JONESBORO, Ark. (4/21/18) – Following Arkansas State’s “Fan Fest” activities in the Student Activity Center (SAC), the Red Wolves held their annual spring football game Saturday inside Centennial Bank Stadium as the offense collected a 47-29 victory over the defense using a modified scoring system.
Prior to the spring game, members of the A-State football, volleyball and women’s soccer team interacted with fans while taking photos and signing autographs. Those in attendance also had the opportunity to participate in a gear sale, which included game-worn football jerseys, on the stadium concourse.
Counting as A-State’s 14th spring practice, the game began with a 65-yard scoring drive from the offense as it took the early lead. However, the defense responded with stops on the next four drives to take an 11-7 advantage. The Red Wolves’ defense still led 27-25 near the end of the outing, but the offense came alive with four straight scoring possessions to end the day with the 18-point win.
“Overall, it’s been a good spring and we’ve improved,” said A-State head coach Blake Anderson. “I thought (today) the defensive energy was better than the offense’s. Our protection wasn’t as good today, and we didn’t particularly throw or catch the ball well the way we have all spring. It was good to see us finish up at the end with some productive plays, but we have to be more consistent. The biggest thing for our offense was we didn’t turn the ball over, and that’s where it has to start.
“Defensively, they’re going to tell you they want turnovers and they didn’t get them today, but at the same time I think we made progress. We’re going to have some guys who get here over the course of the summer and add to our depth and maybe potentially fight for some spots – I think that will help us. I think we have the most significant help coming to our football team on the defensive side of the ball.”
Senior quarterback Justice Hansen found sophomore wideout Jonathan Adams for a three-yard touchdown to start the scoring. The offense regained the lead on its sixth possession when senior running back Armond Weh-Weh scored on an 11-yard run to make the score 14-11.
A 42-yard field goal by junior Sawyer Williams ended the next drive and sophomore quarterback Logan Bonner connected with Adams on a 25-yard touchdown the following possession to push the offensive advantage to 24-11.
The defense responded by keeping the offense out of the end zone on six consecutive drives as it outscored the offense 16-1 to reclaim the lead. A 37-yard field goal by Williams then put the offense back on top 28-27 and the scrimmage ended with several big offensive plays and three straight touchdowns.
Junior wide receiver Kirk Merritt scored the first on an eight-yard pass from Bonner. Hansen followed with a 55-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Javonis Isaac, which was the longest play of the day. The game’s last drive saw Bonner hit sophomore receiver Brandon Bowling on a 51-yard pass to set up a three-yard touchdown run by junior running back Jamal Jones.
Hansen ended the day with 153 yards passing and a pair of scores, while Bonner threw for 156 yards and a pair of scores as well. Eight different players caught at least one pass, including junior receiver Omar Bayless with four catches for 84 yards, which were both game highs. Weh-Weh paced the running game with 36 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts.
Junior safety Darreon Jackson was responsible for a game-high five tackles, while senior Christian Howard came up with four tackles, four tackles for loss and a game-best three sacks. While the defense didn’t force any turnovers, they did post seven sacks and 11 pass break-ups. Defensive end’s William Bradley-King (2), Jarrod Chandler (1) and Dajon Emory (1) all recorded at least one sack.
Arkansas State will hold one final spring-camp practice Monday dedicated primarily to summer preparations. The Red Wolves will open their 2018 season with a home game Saturday, Sept. 1, against Southeast Missouri State.
“We’ve had some guys who have grown up some (this spring), but I think this summer is going to be important for us,” said Anderson. “We’ve got to become more consistent and up front, we’ve got to find the five guys who are going to play. We haven’t found that yet, and it will probably carry over into fall camp a little. That will be our first challenge on the offensive end, and defensively it will be on the back end – those cornerback spots are going to have to solidify.”