it hosts Coastal Carolina in its Homecoming game Saturday, Oct. 14. The outing will appear on ESPN3, and every Red Wolves’ football game can be heard live on 107.9 FM in the Northeast Arkansas area. The live radio broadcast can also be accessed on the official A-State Athletics web site (AStateRedWolves.com) and the A-State Athletics app.
THE PRINCIPALS: A-State, the only FBS team in the nation to win five conference championships over the last six seasons, opened Sun Belt Conference play Wednesday, Oct. 4, with a 43-25 road victory over Georgia Southern. The Red Wolves improved their record to 2-2, which includes a 48-3 win over UAPB in their only other home game thus far. Coastal Carolina enters the game with a 1-4 overall record and 0-2 Sun Belt Conference mark. The Chanticleers began the season with a 38-28 home victory over UMass, but have since dropped their last four games in a row.
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
0 negative rushing attempts in 45 carries this season by Warren Wand.
0 points allowed in the 1st & 3rd quarters by the A-State defense in 2 of the first 4 games (UAPB and Ga. So.).
1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 35 of 43 games (81%) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
1 of just two programs in league history owning five Sun Belt Conference championships.
1 touchdown reception needed by Dijon Paschal to tie the seventh most (11) in school history.
1 passing TD needed by Justice Hansen to tie ninth most (15) in school history for a single season.
1 receiving TD by Blake Mack in 5 of the last 6 games, including all 4 contests this season.
1 sack needed by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones to tie the 8th most (33.5) in NCAA FBS history.
2 or more touchdown passes by Justice Hansen in six consecutive games.
4 different starting lineups by the A-State defense this year.
5 consecutive A-State victories in Sun Belt Conference openers, including last week’s win vs Ga. Southern.
5 different watch lists (Bednarik, Nagurski, Hendricks, Senior Bowl, College Gridiron Showcase NFL) for Ja’Von Rolland-Jones.
5 Sun Belt Conference championships (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016) over the last six seasons.
5 head coaches over the last 8 years (Steve Roberts, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Bryan Harsin, Blake Anderson).
5 or more tackles for loss recorded by A-State in 21 consecutive games.
6 current A-State players have already earned their degree.
6 straight bowl game appearances (2011-16) -- a school record.
6 consecutive winning seasons (2011-16) by A-State for the first time since 1912-17.
7 players named to the Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team (8 selections).
7 or more victories each of the last six seasons (2011-16) -- first time in school history.
7 different players named to at least one major award watch list.
8 of last 11 years w/at least one NFL Draft selection.
9 of the last 12 seasons (2005-16) have seen A-State reach bowl eligibility, including the last six in a row.
10 or more tackles by Kyle Wilson in 2 of the first 4 games, including a career-tying 13 vs Ga. Southern.
11 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 14 years, including 2015.
11 of A-State’s 21 explosive plays (20+ yards) have gone for TDs (52%) and 10 have covered at least 30 yards.
12 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-16).
13 players (6 offense/7 defense) who started their first career game at A-State this season.
13 players named 2017 All-Sun Belt Conference by at least one preseason publication.
13 A-State victories over its last 14 Homecoming games, including the last six in a row.
13 of A-State’s 22 scoring drives (59%) have taken less than 2 minutes and none have lasted longer than 3:40.
13 tackles, 4.5 TFL and 3.0 sacks are all already the most by Caleb Caston during a single season.
19 A-State victories over its last 21 games played in the month of October, including its last eight in a row.
21 consecutive games with at least five tackles for loss by the A-State defense.
24 of A-State’s 26 victories under HC Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.
25 career rushing touchdowns by Johnston White are the seventh most in school history.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 49 of its last 75 regular-season games (65 percent).
31 A-State victories over its last 37 home games, including the last five in a row.
32.5 career sacks by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones are both school and Sun Belt Conference records.
37.6 yards per catch by Chris Murray versus Georgia Southern broke the Sun Belt Conference record.
41 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last seven (2011-17) seasons (41-7 league record).
54 victories by A-State over the last six seasons ranks as the 32nd most in the nation.
109 consecutive games played without A-State being shutout.
136 rushing yards needed by Warren Wand to become the 13th player in school history to reach 2,000.
300 or more yds total offense in 83 of last 94 games (88 pct.), including all but 5 games under Blake Anderson.
