GAME 3: Arkansas State (1-1) at No. 3 Georgia (2-0)
Sept. 14, 2019 | Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium
Athens, Ga. | 11:00 a.m. CT
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
Matt Stolz (pxp), Tim Allison (analyst), Brad Bobo (sideline)
Roy Philpott (pxp), Kelly Stouffer (analyst), Lauren Sisler (sideline)
Live Stats: AStateStats.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
ON TAP: Arkansas State will play its second consecutive road game Saturday when it faces No. 3 Georgia in Athens at 11:00 a.m. CT. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2, 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: Coming off a 43-17 road victory at UNLV, the Red Wolves are set to play their fifth SEC opponent in six seasons under head coach Blake Anderson. A-State is off to a 1-1 start for the 12th time over the last 17 seasons, while the Bulldogs are 2-0 and the nation’s No. 3-ranked team.
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, a 19-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 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 records, including average yards total offense (494.8 ypg in 2017), total offense (6,174 yards in 2014) and points scored (520 in 2015).
FOREVER IN OUR HEARTS: The Arkansas State Athletics Department family was saddened to learn of the passing late Monday night, Aug. 19, of Wendy Anderson, wife of sixth-year head football coach Blake Anderson. Wendy’s courageous battle with cancer will continue to serve as an inspiration to many across the nation, and the outpouring of support far and wide for the Andersons and the A-State family has been overwhelming. Anderson took a leave of absence to be with his family until Sept. 7, when he returned to the sidelines to lead A-State to a 43-17 win over UNLV. Assistant head coach and defensive coordinator David Duggan served as the Red Wolves’ interim head coach from Aug. 19 until Anderson’s return on Sept. 7.
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).
SIX YEARS RUNNING: Blake Anderson is the only head coach in Arkansas State history to win 40 or more games over his first six years at the school. Additionally, he is one of just two head coaches at A-State to ever direct the program to at least 40 wins in 65 or fewer games -- Forrest England also won 40 games over his first 65 games between 1946-52, while Bennie Ellender won 40 times over his first 64 games between 1963-69.
DOUBLE DIGITS: Including six of its eight victories in 2018, 36 of the Red Wolves’ 40 wins under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points. The only exceptions were 29-20 and 27-20 victories last season over Tulsa and UNLV, a 21-14 overtime win against Utah State in 2014 and 27-26 victory over Georgia Southern in 2016. A-State has outscored its opponents 1,690-757 in the 40 wins under Anderson for a 23.3-point average scoring difference.
CLIMBING THE LADDER: Blake Anderson has led the Red Wolves to a pair of Sun Belt titles and collected 31 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-GEORGIA SERIES: Arkansas State will face Georgia for the third time in school history and first time since 2001. The two previous meetings were both played in Athens and saw the Bulldogs claim 45-17 and 38-7 victories in 2001 and 1997, respectively. Both of those games were season openers for A-State. The 2001 game drew a crowd of 86,250, which is the eighth largest ever for an Arkansas State game.
A-STATE vs SEC: Georgia will be Arkansas State’s seventh SEC opponent over the last seven seasons after facing Alabama in 2018, Auburn in both 2016 and 2013, Missouri in both 2015 and 2013 and Tennessee in 2014. Although A-State has never defeated a team while it was a member of the SEC, it has picked up victories over two current schools prior to them joining the league. The Red Wolves defeated Ole Miss in 10-0 in 1915 and also tied the Rebels twice. A-State defeated Texas A&M in 2008 as well while the Aggies were a member of the Big 12 Conference. A-State has played Ole Miss 23 times, more than any other current SEC member.
TAKING ON THE TOP 25: Arkansas State is set to play a top-25 ranked opponent at the time of the game for the second consecutive season and fourth time over the last five seasons. The Red Wolves hold two victories over a top-25 opponent since moving to FBS status in 1992, including No. 25 Troy in 2016 by a 35-3 score and No. 25 Kent State 17-13 in the 2013 GoDaddy.com Bowl (2012 season).
GEORGIA RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has nine players from the state of Georgia on its current roster, including four who are listed on the depth chart and have started at least one game this season.
BOUNCING BACK: Including 2019, Arkansas State has bounced back to claim a victory in its second game seven (2003, 2005, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2017, 2019) of the last 11 times (2003-19) it dropped its season opener. Prior to this season, the last time A-State came back to defeat an FBS opponent in its next game was 2012 (L at No. 5 Oregon, W vs. Memphis).
THROUGH TWO: Arkansas State holds a 1-1 record through two games played for the 12th time over the last 17 seasons, including the last three in a row. Prior to last season (2018) when the Red Wolves were 2-1, the last time A-State held a winning record after three games was 2013 (2-1).
