GAME 4: Arkansas State (1-2, 0-0) at Georgia Southern (0-3, 0-0)
Oct. 4, 2017 | Paulson Stadium
Statesboro, Ga. | 7:00 p.m. (CT)
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
Live Stats: AStateStats.com/AStateRedWolves.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
ON TAP: Back-to-back Sun Belt champion Arkansas State is set to play its 2017 conference opener Wednesday when it travels to Statesboro to face Georgia Southern in and ESPN2-televised game at Paulson Stadium. Every Red Wolves’ football game can be heard live on 107.9 FM in the Northeast Arkansas area, and 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: A-State, the only FBS team in the nation to win five conference championships over the last six seasons, is playing its 17th season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference and will face Georgia Southern in its league opener for the second consecutive year. The Red Wolves wrapped up their non-conference schedule with a 44-21 setback at SMU and will enter the game with a 1-2 record. Georgia Southern holds an 0-3 record after most recently falling 52-17 at Indiana on Sept. 23. The Eagles were picked to finish seventh in the Sun Belt Conference preseason coaches poll, while the Red Wolves were tabbed third.
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 34 of 42 games (81%) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
1 of just two programs in league history owning five Sun Belt Conference championships.
1 touchdown reception needed by Dijon Paschal to tie the seventh most in school history.
1 sack needed by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones to tie the 19th most in NCAA FBS history.
1 victory needed to make Blake Anderson the fastest HC in school history to reach 26 wins (43 games).
2 or more touchdown passes by Justice Hansen the last five consecutive games.
4 consecutive A-State victories in Sun Belt Conference openers.
5 different watch lists (Bednarik, Nagurski, Hendricks, Senior Bowl, College Gridiron Showcase NFL) for Ja’Von Rolland-Jones.
5 Sun Belt Conference championships (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016) over the last six seasons.
5 head coaches over the last 8 years (Steve Roberts, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Bryan Harsin, Blake Anderson).
5 or more tackles for loss recorded by A-State in 20 consecutive games.
6 consecutive A-State victories in midweek games (Tue.-Thurs.).
6 current A-State players have already earned their degree.
6 straight bowl game appearances (2011-16) -- a school record.
6 consecutive winning seasons (2011-16) by A-State for the first time since 1912-17.
6 players on A-State’s roster from the state of Georgia.
7 players named to the Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team (8 selections).
7 or more victories each of the last six seasons (2011-16) -- first time in school history.
7 different players named to at least one major award watch list.
8 of last 11 years w/at least one NFL Draft selection.
9 of the last 12 seasons (2005-16) have seen A-State reach bowl eligibility, including the last six in a row.
11 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 14 years, including 2015.
12 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-16).
13 players named 2017 All-Sun Belt Conference by at least one preseason publication.
18 A-State victories over its last 20 games played in the month of October.
19 A-State victories over its last 23 conference road games.
23 of A-State’s 25 victories under HC Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.
25 career rushing touchdowns by Johnston White are the seventh most in school history.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 48 of its last 74 regular-season games (65 percent).
30.5 career sacks by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones are both school and Sun Belt Conference records.
40 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last six (2011-16) seasons (40-7 league record).
53 victories by A-State over the last six seasons ranks tied for the 32nd most in the nation.
108 consecutive games played without A-State being shutout.
292 or less yds total offense allowed by A-State’s defense five of the last seven games, dating back to 2016.
300 or more yds total offense in 82 of last 93 games (88 pct.), including all but 5 games under Blake Anderson.
400 yards or more of total offense in A-State’s first three games for the first time since the 2013 season.
896 career punt return yards by Blaise Taylor are the most in school history & 2nd most in Sun Belt history.
2011 was the last season Arkasnas State played its Sun Belt Conference opener on the road.
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, a 17-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 A-State to back-to-back Sun Belt Conference championships (2015 and 2016), as well as three straight winning seasons and bowl game appearances (2016 Cure Bowl, 2015 New Orleans Bowl and 2014 GoDaddy Bowl) his first three years at the helm. Under his direction, the Red Wolves have also set new school records for total offense (6,174 yards in 2014), average yards total offense (476.5 yards per game in 2014), total plays (1,024 in 2014), points scored (520 in 2015), touchdowns scored (69 in 2015) and interceptions (26 in 2015). During his first three years at the helm of the program, he saw 29 of his players earn 45 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).
FOUR YEARS RUNNING: Even with at least eight games remaining on A-State’s 2017 schedule, Blake Anderson is already the first head coach in Arkansas State history to win 25 or more games over his first four seasons at the school. Additionally, he is the just the second head coach at A-State to win 25 games in 42 or fewer contests -- Bennie Ellender reached 25 victories in 40 games from 1963-67.