400 yards or more of total offense in 3 of A-State’s first 4 games for the first time since the 2013 season.
897 career punt return yards by Blaise Taylor are the most in school history & 2nd most in Sun Belt history.
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, a 17-year coaching veteran at the NCAA FBS level who also coached in an NJCAA National Championship game, was named the Red Wolves’ 30th all-time head football coach on Dec. 19, 2013. Anderson led A-State to back-to-back Sun Belt Conference championships (2015 and 2016), as well as three straight winning seasons and bowl game appearances (2016 Cure Bowl, 2015 New Orleans Bowl and 2014 GoDaddy Bowl) his first three years at the helm. Under his direction, the Red Wolves have also set new school records for total offense (6,174 yards in 2014), average yards total offense (476.5 yards per game in 2014), total plays (1,024 in 2014), points scored (520 in 2015), touchdowns scored (69 in 2015) and interceptions (26 in 2015). During his first three years at the helm of the program, he saw 29 of his players earn 45 All-Sun Belt Conference selections -- the most in the league over that span.
FAST START: Out of 30 all-time head coaches at Arkansas State, Blake Anderson became one of just four to win at least seven games in his first season (2014) at the school. The other head coaches to win at least seven games in their first season as head coach at A-State were Bryan Harsin (2013), Gus Malzahn (2012) and Hugh Freeze (2011).
FOUR YEARS RUNNING: Even with at least seven games remaining on A-State’s 2017 schedule, Blake Anderson is already the first head coach in Arkansas State history to win 26 or more games over his first four seasons at the school. Additionally, he is the only head coach at A-State to win 26 games in 43 or fewer contests -- Bennie Ellender is the next closest, reaching 26 victories in 44 games from 1963-67.
DOUBLE DIGITS: A-State’s two wins this season came by double figures, and seven of its eight victories last season came by at least 10 points. Additionally, all nine of its wins during the 2015 season and six of its seven in 2014 came by a double-digit margin, meaning 24 of the Red Wolves’ 26 wins under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points. The only exceptions were a 21-14 overtime win over Utah State in 2014 and a 27-26 victory over Georgia Southern in 2016.
THE ARKANSAS STATE - COASTAL CAROLINA SERIES: Arkansas State and Coastal Carolina will meet for the first time when they play Oct. 14.
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 41 of its last 48 Sun Belt Conference games (.854 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 74-43. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 24. With the exception of Coastal Carolina, which it has never played, A-State has defeated every team in the conference since the football league was formed in 2001. Along with ULM and Louisiana-Lafayette, A-State is one of three teams that have been a part of the conference since its inaugural football season.
HOME SWEET HOME: Arkansas State has strung together 12 consecutive years (2005-16) with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves are now 56‐13 (.811 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 31 of their last 37 home games, including the last five in a row. The Red Wolves actual on‐field record all‐time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 148‐76‐1 since it opened in 1974. A‐State’s six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.
UNBUCKLE THE BELT: With its 43-25 win over Georgia Southern this season, the Red Wolves now stand 12-5 all-time in Sun Belt Conference openers. A-State has won its last five Sun Belt openers for its longest streak ever as a member of the conference, and its longest as a member of any league since winning its first Southland Conference game five straight years from 1966-70.
RED WOLVES OCTOBER: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State holds a 19-2 record over its last 21 games played in the month of October. The Red Wolves went undefeated in the month during the 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016 seasons, 1-1 in 2013 and 2-1 in 2014. A-State has won its last eight games in the month, including a 43-28 win over Georgia Southern this year.
HOMECOMING HISTORY: Arkansas State is 61-27-1 all-time in Homecoming contests. The Red Wolves have won 13 of their last 14 Homecoming games, including their last six in a row, dating back to the 2003 season. A-State had a seven-game winning streak snapped in 2010 with a 34-24 setback to Louisville, but knocked off North Texas (37-14 in 2011), South Alabama (36-29 in 2012 and 17-7 in 2016), Idaho (48-24 in 2013 and 49-35 in 2015) and ULM (28-14 in 2014) in its last six Homecoming games.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : move its all-time record versus Coastal Carolina to 1-0 and give it a victory against every Sun Belt Conference team since the football league was formed in 2001 . . . improve its record in games played in the month of October since 2010 to 20-2 and mark its ninth consecutive win in the month . . . give it a winning record through five games played for the first time since 2014 and the sixth time (1998, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2014, 2017) since moving to FBS status in 1992 . . . improve its record to 42-7 over its last 49 Sun Belt Conference games . . . give the Red Wolves 55 victories over the last seven seasons . . . mark its seventh consecutive Homecoming victory.
