MOBILE, Ala. (11/11/17) – The Arkansas State football team outgained South Alabama offensively, but had six turnovers, including two in the fourth quarter, to cause the team’s comeback attempt to fall short Saturday in a 24-19 loss at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.
The Red Wolves (5-3, 4-1 SBC), trailing 24-19 with just over five minutes remaining in the contest, drove to the South Alabama (4-6, 3-3 SBC) four-yard line with a chance to take the lead. However, quarterback Justice Hansen scrambled and was stripped of the football at the one-yard line by USA’s Bull Barge and it was recovered by the Jaguars in the end zone for a touchback.
A-State received one last chance in regulation after a defensive stand gave the ball back to the visitors with 2:06 showing on the clock. The Red Wolves earned one first down, but a pass from Hansen on the fourth play of the drive found the hands of South Alabama’s Jeremy Reaves for a game-sealing interception to hand the Jags a 24-19 victory.
“It falls on my shoulders because the offense did not play well, which is my job,” A-State head coach Blake Anderson said. “We turned the ball over, still had a chance to win, and turned the ball over again. South Alabama did a great job; its defense is one of the best in the league and has been the last two years. When we needed to run it we couldn’t, then when we needed to throw it we struggled to protect and six turnovers is the story.”
Arkansas State outgained the home team 365-340, but a season-high six turnovers, compared to only one for South Alabama proved to be the difference. Hansen threw for 285 yards and tossed a couple of touchdown passes to give him 10 straight games with multiple scoring throws, but was also picked off four times and fumbled once. Chris Murray registered a game-high seven receptions for 44 yards and a score, while Blake Mack had a team-high 94 yards on five catches.
Hansen was A-State’s leading rusher with 37 yards as the team only mustered 66 yards on the ground. However, the team’s defense was stout in that regard as the Jaguars had negative three rushing yards, but allowed 343 through the air. B.J. Edmonds tied a career high with 13 tackles, while the team posted 10 tackles-for-loss, its third straight game with double-digit tackles-for-loss. Ronheen Bingham had a career-high two sacks, while Ja'Von Rolland-Jones secured his team-best ninth sack of the season.
“If we make the catch in the end zone late or Justice dives in without fumbling, I don’t think our defense gives the lead up,” continued Anderson. “The defense played a great game all night, obviously a couple of things they’d like to fix too, but this one falls on me and the offense. We can’t put them in that position.”
The Red Wolves were sloppy in the first quarter with three turnovers, including two interceptions, the first of which set South Alabama up with a short field at the A-State 29-yard line. The visitors forced the Jaguars to a 4th-and-1 play from the five-yard line, but Tra Minter punched it into the end zone for a 7-0 edge for USA. The Jags would add on a 46-yard field goal late in the opening frame after another interception thrown by Hansen to go in front 10-0.
Arkansas State scored on back-to-back drives in the second quarter on field goals from Sawyer Williams to make the score 10-6. Neither team had much success throughout the rest of the quarter until South Alabama moved to the A-State one-yard line just before halftime. However, a bad snap on the field-goal attempt kept the score at 10-6 as the teams went to the locker room.
The third quarter was quiet until the Jaguars capped off a six-play, 83-yard drive with a 39-yard touchdown toss from Cole Garvin to Sam Harris to make the score 17-6 with 1:36 remaining in the period. Arkansas State responded quickly with a four-play, 79-yard drive, highlighted by a 50-yard reception by Mack before Hansen found Christian Booker in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown to set the score at 17-12 after a failed two-point try.
Garvin found Kawaan Baker for a 16-yard touchdown strike to end South Alabama’s first drive of the fourth quarter as the scored moved to 24-12 in favor of USA. Once again, A-State rebounded with a scoring drive of its own, this one finished on a 14-yard touchdown reception by Murray, to set the score at 24-19 in favor of South Alabama, which would go on to be the final.
Arkansas State returns to Centennial Bank Stadium Saturday, Nov. 18 for a matchup against Texas State. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. and the game can be watched on ESPN3.