ARIZONA BOWL: Arkansas State (8-4) vs. Nevada (7-5)
December 29, 2018 | Arizona Stadium
Tucson, Ariz. | 12:15 p.m. CT
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
Television: CBS Sports Network
Live Stats: AStateStats.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
ON TAP: Set to play its eighth consecutive bowl game, Arkansas State will face Nevada at Arizona Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 29, at 12:15 p.m. (CT) in the 2018 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl. The game will be televised by CBS Sports Network, 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: The Red Wolves will carry a season-best four-game winning streak into the Arizona Bowl after completing the regular season with an 8-4 overall record and as the Sun Belt Conference West Division co-champions. The Wolf Pack will play in their first bowl game since the 2015 season, when they also competed in the inaugural Arizona Bowl. Nevada ended the regular season with a 7-5 overall mark and tied for second place in the Mountain West Conferences’ West Division.
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
-15 punt return yards allowed are currently the fewest in NCAA history.
0 games ever played by the Red Wolves in the state of Arizona.
1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 51 of 63 games (81%) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
1 of just two programs in league history owning at least five Sun Belt Conference championships.
1 or more touchdown passes by Justice Hansen in 27 of the last 29 games.
1 touchback and just 12 opponent return attempts (11%) in 107 career punts by Cody Grace.
3 interceptions by Jerry Jacobs are tied for the 4th most in the SBC, while he ranks T5th in passes defended.
3 years (1993-95) that A-State and Nevada shared the Big West Conference together.
4 different A-State players named 1 of the Sun Belt’s 5 major individual award winners - 1st time by any SBC member.
4 fumble recoveries by Tajhea Chambers are tied for the second most in the nation.
5 players named a SBC Player of the Week a combined 6 times (Hansen, Bradley-King, Chambers, Clifton, McInnis).
5 punt returns this season by A-State’s opponents for -15 yards (No. 1 punt return defense in the nation).
5 Sun Belt Conference championships (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016) over the last eight seasons (2011-18).
5 Sun Belt guaranteed bowl games that A-State has played in -- the only program to ever play in all five.
6 A-State players on a combined 16 college football award watch lists.
7 or more victories each of the last eight seasons (2011-18) -- first time in school history.
7 points or less allowed in the first half by the A-State defense in eight of its last 10 games.
7 players in school history, including Warren Wand, who have rushed for over 2,900 yards in a career.
8 wins are A-State’s third highest total during a regular season since moving to FBS status in 1992.
8 straight bowl game appearance (2011-18) -- a school record & the 15th longest current streak in the nation.
8 consecutive winning seasons (2011-18) by A-State for the first time in school history.
9 all-time Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards.
10 explosive plays (15+ pass/12+ rush) per game this season by the A-State offense.
11 of the last 14 seasons (2005-18) have seen A-State reach bowl eligibility, including the last eight in a row.
14 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-18).
16 current A-State players have already earned their degree.
16 all-time bowl game appearances by Arkansas State, including the 2018 Arizona Bowl.
16 consecutive games with at least 100 rushing yards by A-State.
16.4 kickoff return defense average ranks No. 7 in the nation, one year after allowing a 21.4 avg. & ranking No. 74.
17 All-Sun Belt Conference selections were the second most in school history.
19 points for A-State in the Coaches’ Poll tied Troy for the most ever by an SBC program in a preseason poll.
22 defensive touchdowns between 2014-18 under DC Joe Cauthen.
25 consecutive games with a reception by Justin McInnis, including the last 15 in a row with multiple catches.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 61 of its last 94 regular-season games (65 percent).
30 or more sacks in five straight seasons (2014-18) for the first time in school history.
35 out of the last 36 games the A-State defense has recorded at least one sack.
35 of A-State’s 39 victories under HC Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.
38 of the last 41 games with at least 5.0 tackles for loss by the A-State defense.
39 victories under Blake Anderson are the most by any A-State head coach over his first five seasons.
51 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last eight (2011-18) seasons (51-14 league record).
61 tackles by Kevin Thurmon are the most in the Sun Belt Conference among interior defensive linemen.
67 victories by A-State over the last eight seasons ranks tied for the 24th most in the nation.
75 catches by Kirk Merritt lead the Sun Belt and are the fourth most in school history.
77 interceptions by the A-State defense over the last five seasons are the 7th most in the nation.
83 all-time Sun Belt victories by A-State, which are the most in the history of the league by any program.