SIX-YEAR WINS TOTAL: Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012, eight more in 2013, seven in 2014, nine in 2015, eight last year and two this season, the Red Wolves have recorded 54 victories that are the 32nd most in the nation over the last seven seasons.
THAT’S A FIRST: The Red Wolves have seen 13 players start their first career game as a member of the A-State program over the last four games. Eight of those 13 gained their first start against Nebraska, while an additional two made their first start against UAPB and Georgia Southern and one versus SMU. The list includes four offensive linemen, two wide receivers, three defensive linemen, one linebacker and three safeties. The players are Jaypee Philbert (LT), Dalton Ford (LG), Jacob Still (C), Lanard Bonner (RT), Justin McInnis (WR), Kendrick Edwards (WR), BJ Edmonds (S), Darreon Jackson (S), Javier Carbonell (DL), Caleb Bonner (LB), Michael Johnson (S), Hunter Moreton (DL) and Ronheen Bingham (DE). The Red Wolves have used a different defensive starting lineup all four games and have used the same offensive starting lineup just twice.
ON THAT NOTE: Not only did A-State have 13 players make their first start with the Red Wolves, 29 different players took their first snap ever as a member of the team. The squad’s current 2-deep features 21 of 56 players (38 percent) listed who had never played a snap as an A-State player entering this season.
ROAD WARRIORS: Arkansas State has won 20 of its last 24 conference road games dating back to the 2011 season. A-State had won 10 consecutive conference road games, its longest streak ever as a member of any league, before falling to Western Kentucky in its 2013 regular-season finale. The Red Wolves went 4-0 in conference road games in 2011, 2012 and 2015, 2-1 in 2013, 2-2 in 2014 and 3-1 a year ago. A-State defeated Georgia Southern in its only conference road game played so far this season.
PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: Back-to-back league champion Arkansas State was tabbed third in the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Coaches Poll after receiving one first-place vote and 122 total points. The Red Wolves finished just five points behind Troy, while Appalachian State was chosen the favorite with 136 points. Although A-State has won five of the last six Sun Belt Conference championships, it has never been picked to win the league in the preseason coaches poll. At the same time, A-State has been picked to finish among the top three teams in the league nine of the last 12 years.
SEVEN RED WOLVES NAMED PRESEASON ALL-SBC: The 2017 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team featured seven Arkansas State players, including senior defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones as the Defensive Player of the Year. The Red Wolves had eight total selections, including senior cornerback Blaise Taylor as a first-team return specialist and second-team defensive back. Joining Taylor and Rolland-Jones as first-team choices were senior tight end Blake Mack, senior linebacker Kyle Wilson and junior defensive back Justin Clifton. Representing A-State on the second team were senior wide receiver Dijon Paschal and senior defensive lineman Dee Liner, in addition to Taylor. The Red Wolves eight total selections were the third most in the league behind Appalachian State's 12 and Troy's nine.
SUN BELT CHAMPS: Arkansas State claimed the 2016 Sun Belt Conference championship, giving it back-to-back titles with a combined 15-1 league record over that span. A-State also won the league title 2011-13, making it one of just two programs in league history with at least five all-time SBC titles -- Troy is the other with five as well. Arkansas State is the only FBS program in the nation to win five conference titles over the last six seasons, and the Red Wolves hold a 40-7 Sun Belt record during that time. The Red Wolves’ 7-1 Sun Belt record this season matched the 2012 squad for their third best record ever in the league -- Arkansas State went 8-0 in both 2011 and 2015.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: With a 7-5 regular-season record, A-State was bowl eligible for the sixth consecutive season in 2016 and ninth time over the last 12 years. Since joining the FBS in 1992, Arkansas State became bowl eligible in 10 games or less for the sixth time (2011-16). The earliest A-State ever became bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 through eight games.
SIX STRAIGHT: Arkansas State has secured six consecutive seasons (2011-16) with a winning record for the first time since 1912-17. The Red Wolves have piled up 52 victories from 2011-16 for its most over a six-year span in the program’s 103-year history. A-State has never produced seven consecutive winning seasons.
