JONESBORO, Ark. (11/16/19) – A well-executed two-minute drill followed by a last-minute defensive stop was what Arkansas State needed on Saturday to claim a 28-27 comeback victory over Coastal Carolina to earn bowl eligibility for the ninth straight season.

Freshman quarterback Layne Hatcher led A-State (6-4, 4-2 SBC) on an 11-play, 76-yard drive to give his team the go-ahead score, while the defense stood tall on a fourth down and short situation to keep the Chanticleers (4-6, 1-5) from a chance at escaping with the win.

“Obviously excited that we got the win,” said A-State Head Coach Blake Anderson.  “That’s really the most positive thing I could tell you.  We’ve been in this position before and not gotten the job done, and I’m glad we did tonight.

“We found a way to go down there in the end (and score), and then get a stop.  I’m excited to be bowl eligible, but we’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’ve got to get back to work tomorrow and figure out how to get better.”

Hatcher completed 24 of his 35 passes for 305 yards and three scores through the air, while Marcel Murray rushed 12 times for 59 yards as he and Jamal Jones (5 rushes, 10 yards) were key down the stretch as the Red Wolves looked to extend drives. Omar Bayless led A-State with seven catches and 102 yards, while Kirk Merritt also grabbed seven balls for 70 yards and two scores, including the game-tying touchdown late in the game.

Defensively, Darreon Jackson led all players with 16 total tackles while Kevin Thurmon (11 tackles – 1 sack, 1.5 TFL) and William Bradley-King (8 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL) provided a strong presence up front that kept the CCU quarterbacks on their toes.

Coastal Carolina drove from its own 30 down to the A-State 13 on the game’s opening drive, converting a fourth down along the way. The Chanticleers looked to keep the drive going on 4th-and-1 with a rush up the middle by C.J. Marable, but the attempt was stuffed at the line by Noel Iwuchuwku to hand the Red Wolves the ball after the lengthy 13-play drive that lasted nearly eight minutes.

After a Cody Grace punt placed the Chanticleers at their own 5-yard line, Tajhea Chambers forced a fumble that was recovered by Bradley-King at the CCU 7. Three plays later, A-State cashed in on the turnover, with Hatcher finding Merritt for the first score of the day with 4:07 to go in the opening quarter.

Coastal Carolina took the ball on their own 35 after Damon Foncham’s kickoff bounced out-of-bounds, driving all the way down to the Red Wolves’ 8-yard line in eight plays. On 3rd-and-7, an incomplete pass forced the Chanticleers to attempt a field goal, which Massimo Biscardi hit from 25 yards out to make it a 7-3 contest through 15 minutes.

The teams traded punts to open the second quarter before Jamal Jones coughed up a fumble that was recovered on the A-State 36. CCU could not get much going after a first down to the 28, with Biscardi knocking through a 45-yard kick to make it a one-point affair with 9:07 left in the half at 7-6.

Another Grace punt forced the Chanticleers to start deep in their territory, but Coastal Carolina found momentum and drove downfield in eight plays. Fred Payton capped off the drive by connecting with Jai Williams on a 31-yard strike to give CCU its first lead of the day at 13-7.

Hatcher then found Adams from 75 yards out for a score, but was called back due to a pass interference call. The Red Wolves could not get much farther than its own 23, forcing another Grace punt.

The Red Wolves drove down to the Coastal Carolina 31 on the opening drive of the second half, but the Chanticleers’ defense halted the scoring threat when Kameron Burton picked off a Hatcher pass.

Carpenter then led his offense into A-State territory, with Marable and Braden Pinson combining for a pair of first downs down to the Red Wolves’ 38. Then, defensive back Logan Wescott applied heavy pressure on Carpenter, forcing a tipped pass that was grabbed by Caleb Bonner and returned 66 yards for a pick six that gave A-State a 14-13 lead with 8:43 left in the third.

On CCU’s ensuing drive, the Chanticleers once again crossed midfield to the A-State 38. Facing 4th-and-1, the A-State defense came up big yet again, with Thurmon and Jackson teaming up to stop Pinson behind the line for another turnover on downs.

The Red Wolves once again took full advantage of the solid field position, collecting three straight first downs to reach the red zone on a 24-yard pass from Hatcher to Bayless, followed by an 11-yard rush by Murray and a 12-yard completion from Hatcher to Reed Tyler. The sophomore Tyler matched his career high with three catches and collected a career-best 61 yards receiving, including the longest reception of his career at 30 yards.

After an eight-yard completion to Jonathan Adams, Jr., put the Red Wolves in a 2nd-and-2 situation, Murray plunged forward to the 3-yard line for a first-and-goal opportunity. Two plays later, Hatcher evaded heavy pressure and found Bayless for a seven-yard strike to give A-State a 21-13 lead. That score marked the 14th of the season for Bayless.

On CCU’s first play from scrimmage following the kickoff, Jarius Reimonenq picked off a Payton pass at the Chanticleers’ 33. Hatcher immediately found Adams for a 13-yard completion to get the Red Wolves back into the red zone, followed by a six-yard Murray rush. A-State would not get much further than the CCU 14, as Coastal reclaimed possession on a turnover on downs.

The Chanticleers could not score on the next drive, with the Red Wolves forcing a punt after nine plays. On the following play, Derick Bush picked off an errant throw by Hatcher and returned it down to the A-State 16. A few plays later, Antonio Fletcher nabbed a pass at the 1, but a roughing-the-passer call negated the pick and gave the Chanticleers a fresh set of downs with goal to go.

Two plays later, Marable found the end zone from a yard out, but a two-point conversion attempt fell short to make it a 21-19 A-State lead with just under six minutes remaining.

A-State then fumbled on the kickoff return, with Michael Makins recovering at the Red Wolves’ 29. The Chanticleers then turned to the ground game, with Marable and Carpenter working the ball down inside the 10. Jacqez Hairston then pushed across the goal line from nine yards out, followed by an inside rush by Carpenter on the two-point try to hand CCU a 27-21 lead.

Hatcher then fired a pair of passes to Bayless and Tyler to get the Red Wolves across midfield with under two minutes left after a pair of Murray rushes. A four-yard completion to Jamal Jones and a four-yard rush by Hatcher gave A-State a manageable 3rd and 2 at the CCU 36, when Jones moved the sticks with a four-yard run up the middle.

Another rush by Jones moved the Red Wolves down to the Coastal 21 on a third-down conversion. Then, Hatcher found Merritt with a 21-yard strike in the front of the end zone. Grupe nailed the PAT to give A-State a 28-27 lead with 32 seconds left.

Taking possession with 29 seconds left, the Chanticleers got a nine-yard run out of Marable to start the drive, but two incompletions by Carpenter had CCU facing 4th and 1 at its own 34. After a timeout, Marable was stopped at the line by Bradley-King and B.J. Edmonds to give the Red Wolves the ball to close out the night.

Payton led Coastal Carolina through the air, completing 11 of his 22 passes for 149 yards, while Marable was strong on the ground, churning out 142 yards on 28 rushes for the Chanticleers.

The Red Wolves will close out the 2019 regular-season home slate at 2 p.m. CT on Saturday, Nov. 23, against Georgia Southern. After taking on the Eagles, A-State closes out the regular season at South Alabama in a Black Friday showdown on Nov. 29 in Mobile.