LAS CRUCES, N.M. (10/28/17) – Justice Hansen set the school record for most touchdown passes in a single season after throwing four touchdowns as Arkansas State won it’s fourth-straight game with a 37-21 win at New Mexico State Saturday night.
“We took forever to get going on offense and kept ourselves behind the chains all night long, but at the end of the day we went on the road against a team I think is playing really well and we were able to find a to get the job done on a night where things didn’t necessarily go the way we had planned at times,” said A-State head coach Blake Anderson. “I’d rather have an ugly win than a pretty loss any day. I really thought our special teams did a really good job. The penalties were brutal for us, but we have to learn from that and move on. It was an ugly team win against a really good football team and we’ll take it. It will make you old, but we will take it.”
Hansen’s four touchdown passes tonight give him 25 on the season, breaking the record of 24 held by Fredi Knighten (2014) and Ryan Aplin (2012). Hansen finished 25-of-40 passing for 297 yards while rushing 16 times for 31 yards. Omar Bayless and Chris Murray each hauled in two touchdowns catches. Bayless had four catches for 73 yards in addition to his two scores while Murray had four receptions for 59 yards.
“Justice made a couple of really big throws late and they were coming from everywhere,” said Anderson. “It was one of those nights where he was frustrated early, but I thought he did a good job of staying calm. We came out after halftime and got back to some basics and got him back on track and talked about limiting the turnovers. I know the turnovers will eat him up all the way home, but overall another really good performance from Justice on a night where we needed it from him.”
A-State (5-2, 4-0 Sun Belt) out-gained New Mexico State (3-5, 1-3 Sun Belt) 417-256, including a 263-107 edge in the second half. Justin Clifton led the Red Wolves defensively with 11 stops while A-State logged 10 tackles for loss, including seven sacks. Ja’Von Rolland-Jones posted eight tackles and 2.5 sacks, giving him 38.5 sacks for his career, second most in NCAA FBS history.
A-State got on the board first with Bayless hauling in a one-handed grab in the back of the end zone. The scoring drive started at midfield and Hansen rushed up the middle for a gain of 12 yards to get the series started. Hansen connected with Jonathan Adams Jr. on back-to-back completions to pick up 17 more yards. Hansen dropped back and hit Bayless down the right side of the field for the 21-yard pass and catch.
New Mexico State scored 14 points in the second quarter to carry a 14-7 advantage to the halftime break. The Aggies scored the second of those two touchdowns with less than a minute to play in the first half.
The Red Wolves scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter, but the Aggies scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to regain the lead. Sawyer Williams converted a career-long 44-yard field goal to make the score 14-10 with 9:12 showing on the third quarter clock. Hansen connected with Bayless for a second touchdown, this time a 23-yard completion to give A-State a 17-14 lead with 6:55 left in the third quarter.
After the Aggies scored on the first play of the fourth quarter, Hansen completed his third touchdown pass as the Red Wolves reclaimed the lead. Hansen was 4-for-5 on the series and added a 20-yard rush to push A-State inside the red zone. Murry pulled in a 12-yard pass from Hansen for the score as Hansen completed his 24th touchdown pass of the season, tying the single-season program record.
On the next drive, Hansen took ownership of the school record as he teamed up with Murray for the second time on the game and set the single-season school record with 25 touchdown passes. Hansen connected with Murray three times on the scoring drive including the 37-yard touchdown strike. Johnston White added an eight-yard rushing touchdown with eight minutes left to set the score at 37-21 in favor or the Red Wolves.
A-State has an open week next weekend before heading to Mobile, Ala., to take on South Alabama on Saturday, November 11. Game time and television for the game will be announced at a later date.