TOP 25: Arkansas State was receiving votes in both the Associated Press (2 points) and Coaches (6 points) Top 25 polls at the end of the 2015 regular season, making it the fourth season since 2011 that A-State was included among “others receiving votes” at one point during the year. The Red Wolves also earned votes in 2011, 2012 and 2013. A-State’s most ever points in the Associated Press (28) and Coaches (23) Top 25 came in the 2012 final polls.
103RD SEASON: Arkansas State kicked off its 103rd season of football Sept. 2 at Nebraska. A-State holds a 459-479-37 record since the inaugural season and has played in 13 bowl games. A-State did not field a 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.
“1” OF A KIND: Named a William V. Campbell Trophy semifinalist and Senior CLASS Award candidate, research indicates that senior cornerback and return specialist Blaise Taylor is the only current FBS player in the nation to earn both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees before the start of his true senior season. He was recently featured in a Sports Illustrated article written by Bruce Feldman, drawing attention to his many accolades in the class room. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and received his MBA this summer.
WATCH ME, WATCH ME: Arkansas State has seven different players on at least one of the major watch lists for the 2017 season, including three who play on the offensive side of the ball and four on the defensive. All combined, A-State has a player on 10 different major watch lists.
JUSTIN CLIFTON: Jim Thorpe
JUSTICE HANSEN: Johnny Unitas Golden Arm
DEE LINER: Senior Bowl
BLAKE MACK: John Mackey
JA’VON ROLLAND-JONES: Bednarik, Bronko,Nagurski, Ted Hendricks, Senior Bowl
BLAISE TAYLOR: Paul Hornung, Wuerffel Trophy, William V. Campbell Trophy, Senior CLASS Award
WARREN WAND: Doak Walker
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 83 of its last 94 games (.883 percentage). A-State went over 300 yards in all 13 games during head coach Blake Anderson’s first season, while also reaching the mark 11 times in 2015, 10 times in 2016 and four times this season (38 of 43 games under Anderson).
400-PLUS: Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 26 times over its last 43 games (60 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach. The Red Wolves went over 400 yards in three of its first four games this season for the first time since 2013 (vs. UAPB, at Auburn, vs. Troy). The 2013 season was also the last time the Red Wolves recorded at least 400 yards total offense in four of their first five games.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including eight of the last 10 contests, the Red Wolves have now posted at least 30 points in 49 of their last 75 regular-season games (65 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 37 of their last 42 games when scoring at least 30 points.
QUICK STRIKE: Thirteen of A-State’s 22 scoring drives (59%) this season have taken less than two minutes and none have lasted longer than 3:40. A-State’s latest game against Georgia Southern saw the Red Wolves score five touchdowns in 45 seconds or less.
EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE: A-State has recorded at least six explosive players (20+ yards) in three of its first four games, including a season-high seven against Georgia Southern. Out of its 21 total explosive plays, 11 (52%) have gone for touchdowns and almost half (10) have covered at least 30 yards.
NOW THAT’S JUSTICE: Junior quarterback Justice Hansen was named College Sports Madness’ Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week following each of A-State’s first two games this season. He is the only player in the league to rank among the top three players in total offense (2nd), passing yards avg. (2nd), passing touchdowns (2nd) and pass efficiency (1st).
SCHOOL-RECORD PERFORMANCE: Junior quarterback Justice Hansen recorded a school-record 46 completions for 415 yards and three touchdowns against Nebraska. He completed 67 percent of his passing attempts, while his 46 completions also tied the second most in Sun Belt Conference history and are currently the most in the nation this season. His 415 yards were the second most of his career, fourth most in school history and is currently tied for the 19th most in the nation this season.
HITTING THE MARK: Including the Georgia Southern game, junior quarterback Justice Hansen has now thrown multiple touchdown passes 10 times during his career, including the last six games in a row dating back to last season. He has thrown for at least 200 yards 11 times, 300 five times and 400 twice. Dating back to last season, Hansen has passed for at least 200 yards his last five games and in nine of his last 11.
MULTIPLE WEAPONS: At least nine different A-State players caught at least one pass in three of A-State’s first four games, including six wide receivers that have set career highs for either receptions, receiving yards and/or receiving touchdowns.
