SAN MARCOS, Texas (11/24/18) – The Arkansas State football scored 26 unanswered points in the second half as it cruised to a 33-7 victory over Texas State at Bobcat Stadium Saturday evening.
The Red Wolves (8-4, 9-3 SBC) racked up 493 yards of total offense led a big afternoon on the ground from Warren Wand who ran for 145 yards and a touchdown. Kirk Merritt added another impressive game to his string of recent performances with six catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns, while quarterback Justice Hansen threw for 276 yards on 18-of-24 passing and two touchdowns.
A-State led 7-0 at halftime after an 8-yard by Wan in the first quarter put the team out in front, but the offense struggled to find a rhythm for the remainder of the half.
Texas State (3-9, 1-7 SBC) struck for a quick score in the third quarter on a 67-yard run from Alec Harris to tie the game, but A-State answered on the next drive when Hansen connected with Merritt on a 60-yard pass to retake the lead.
The momentum swing came with 8:47 to go in the third quarter when Justin McInnis blocked a Texas State punt attempt and then was able to pick it up and return it 17 yards for the score to put the Red Wolves out in front 21-7.
“I thought Texas State had a good plan to try and run the clock down and to try and make it frustrating for us,” A-State head coach Blake Anderson said. “They did a good job of chipping away at our offense early and the start the second half was not good, but the guys got on track and we got some things going and the game really changed with the punt block.”
The special teams play proved to a crucial moment in the game as the Bobcats’ went 3-and-out on the ensuing possession and the Red Wolves struck again when Hansen found Merritt for the second in the quarter for a 39-yard score to push the advantage to 28-7.
Sophomore linebacker Tajhea Chambers led an impressive afternoon for the A-State defense, which has now allowed no more than seven points in the first half in eight of its last 10 games. Chambers had his fourth fumble recovery of the season and then added a safety in the fourth quarter.
Blake Grupe set the final with a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.
A-State entered the final week of the regular season needing to defeat Texas State and for ULM to defeat Louisiana to earn a spot in the inaugural Sun Belt Conference Championship game, the Warhawks were unable to knock off the Ragin’ Cajuns in the final minute of their matchup to prevent A-State from earning a berth.
Despite not playing in the championship game, Arkansas State finished as the Sun Belt Conference Co-West Division champions with Louisiana and will await its bowl select to find out who and where they will play next. The Red Wolves are bowling for an eighth consecutive season (2011-18) and the ninth time over the last 13 years.