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : give the Red Wolves their first ever victory over an SEC opponent . . . move its all-time record against Georgia to 1-2 . . . make No. 3 Georgia the highest ranked opponent it has ever defeated . . . give it three wins over a top-25 opponent since joining the FBS in 1992 . . . make A-State 2-1 after three games for the second consecutive season . . . give it four consecutive road victories . . . secure at least a .500 non-conference record (regular season) for the second consecutive season, but just sixth time since moving to FBS status in 1992 . . . (1995, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2019) . . . give it back-to-back wins against non-conference FBS opponents for the second time since moving to FBS status in 1992 (accomplished last year for the first time).
A BIT OF HISTORY: Arkansas State’s 43-17 win over UNLV marked its largest margin of victory in a non-conference road game since 1986, when it defeated Delaware 55-14 in the I-AA (FCS) playoffs. The last time it had a larger margin of victory in a non-conference road game played during the regular season was 1976, when it knocked off Southern Illinois 41-10.
ROAD TRIP: Dating back to last season, Arkansas State has won its last three true road games. All three victories, including games at Coastal Carolina and Texas State in 2018 and UNLV this year, came by at least 26 points.
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 64-16 (.800 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 39 of their last 48 home outings. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 156-79-1 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.
PRESEASON ALL-SUN BELT: Including five first-team and six second-team selections, the Arkansas State placed a league-high 11 different players on the 2019 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team. Representing Arkansas State on the first team were senior wide receiver Kirk Merritt, junior tight end Javonis Isaac, junior defensive end William Bradley-King, junior defensive lineman Forrest Merrilland junior cornerback Jerry Jacobs. Earning a spot on the second team for the Red Wolves were senior wideout Omar Bayless, junior center Jacob Still, senior defensive lineman Kevin Thurmon, senior safeties Darreon Jackson and B.J. Edmonds and senior punterCody Grace. A-State’s 11 selections tied Appalachian State, which had 10 players comprise its 11 picks, for the most in the conference. The Red Wolves’ 11 players on the preseason all-conference team are their most since 2016, when they also had 11. They have now earned at least 11 selections four of the last six seasons as well.
WATCH ME, WATCH ME: A-State has 10 players on at least one major watch list for the 2019 season, including six who play on the offensive side of the ball (Logan Bonner, Dahu Green, Javonis Isaac, Kirk Merritt, Marcel Murray, Jacob Still), three on the defensive (Tajhea Chambers, Darreon Jackson, Jerry Jacobs) and one on special teams (Cody Grace). The Red Wolves have at least one player on 11 different watch lists.
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 have piled up 67 victories from 2011-18 for its most over an eight-year span in the program’s 105-year history.
ELITE COMPANY: Arkansas State is one of just four teams in the nation to win five conference titles and appear in eight bowl games since 2011, joining Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma. The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt title in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 and hold the 15th longest active streak in the nation for bowl game appearances with eight.
105TH SEASON: Arkansas State kicked off its 105th season of football Aug. 31 at home against SMU. A-State holds a 474-488-37 record since the inaugural season and has played in 16 bowl games. 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.
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 SBC titles.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: Arkansas State has obtained bowl eligibility 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 STREAK: Arkansas State has made a school-record eight consecutive bowl-game appearances (2011-18), which is the third longest streak in the Group of 5 and ranks 15th in the nation among all FBS programs.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards total offense in 106 of its last 117 games (.906 percentage). A-State has produced 300 yards in 61 of 66 games during the Blake Anderson era, including the last 27 in a row.
400-PLUS: Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 45 times over its last 66 games (68 percent) since 2014, which wasBlake Anderson’s first season as head coach. The Red Wolves have posted 400 or more yards total offense in each of their last nine games.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: The Red Wolves have posted at least 30 points in 63 of their last 96 regular-season games (66 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 49 of their last 56 games when scoring at least 30 points.
BIG NUMBERS: Senior WR Omar Bayless has picked up this season where he left off last year, recording over 100 receiving yards in each of the last three games dating back to 2018. Including the Arizona Bowl and the first two games this season, he has posted 23 receptions for 410 yards and five touchdowns. His four touchdown receptions versus SMU tied the school and Centennial Bank Stadium records, while his career-high 149 receiving yards against UNLV were the 24th most in A-State history. Bayless current leads the nation in receiving touchdowns and is ranked third in receiving yards with 140.5 yards per game.
GOOD HANDS: Junior wide receiver Brandon Bowling has a team-high 17 catches this season, which is already more than he had for his first two seasons combined (15). He also has 132 receiving yards, 24 more than his career total (108) entering this year. He posted career-best numbers for both receptions (12) and receiving yards (92) against SMU, and those 12 catches tied the fourth most in school history. He is currently ranked eighth in the nation in receptions with 8.5 per game.