MAKING A MOVE: Junior Blake Mack changed positions from wide receiver to tight end last season, and he has transitioned well with 50 receptions for a team-high 870 yards and seven touchdowns during that time. Mack has scored a touchdown in five of his last six games, including all four this season. His first two seasons combined at wide receiver, Mack posted 17 receptions for 235 yards.
FINDING THE END ZONE: A former walk-on and Burlsworth Trophy nominee, senior running back Johnston White recorded a team and career-best 14 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore and now has 25 running scores during his career. White’s 25 career rushing touchdowns are the seventh most in school history.
ABOVE AVERAGE: Senior wide receiver Chris Murray recorded five receptions for a career-high 188 yards and career-best two touchdowns, averaging a Sun Belt Conference record 37.6 yards per catch to help lead Arkansas State to a 43-25 road victory over Georgia Southern. Murray’s receiving yards tied the fourth most in school history and were the most by an Arkansas State player since 1999. They were also the second most by a Sun Belt Conference player this season, as well as the 17th most in the nation. He caught three passes that covered at least 51 yards, including touchdown receptions of 56 and a career-long 57 yards.
MOVING FORWARD: Junior running back Warren Wand has attempted 45 rushes this season and has yet to lose you any yards on a carry. He is averaging 6.0 yards per attempt, which is tied for the third highest in the league among its top-10 leading rushers -- only Louisiana’s Trey Ragas (7.2) and South Alabama’s Xavier Johnson (6.1) have a higher average. As a team, the Red Wolves are ranked 21st in the nation in tackles for loss allowed with 4.5 per game.
APPROACHING 2,000: Running back Warren Wand finished the Georgia Southern game with 61 rushing yards on 11 carries for a 5.5 average. He pushed his career rushing total to 1,864 yards, leaving him 136 away from becoming the 13th player in A-State history to post 2,000 in a career. He recorded 709 yards in 2015 for the most by a true freshman at A-State since Lamont Zachery ran for 846 in 1996. He entered the season 1,588 yards, the most over a freshman and sophomore season since Reggie Arnold ran for 2,136 combined yards in 2006 and 2007.
NEBRASKA GAME NOTABLES: Arkansas State scored 36 points against Nebraska, which was its most ever against a team currently in a Power 5 conference. A-State’s second highest total was 34 points scored against then-ranked No. 5 Oregon in 2012 (HC Gus Malzahn) and 34 versus Indiana in 2010 (HC Steve Roberts) . . . The Red Wolves also recorded 32 first downs, which tied the sixth most in school history and were their most since posting a school-record tying 34 against New Mexico State in 2011.
A LOSS ON THE PLAY: Dating back to the 2016 season, the Red Wolves have posted at least five stops behind the line of scrimmage in 21 consecutive games. A-State posted a season-high nine tackles for loss versus both UAPB and Georgia Southern. The Red Wolves are ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference and 31st in the nation in tackles for loss with 7.1 per game. Arkansas State led the nation in tackles for loss per game last season with a 9.6 average.
FORCING TURNOVERS: While Arkansas State didn’t create a turnover against Nebraska or SMU, it forced five in its game against UAPB and four against Georgia Southern. Its five total turnovers gained against the Golden Lions (3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries) where the Red Wolves most since the ninth game of the 2015 season (4 INT/1 FR vs. ULM). A-State’s three interceptions were also its most since recording three against New Mexico State in the 11th game of the 2015 season.
SHUTTING ‘EM OUT: The A-State defense hasn’t allowed any points in the first or third quarters in two of its first four games, including the UAPB and Georgia Southern contests. The Red Wolves have allowed their fewest points in the third quarter this season, giving up just 14 so far.
WILSON TIES CAREER HIGH: Senior linebacker Kyle Wilson was responsible for a team-high 13 tackles against Georgia Southern, which also tied his personal best originally set last year against the Eagles as well. Wilson has now recorded at least 10 tackles in two of A-State’s first four games this season and in three games during his career. Wilson, ranked seventh in the Sun Belt Conference in tackles, has led the team in stops two of the first four games (Nebraska and Georgia Southern).
DOUBLE-DIGIT STOPS: Thanks in part to 12 tackles and two pass break-ups against SMU, both of which tied his career highs, junior defensive back Justin Clifton is ranked third on the team in stops and leads the squad in pass break-ups. His performance against the Mustangs marked the fourth time of his career he has finished with a double-figure tackles total.