100 or more rushing yards in 12 straight games for the first time since 2012.
128 consecutive games played without A-State being shutout.
300 or more yds total off. in 103 of last 114 games (90%), including all but 5 games under Blake Anderson.
400 or more yards total offense in 42 of 63 games (67%) under Blake Anderson.
463.5 yards per game by the A-State offense is the 21st highest in the nation.
793 rushing yds by Marcel Murray are the most by an A-State true freshman since Lamont Zachary in 1996 (846).
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, an 18-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 the Red Wolves to Sun Belt Conference championships in 2015 and 2016, as well as five consecutive winning seasons and five bowl-game appearances (2018 Arizona Bowl, 2017 Camellia Bowl, 2016 Cure Bowl, 2015 New Orleans Bowl, 2014 GoDaddy Bowl) during his first five seasons leading the program. Under his direction, the Red Wolves have set nine new single-season school records for average yards total offense (494.8 yards per game in 2017), first downs (322 in 2017), first downs passing (190 in 2017), passing yards (4,106 in 2017), passing touchdowns (38 in 2017), points scored (520 in 2015), touchdowns scored (69 in 2015), total offense (6,174 yards in 2014) and total plays (1,024 in 2014). During his first four years at the helm of the program, he saw 49 of his players earn 81 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).
FIVE YEARS RUNNING: Blake Anderson is the only head coach in Arkansas State history to win 39 or more games over his first five years at the school. Additionally, he is one of just two head coaches at A-State to ever direct the program to at least 39 wins in 63 or fewer games -- Bennie Ellender also won 39 times over his first 63 games between 1963-69.
DOUBLE DIGITS: Although 35 of the Red Wolves’ 39 victories under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points, the Red Wolves have won two games this season by a single-digit margin. The previous four seasons combined under Anderson saw A-State claim just two wins by less than 10 points, including a 21-14 overtime victory against Utah State in 2014 and 27-26 outcome versus Georgia Southern in 2016.
CLIMBING THE LADDER: Blake Anderson has led the Red Wolves to a pair of Sun Belt titles and collected 30 league wins along the way, which are tied for the fourth most ever by any of the conference’s all-time head coaches.
THE ARKANSAS STATE - NEVADA SERIES: Arkansas State has played Nevada five times in the all-time series dating back to 1985, holding a 2-3 record against the Wolf Pack. The Red Wolves claimed a 44-28 home win in 1999, the last time they played Nevada. Arkansas State and Nevada were both members of the Big West Conference from 1993-95, playing twice over that three-year span. A-State collected a 23-21 win in Jonesboro in 1993, while Nevada evened the conference series with a home victory a year later. The first ever game played between the two schools took place during the 1985 NCAA I-AA (now FCS) playoffs and saw the Wolf Pack pick up a narrow 24-23 win. The only other game in the series saw Nevada win during the 1996 season when A-State was playing as an NCAA I-A (now FBS) independent.
A-STATE vs. THE MOUNTAIN WEST: While Arkansas State has faced nine current members of the Mountain West Conference and holds an 8-16 record against those teams, the Arizona Bowl will mark just the fourth time it has played a game against an opponent while it was a member of the league -- the other three were against Utah State in 2014 (W, 21-14, OT) and 2016 (L, 34-20) and UNLV this season (W, 270-20). The Red Wolves have played Boise State (0-2), Colorado State (0-2), Hawai’i (1-0), Nevada (2-3), San Diego State (0-1), San Jose State (1-1), UNLV (1-1), Utah State (3-4) and Wyoming (0-2). Additionally, A-State at one point or another was a member of the Big West Conference with five of those teams -- Boise State, Nevada, San Jose State, UNLV and Utah State.
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 51 of its last 63 Sun Belt Conference games (.810 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 83-48. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 26. A-State has defeated every team in the conference since the football league was formed in 2001. Along with ULM and Louisiana, A-State is one of three teams that have been a part of the conference since its inaugural football season.
SUN BELT CHAMPS (5 of 8): While Arkansas State last won the Sun Belt in 2016, it is still the only Group of 5 program and one of just four FBS programs in the nation to win five conference championships over the last eight years (2011-18). The only other teams to do so are Alabama (SEC), Clemson (ACC) and Oklahoma (Big 12). The Red Wolves most recently won back-to-back Sun Belt titles in 2015 and 2016, compiling a 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.
