MONROE, La. (11/25/17) – The Arkansas State football team registered its highest point total against a Sun Belt Conference opponent in school history with a 67-50 win at ULM in a contest that featured a school-record and SBC-record 781 yards of total offense by the Red Wolves.
The win moves A-State to 7-3 overall and 6-1 in league play as the Warhawks drop to 4-7 and 4-4 in SBC play. The Red Wolves have now secured a school-record seventh winning season and now 21-5 in games played in November since the 2011 campaign.
Justice Hansen threw for a school-record 520 yards and had 550 total yards for another school record. The junior quarterback threw four touchdowns and added two more on the ground for a career-high six touchdowns responsible for. Justin McInnis hauled in nine receptions for 211 yards, both career highs with the 211 yards representing the third most in school history. Chris Murray had five catches on the evening with two of them going for scores to give him nine for the season, which is the second most in school history.
Warren Wand led A-State’s rushing attack with a career-best 173 yards and a touchdown, while Johnston White chipped in with 64 yards and a score. The A-State defense forced four turnovers despite giving up 580 yards of total offense. Kyle Martin tallied his first two career interceptions and became the first player this season with multiple interceptions for the Red Wolves, while Blaise Taylor had another and now has an SBC-record 34 passes defended. Darreon Jackson led the team with nine tackles, while Ja'Von Rolland-Jones had two half-sacks to bring him within 1.5 sacks of tying the NCAA record.
“This was a fight to the finish,” A-State head football coach Blake Anderson said. “I thought ULM played offense about as well as you could because our defense is really good so I wasn’t expecting them to do that. I’m proud of our guys though and this was a team win. We made the plays when we had to and were able to get the win.”
Arkansas State appeared to take control of the contest in the third quarter when Hansen scored rushing touchdowns on the team’s first two drives, one from eight yards out and the other a career-long 38-yard run, to extend A-State’s lead to 42-21. However, ULM climbed within 14 at 42-28 after Marcus Green returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. The Warhawks scored on their next possession to get within a touchdown at 42-35, but Hansen found Murray for a 17-yard touchdown strike late in the third quarter to set the score at 49-35.
The home team scored just a few plays into the fourth quarter and added two more points to come within 49-43 after a botched snap turned into a successful two-point conversion pass-and-catch. White sprinted to the end zone from 34 yards out on A-State’s next possession and a successful two-point play moved A-State in front by two scores again at 57-43. ULM’s Caleb Evans found D’Marius Gillespie for a 35-yard touchdown to put the score at 57-50 and the Warhawks had a chance to tie the game after an interception, but A-State forced a punt.
The Red Wolves were able to run the clock down to 1:42 after a career-long 46-yard field goal from Sawyer Williams pushed the visitors’ lead to 60-50. Taylor sealed the game for A-State on the ensuing ULM possession with his 85-yard interception return for a touchdown that set the final score at 67-50.
“I thought the kickoff return gave them some momentum, but we were able to run the ball late in the game and shorten the game. Our size played a huge factor in the one-on-one battles, but I never expected us to score 67 points and need most of those points to win the game. We’re looking forward to next week now against Troy. It will be a slugfest because we’re two really solid football teams.”
The Warhawks were able to march down the field after receiving the opening kickoff with Green hauling in three catches for 90 yards on the drive, the last being a 32-yard touchdown reception for a 7-0 edge. A-State responded with an eight-play, 72-yard drive, capped by a four-yard touchdown toss from Hansen to Murray, who also had a 35-yard catch to help set up the score. However, ULM used a 16-play, 99-yard drive to regain the lead at 14-7 at the end of the first frame with a two-yard rush from Evans representing the scoring play.
The Red Wolves scored early in the second period on a five-yard touchdown toss from Hansen to Blake Mack to tie the contest again at 14-14, but the home team immediately responded with a 29-yard score from Evans to Brian Williams to finish a five-play, 77-yard touchdown drive. The back-and-forth affair continued when Wand scampered 82 yards to the end zone to even the score again at 21-21. The run was a career high for Wand and the fifth longest rush in school history.
The scoring stopped momentarily in the second quarter, but a fumble forced and recovered by Ronheen Bingham set the Red Wolves up with a short field at the ULM 36-yard line. Arkansas State only needed three plays to move the 36 yards to the end zone with Christian Booker catching a four-yard touchdown toss from Hansen to set the score at 28-21, which was the score at halftime.
Arkansas State will play Troy next Saturday (Dec. 2) for at least a share of the 2017 Sun Belt Conference title. Kickoff from Centennial Bank Stadium will be at 6:30 p.m. and the contest will be broadcast on ESPN2.