PLAYING IN THE BACKFIELD: Senior defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones already holds the A-State and Sun Belt Conference records for sacks in a career with 32.5 to his credit, but is now also within 11.5 of tying the NCAA FBS record currently held by Terrell Suggs (Arizona State, 2000-02). He has also recorded at least a half TFL in 27 of his last 34 contests dating back to his freshman year, and he has 48 during his career.
MORE ON ROLLAND-JONES: Senior defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones recorded season-high totals for tackles (6), tackles for loss (2), sacks (2) and forced fumbles (1) during Arkansas State’s 43-25 road victory against Georgia Southern. He increased his career sacks total to 32.5, moving him into a tie for the 14th most in NCAA history. His forced fumble was recovered by teammate Caleb Caston to end a Georgia Southern drive that reached the Arkansas State 31-yard line.
CASTON STEPPING UP: Just four games into the season, senior defensive end Caleb Caston has already put up his single-season best numbers for tackles (13), tackles for loss (4.5), sacks (3.0) and forced fumbles (1). His previous highs were 12 tackles (2015), 3.0 TFL (2016) and 2.0 sacks (2014, 2016). He currently leads the Red Wolves in sacks and TFL, while also ranking among the top 12 players in the Sun Belt Conference in both statistical categories. His path thus far is similar to that of former A-State defensive end Chris Odom, whose production exploded his senior season in 2016. Through four games last year, Odom had 23 tackles, 3.0 TFL and 2.0 sacks. Odom was named a First Team All-Sun Belt pick last season and is now a member of the Green Bay Packers.
TURNAGE TURNS IT UP: Junior linebacker Antwon Turnage entered the Georgia Southern game without any career tackles, but changed that in a big way with nine stops and 1.5 tackles for loss in his most extended playing time since transferring to A-State last season as a sophomore. At the same time, his opportunities have been limited after suffering a season-ending injury in the second game of the 2016 season.
DEFENSE IS THE BEST OFFENSE: Arkansas State has ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation in defensive touchdowns each of the last three seasons (2014-16) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen. In fact, the 2015 season saw the Red Wolves record an FBS-high eight touchdowns. A-State posted four defensive touchdowns in 2014 to rank No. 14, while also recording four in 2016 that ranked eighth. The Red Wolves have 16 total defensive touchdowns over the last three seasons (2014-16).
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
PUNT/RETURN) GAME: The Red Wolves are currently ranked among the top 28 teams in the nation in both punt return defense and punt returns. A-State’s punting unit is allowing just 2.7 yard per return to rank 21st in the nation, while its own 16.6 average per return ranks ninth. Sophomore punter Cody Grace enjoyed the best game of his young career against SMU with career highs for punting yards (289), average (46.5) and punts inside the 20 (3). Blaise Taylor has accounted for every A-State return, ranking him seventh in the nation individually.
ELITE KICKOFF COVERAGE: While Arkansas State ranks 116th in the nation in kickoff return defense at 26.2 yards per return, that average is an aberation from the previous three years and is skewed with a 99-yard return by Nebraska. Take out the 99-yard return, and A-State’s average allowed drops to 18.1 yards per return, which would rank 32nd in the country. Arkansas State has ranked among the top four teams in the nation in kickoff return defense two of the last three years (2014-16) and among the top 18 teams all three seasons under special teams coordinator Luke Paschall. A-State allowed just a 16.1 average last season to rank 3rd in the nation, while the 2015 squad ranked 18th (18.7 avg.) and the 2014 team No. 4 (16.3 avg.).
BLOCK THAT KICK: Arkansas State has recorded nine blocked kicks over the past two seasons (2015-16), including five last year that ranked as the fifth most in the nation and four in 2015 to rank the Red Wolves No. 7. The totals over the last two seasons include two blocked punts (both last season) and seven blocked field goals/extra points.
ON THE RETURN: Senior cornerback Blaise Taylor has become one of the most prolific punt return men in both Arkansas State and Sun Belt Conference history, ranking No. 1 at A-State in career punt return yards and No. 2 among all-time Sun Belt players. He has four punt returns for a touchdown and has gone over 100 return yards twice, including a career-high 111 yards against New Mexico State in 2015.