HOME SWEET HOME: Arkansas State has strung together 14 consecutive years (2005-18) with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves are now 64-15 (.810 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 39 of their last 47 home games. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 156-78-1 since it opened in 1974. A-State’s six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985. The 2011 season also marked the last time the Red Wolves went undefeated at Centennial Bank Stadium.
REGULAR SEASON COMPARISON: Arkansas State’s eight victories are its third highest regular-season total ever as an FBS member and ties its fourth most in the history of the program. A-State has now reached at least eight regular-season wins four of the last eight years (2011-18) and 11 times in school history.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: Arkansas State has obtained bowl-eligible status each of the last eight years (2011-18) and 11 times over the last 14 seasons. Arkansas State has become bowl eligible in 10 games or less each of those seasons. Since moving to FBS status in 1992, the earliest A-State ever became bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 through eight games.
BOWL HISTORY: Including the Arizona Bowl, Arkansas State has appeared in 16 bowl games all-time and holds a 7-7-1 record in the previous 15. This is the 8th consecutive year A-State has been in a bowl game (2011-18), and it also played in the 2005 New Orleans Bowl for its first bowl-game appearance since 1970. A-State played in seven bowl games from 1951-70.
BOWL STREAK: Arkansas State is making a school-record eighth consecutive appearance in a bowl game, which is the third longest streak in the Group of 5 and ranks 15th in the nation among all FBS programs.
PLAY ‘EM ALL: Headed to the 2018 NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, Arkansas State becomes the only team that will have ever played in all five of the Sun Belt Conference’s guaranteed bowl games. The Red Wolves have previously appeared in the Dollar General Bowl (formerly GoDaddy) four times (2011-14) and the New Orleans Bowl (2015), Cure Bowl (2016) and Camellia Bowl (2017) once each. Two current players on the team, including redshirt seniors Jarrod Chandler and Jhamahl Bell, have been to all five contests. Outside of A-State, no other all-time member of the Sun Belt Conference has been to more than three of the league’s five bowl games. Appalachian State has been to three (Camellia twice, Dollar General, New Orleans), while the rest of the all-time Sun Belt members haven’t appeared in more than two.
A NEW DESTINATION: The Arkansas State football team will play its first ever game in The Grand Canyon State when it competes in the 2018 Arizona Bowl, leaving just 12 other states where the Red Wolves have never played. Just six of those 12 states have an FBS member, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The other six are Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Vermont.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : give it four bowl game wins over the last eight seasons (2011-18) . . . mark its eighth all-time bowl victory and its second under head coach Blake Anderson . . . move its all-time bowl record to 8-7-1 . . . give it least nine victories for the fourth time as an FBS member and ninth time in the history of the program . . . give it nine wins to tie its second highest total for a season as an FBS member and tie its fourth highest in school history . . . give it nine victories, matching (2015) its most under head coach Blake Anderson . . . give it nine or more wins for the fourth time over the last eight seasons (2011-18) . . . even its all-time record versus Nevada to 3-3 . . . give it a 2-0 record against Mountain West Conference teams this season and a 3-1 record against members of the league at the time of the game.
17 TABBED ALL-CONFERENCE: Arkansas State racked up 17 All-Sun Belt Conference selections this season. Including five players tabbed First Team, six Second Team, two Third Team and four Honorable Mention, A-State’s 17 total selections were the second most in school history behind only its 18 last year. The Red Wolves have now had at least 10 all-conference selections nine consecutive years and 12 times since the Sun Belt’s inaugural season in 2001. They have also accumulated 81 all-conference picks since 2014, which are the most in the league over that span.
THAT’S A FIRST: Arkansas State became this year the first program in league history to have different players win four of the conference’s five major individual player awards.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: With the addition of QB Justice Hansen, A-State has now seen three different players named the Sun Belt’s Player of the Year a combined five times – both the most in conference history. Former quarterback Ryan Aplin (2011-12) and defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones (2016-17) both received the honor as well. An Arkansas State player has also won the award the last three consecutive years between Hansen and Rolland-Jones, which happened only one other time in Sun Belt history by North Texas from 2002-04.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: DE Ronheen Bingham joined former defensive ends Brandon Joiner and Alex Carrington and safety Tyrell Johnson as all-time A-State players to be named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year. The four standouts have combined to give the Red Wolves the most players in the league to ever receive the recognition.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: WR Kirk Merritt became Arkansas State’s second all-time Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year, joining former defensive back Jonathan Burke (2002). A-State is one of three programs in league history with multiple players to win the award.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Joining former wide receiver J.D. McKissic and running back Reggie Arnold, RB Marcel Murray is the third all-time A-State player to be named the Sun Belt’s Freshman of the Year, which ties the most in conference history.