DELIVERING IN HIS DEBUT: Earning his first career start against SMU, junior QB Logan Bonner threw for a career-high four touchdowns, while he also set new career-best marks for completions (32), passing yards (324) and total offense (340). His 32 completions and four touchdown passes both tied the seventh most in A-State history for a single game. Athlon Sports ranked Bonner’s performance as the 21st best in the nation among quarterbacks who made their first career start last week.
HOT START: Through the first two games of the season, junior quarterback Logan Bonner leads the Sun Belt Conference in passing yards (304.0 ypg) and ranks second in passing touchdowns (6) and total offense (313.5 ypg). Nationally, he ranks 12th in completions per game (27.0) and passing touchdowns, 14th in points responsible for (42), 16th in passing yards (608) and 20th in total offense.
HITTING THE CENTURY MARK: In just his second game at A-State, junior running back Ryan Graham posted his first career 100-yard rushing game with the Red Wolves. He piled up 103 yards and a touchdown on just 12 carries, averaging 8.6 yards per attempt. It was the first 100-yard rushing game of the season by any A-State player as well.
HOLD THE LINE: Even though A-State’s offensive line has featured three new starters this year, the group has given up just two sacks and provided blocking for an offense averaging 456 yards per game. The Red Wolves, which didn’t allow a sack in the UNLV game, rank second in the Sun Belt and 26th in the nation in sacks allowed (1.0 per game).
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 41 of their last 44 games. A-State has ranked among the top 30 teams in the nation each of the last four seasons (2016-19) in tackles for loss.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK: A-State has ranked among the top 27 teams in the nation in sacks five of the last six years (2014-19), posting a combined 184 sacks over that span. The Red Wolves have recorded at least one sack in 38 of their last 39 games dating back to the 2016 season.
PICK IT OFF: Arkansas State has intercepted a pass on the opening possession of the first two games, continuing to be an opportunistic defensive over the last six seasons (2014-19) when the ball has been put in the air. During that time span, A-State has intercepted 81 passes that rank tied for the sixth most in the nation with Appalachian State. The only teams with more interceptions are San Diego State (88), Iowa (85), Utah (85), Ohio State (84) and Alabama (83).
FORCING TURNOVERS: Arkansas State has recorded at least one turnover gained in 54 of its last 66 games dating back to the 2014 season, including the last six in a row. The Red Wolves have ranked among the top 30 teams in the nation in turnovers gained three of the last six years (2014-19), and their combined 130 forced turnovers over that span are tied with Houston for 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 six seasons (2014-19). In fact, the 2015 season saw the Red Wolves record an FBS-high eight touchdowns. The Red Wolves have 23 total defensive touchdowns over the last six seasons.
TAKE IT TO THE HOUSE: Not only did senior cornerback Jeremy Smith record his first career interception last week against UNLV, he took it 35 yards to the end zone to give A-State an early 7-0 lead. It was the first interception return for a touchdown by an A-State player since former defensive back Justin Clifton had a 43-yard return against ULM on Nov. 17 of last season.
FORCE IN THE TRENCHES: Junior defensive lineman Forrest Merrill came up with a career-tying 2.5 sacks last week against UNLV, while also finishing the game with a career-tying eight tackles. Through two games, he has posted 16 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Merrill is currently tied for 17th in the nation in sacks.
ON THE STOP: Well known for his coverage abilities, it was junior cornerback Jerry Jacobs’ career-high 13 tackles that stood out during the SMU game. Not only did his 13 tackles lead the team, they tied the highest total by an A-State player for all of last season.
CAREER DAY FOR GRUPE: Sophomore kicker Blake Grupe made three field goals and scored 13 points, both career highs, last week against UNLV. His three field goals tied the 10th most in school history for a single game, while his 13 points tied the ninth most for points by kicking.
ON THE RETURN: Moving into a punt return role for the first time of his career, senior BJ Edmonds has recorded four returns for 60 yards and a 15.0 average that ranks as the 11th best in the nation. His long return has covered 20 yards, and he posted a career-best 47 yards last week at UNLV on three attempts.
AMAZING GRACE: Senior punter Cody Grace has posted just two touchbacks in 124 punting attempts during his three-year career at A-State, while his punts have also been returned just 14 times (11 percent). He helped A-State set a new NCAA record for punt return defense in 2018. He has posted at least one punt inside the opponent’s 20-yard line in 24 of 26 career games and multiple in all but six. He was a Ray Guy Award semifinalist (top 10) each of the last two years.