EIGHT STRAIGHT: Arkansas State has secured a winning record in a school-record eight consecutive seasons (2011-18). The next longest streak was six straight seasons from 1912-17. The Red Wolves piled up 66 victories from 2011-18 for its most over an eight-year span in the program’s 103-year history.
RED WOLVES NOVEMBER: Arkansas State completed November with an unblemished 4-0 record this year and, dating back to the 2011 season, now holds a 25-5 record over its last 30 games played in the month. The Red Wolves have won their last six November games.
WINNING NON-CONFERENCE RECORD: With a 3-1 record, Arkansas State secured a winning record this season against non-conference opponents for the first time since 1995 when it went 3-2. Additionally, with wins against Tulsa and UNLV, the Red Wolves won back-to-back non-conference games against FBS opponents for the first time ever since moving to FBS status in 1992.
RON CARROLL WORKS No. 500: Now in his 43rd season as Arkansas State’s head certified trainer, A-State Hall of Honor inductee (2005) Ron Carroll reached a milestone number in his career when the Red Wolves played Georgia Southern this year. A part of eight all-time A-State conference championships and eight bowl games, Carroll worked his 500th all-time Arkansas State game on Sept. 29, 2018. Carroll has not only worked every A-State football contest since his first in 1976, he has never missed a fall practice and missed only one spring practice in 2013 to have his gallbladder removed. Since being named A-State’s first certified athletic trainer at the age of 24, he has worked with 11 head football coaches and 11 athletics directors. Now 66 years old, Carroll has also since been married (1979), has three children and is expecting his seventh grandchild this October.
ROAD WARRIORS: Arkansas State has won 25 of its last 32 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.
WATCH ME, WATCH ME: Arkansas State had six different players on at least one major watch list for the 2018 season, including four who play on the offensive side, two on defense and one on special teams. All combined, A-State had a player on 13 different major watch lists.
TOP 25: For the first time since moving to FBS status in 1992, Arkansas State entered a season receiving votes in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ top-25 polls. However, A-State did receive votes in the FINAL version of both 2012 polls (28 pts AP, 13 pts Coaches). The Red Wolves earned 19 points in the 2018 preseason Coaches’ Poll, matching Troy’s total to give both programs the highest amount of points ever by a Sun Belt Conference team in a preseason poll. A-State also received one point in the 2018 USA Today Preseason Poll. Since 1992, this is the first time A-State has received any votes in the AP Preseason Poll, while the last time it received votes in the preseason Coaches’ Poll was 2013 (1 point).
104TH SEASON: Arkansas State kicked off its 104th season of football Sept. 1 at home against Southeast Missouri State. A-State holds a 473-486-37 record since the inaugural season and has played in 16 bowl games (including the 2018 Arizona Bowl). 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.
EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE: Based on gains of at least 15 yards passing and 12 rushing, Arkansas State has recorded at least nine explosive plays in all but one game this season and is averaging 10.4 per contest. The Red Wolves recorded a season-high 15 explosive plays against SEMO, followed by 14 versus Georgia State, 11 versus UNLV, Louisiana, Coastal Carolina and ULM, 10 against Georgia Southern, South Alabama and Texas State and nine against both Tulsa and Alabama. A-State has recorded 125 total explosive plays, including 70 covering at least 20 yards.
RUSHING RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has rushed for at least 170 yards in eight games, which are its most since hitting the mark in 10 outings in 2015. A-State has also posted at least 100 rushing yards in every game this year, marking the first time it has reached the century mark in 12 consecutive games since the 2012 season (12 straight). A-State has never rushed for 100 yards in 13 games in the same season as an FBS member, and the last time it did so at any level was 1987. Dating back to last season, the Red Wolves have recorded at least 100 yards on the ground in 16 consecutive games.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 103 of its last 114 games (.903 percentage). A-State has produced 300 yards in 58 of 63 games under head coach Blake Anderson, including the last 24 in a row.
400-PLUS: Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 42 times over its last 63 games (67 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach. A-State is ranked 21st in the nation this season with 466.7 yards per game, one year after it posted a school-record 494.8 average that ranked 10th in the nation. The Red Wolves have hit the 400-yard mark in their last six outings.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including 20 of the last 29 contests, the Red Wolves have now posted at least 30 points in 61 of their last 94 regular-season games (65 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 48 of their last 54 games when scoring at least 30 points.
TOP 30: Senior quarterback Justice Hansen was named on Oct. 5 as a “top 30” candidate for the 2018 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. The senior from Edmond, Okla., was named a “top 20” candidate for the award last season as a junior.
FAST START: The Coastal Carolina game marked the fifth time this season that Arkansas State scored on its first possession (all touchdowns). A-State also found the end zone on its first drive versus Louisiana, Georgia State, UNLV and SEMO.
GOING FOR 100: True freshman running back Marcel Murray posted a career-high 121 rushing yards against Louisiana and has recorded two 100-yard rushing performances on his way to a team-leading 793 yards, which are the most by an A-State true freshman since Lamont Zachary ran for 846 in 1996.
JUSTICE SERVED: Senior quarterback Justice Hansen was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 3, recognizing his record-setting performance against Southeast Missouri State. He set a school record with six touchdown passes and finished the night 26-of-36 passing with 423 yards. All six touchdowns went to different receivers, and he became the first Sun Belt quarterback to toss six or more touchdown passes since Giovanni Vizza of North Texas had eight against Navy on Nov. 10, 2007.
HANSEN EARNS SECOND WEEKLY HONOR: Senior quarterback Justice Hansen was named the Sun Belt Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 22 after accounting for five touchdowns and 333 yards total offense while also breaking the Arkansas State school record for career passing touchdowns during the Red Wolves’ 51-35 victory over Georgia State. He completed three touchdown passes, running his career total to 70 that gave him the sixth most in Sun Belt Conference history.
MERRITT ON THE RECEPTION: Junior receiver Kirk Merritt has either led A-State or tied for the team high in receptions eight of 12 games this season, hauling in a combined 75 receptions over that span. Merritt’s 75 catches are the fourth most in school history and the most by an A-State player since J.D. McKissic (now with the Seattle Seahawks) had 82 in 2013. Merritt posted a career-high 11 catches against both Coastal Carolina and Georgia Southern, a total ranking tied for the seventh most in school history for a single game. He has caught at least four passes in 11 of the Red Wolves’ 12 games as well and is currently leading the Sun Belt Conference with 6.2 receptions per game, which is also the 20th highest average in the nation.
HITTING THE MARK: Junior quarterback Justice Hansen has thrown at least one passing touchdown in 27 of his last 29 games and two or more touchdown passes in 20 of his last 26 outings. He has thrown multiple scoring passes in 25 career games. The former Oklahoma transfer has thrown for at least 200 yards 28 times, 300 yards 12 times and 400 five times during his three-year career at A-State. Dating back to the 2015 season, Hansen has passed for at least 200 yards in 26 of his last 31 games.
ECLIPSING 2,000: Running back Warren Wand has pushed his career rushing total to 2,955 yards, making him one of 10 players in A-State history to post 2,500 in a career. He is currently ranked 18th in the nation among active players in career rushing yards, while his 22 career rushing touchdowns are the 45th most.
A LOSS ON THE PLAY: Dating back to the 2015 season, the Red Wolves have posted at least five stops behind the line of scrimmage in 38 of their last 41 games. A-State has ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation each of the last three seasons in tackles for loss.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK: A-State has ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation in sacks three of the last five years, posting a combined 174 sacks over that span. The Red Wolves have recorded at least one sack in 35 of their last 36 games dating back to the 2016 season.
PICK IT OFF: A-State has proved to be an opportunistic defense the last five seasons (2014-18) when the ball has been put in the air, intercepting a combined 77 passes over that time that rank as the seventh most in the nation over that span. The only teams with more interceptions are San Diego State (86), Ohio State (82), Utah (81), Alabama (80), Iowa (80) and Appalachian State (78).
FORCING TURNOVERS: Arkansas State has recorded at least one turnover gained in 51 of 63 games (81 percent) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen. The Red Wolves have ranked among the top 30 teams in turnovers gained three of the last five years as well (2014-18), and their combined 126 forced turnovers over that span are the sixth most in the nation.
DEFENSE IS THE BEST OFFENSE: Arkansas State has ranked among the top 21 teams in the nation in defensive touchdowns each of the last five seasons (2014-18) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen. In fact, the 2015 season saw the Red Wolves record an FBS-high eight touchdowns. The Red Wolves have 22 total defensive touchdowns over the last five seasons (2014-18).
BINGHAM ON THE STOP: Senior defensive end Ronheen Bingham recorded a career-high 13 tackles against Louisiana, and he now has two career games with double figure stops (both this season). Bingham has posted 52 of his 65 stops over the last eight outings, averaging 6.5 per game over that span as he has climbed to No. 28 in the Sun Belt Conference in the stat.
CLIFTON TABBED SBC DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior safety Justin Clifton was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week after recording a season-high two interceptions, including one he returned 43 yards for a touchdown, and a pass break-up to help lead Arkansas State to a 31-14 victory over ULM.
CHAMBERS RECOGNIZED: Sophomore linebacker Tajhea Chambers was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week after recording seven tackles and a career-high two fumble recoveries, including one he returned 34 yards for his first career touchdown, during Arkansas State’s 51-35 victory over Georgia State. The Gordon, Ga., native now has five career fumble recoveries to his credit, while his 70 tackles this season are the third most on the squad.
BRADLEY-KING COLLECTS WEEKLY HONOR: Sophomore defensive end William Bradley-King was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week after his dominating performance in the Red Wolves’ 27-20 victory over UNLV. He recorded his second career forced fumble while setting career highs with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. With the Red Wolves leading 27-20, Bradley-King recorded a strip-sack on fourth down that ended UNLV’s final possession and secured the victory for Arkansas State. The Kansas City, Mo., native also posted a sack on the final play of the first half, helping preserve a six-point A-State lead by not allowing UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers to get off a pass to the end zone. He additionally came up with tackles on two third-down plays that forced UNLV punts during the game.
JACOBS HONORED BY CSM: College Sports Madness named junior cornerback Jerry Jacobs its Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week following his two-interception performance against UNLV. Jacobs became the first A-State player to intercept multiple passes in a game since Kyle Martin had two against ULM in the Red Wolves’ 10th game of last season. Jacobs is now ranked tied for fourth and tied for fifth in the Sun Belt Conference for interceptions and passes defended, respectively.
DOUBLE-FIGURE STOPS: Senior safety Darreon Jackson recorded a career-high 13 tackles against Tulsa, which also ties the most this year by an A-State player through 10 games. Jackson has now posted double-figure stops in four career games, all coming over the Red Wolves’ last 13 outings. Jackson is currently ranked ninth in the Sun Belt Conference with 7.0 per game.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
COVERAGE GAME: Arkansas State’s punt and kickoff coverage units have been successful early this season as both rank among the top seven in the nation. In fact, the Red Wolves are ranked first in the nation in punt coverage by allowing -1.9 yards per return by its opponents. The kickoff coverage team is allowing just 16.4 yards per return, which is a significant improvement over its 21.4 average and No. 74 ranking a year ago.
RECORD ON THE LINE: Arkansas State has allowed -15 yards on punt returns this season and if that number holds up, the Red Wolves will set a new NCAA record for fewest punt return yards allowed in a season. The current record is -9 yards allowed by TCU during the 2014 season.
ON THE RETURN: Stepping into a punt return role for the first time of his career, senior running back Warren Wand has already recorded 230 return yards that rank eighth in A-State history for a single season. While his 8.8 yards per attempt ranks third in the Sun Belt Conference, it ranks Wand 28th in the nation.
AMAZING GRACE: Junior punter Cody Grace has posted only one touchback in 107 punting attempts during his two-year career at A-State, while his punts have also been returned just 12 times (11 percent). He has played a big part in the Red Wolves ranking No. 1 in the nation this season and No. 2 a year ago in punt return defense. He has posted at least one punt inside the opponent’s 20-yard line in 21 of 23 career games and multiple in all but five. He was a Ray Guy Award semifinalist (top 10) this year and last.
GRUPE ON THE KICK: Since taking over place kicking duties in the third game (Tulsa) of the season, redshirt freshman Blake Grupe has made 12 of his 17 field goal attempts. He made a career-high three against Appalachian State, including a career-long covering 47 yards. Grupe is ranked among the top six players in the Sun Belt Conference for field goals made (3rd), points by kicking (5th) and field goal percentage (6th).
McINNIS CLAIMS WEEKLY HONOR: Senior wide receiver Justin McInnis was named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week following the Texas State game after he both blocked a punt and then returned it 17 yards for a touchdown. The play marked A-State’s first blocked punt return for a touchdown since its 2016 victory over UCF in the Cure Bowl.