DOUBLE DIGITS: A-State’s first win this season came by double figures, and seven of its eight victories last season came by at least 10 points. Additionally, all nine of its wins during the 2015 season and six of its seven in 2014 came by a double-digit margin, meaning 23 of the Red Wolves’ 25 wins under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points. The only exceptions were a 21-14 overtime win over Utah State in 2014 and a 27-26 victory over Georgia Southern in 2016.
THE ARKANSAS STATE - GEORGIA SOUTHERN SERIES: Arkansas State and Georgia Southern will meet for the second time as Sun Belt opponents and third time ever. The two teams played in their Sun Belt opener last year as well, and A-State pulled out a narrow 27-26 win in Jonesboro. The all-time series is tied 1-1 as Georgia Southern claimed a 26-7 victory in the 1986 I-AA national championship game in Tacoma, Wash.
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 40 of its last 46 Sun Belt Conference games (.869 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 73-43. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 24. A-State has defeated every team in the conference since the football league was formed in 2001. Along with ULM and Louisiana-Lafayette, A-State is one of three teams that have been a part of the conference since its inaugural football season.
ROAD WARRIORS: Arkansas State has won 19 of its last 23 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. The Red Wolves went 4-0 in conference road games in 2011, 2012 and 2015, 2-1 in 2013, 2-2 in 2014 and 3-1 a year ago.
UNBUCKLE THE BELT: The Red Wolves stand 11-5 all-time in Sun Belt Conference openers after picking up a 27-26 win over Georgia Southern in their first league game last year. A-State has won its last four Sun Belt openers for their longest streak ever as a member of the conference, and its longest as a member of any league since winning its first Southland Conference game five straight years from 1966-70.
RED WOLVES OCTOBER: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State holds an 18-2 record over its last 20 games played in the month of October. The Red Wolves went undefeated in the month during the 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016 seasons, 1-1 in 2013 and 2-1 in 2014. A-State has won its last seven games in the month.
MIDWEEK MADNESS: Historically, A-State has performed well in midweek games (Tue.-Thurs.) since joining the Sun Belt Conference. The Red Wolves hold a 17-6 record in all midweek games since its 2001 inaugural year in the league. They have won 13 of their last 16 midweek contests, including the last six in a row. The last time A-State took the field for a midweek game, it claimed a 35-3 Thursday night win over then-ranked No. 25 Troy last season.
GEORGIA RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has six players on its roster from the state of Georgia, including three listed on its current depth chart in sophomore linebacker Tajhea Chambers (Gordon), sophomore deep snapper Ty Mimbs (Sandersville) and senior offensive lineman Jaypee Philbert (Atlanta). The other three players on A-State’s roster from Georgia are freshman corner A.J. Cayetano (Atlanta), freshman linebacker Thomas Weldon and junior defensive lineman Josh Curry (Columbus).
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : move its all-time record versus Georgia Southern to 2-1 . . . give it five consecutive wins in Sun Belt Conference openers, and its longest winning streak in conference opening games as a member of any league since winning its first Southland Conference game five straight years from 1966-70 . . . improve its record in games played in the month of October since 2010 to 19-2 and mark its eight consecutive win in the month . . . give its seven straight wins in midweek games, and improve its record in such games to 18-6 since 2001 . . . make Blake Anderson the fastest head coach in school history to reach 26 victories (43 games) . . . give it a 2-2 record through four games played for the fifth time over the last seven years and first time since 2014 . . . improve its record to 41-6 over its last 47 Sun Belt Conference games . . . give the Red Wolves 54 victories over the last seven seasons . . . mark its 20th victory over its last 24 conference road games.
SIX-YEAR WINS TOTAL: Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012, eight more in 2013, seven in 2014, nine in 2015, eight last year and one this season, the Red Wolves have recorded 53 victories that are tied for the 32nd most in the nation over the last seven seasons.
THAT’S A FIRST: The Red Wolves have seen 11 players start their first career game as a member of the A-State program over the last three games. Eight of those 10 gained their first start against Nebraska, while an additional two made their first start against UAPB and one versus SMU. The list includes four offensive linemen, two wide receivers, one defensive lineman, one linebacker and three safeties. The players are Jaypee Philbert (LT), Dalton Ford (LG), Jacob Still (C), Lanard Bonner (RT), Justin McInnis (WR), Kendrick Edwards (WR), BJ Edmonds (S), Darreon Jackson (S), Javier Carbonell (DL), Caleb Bonner (LB) and Michael Johnson (S).
ON THAT NOTE: Not only did A-State have 11 players make their first start with the Red Wolves, 29 different players took their first snap ever as a member of the team. The squad’s current 2-deep features 20 of 53 players (38 percent) listed who had never played a snap as an A-State player entering this season.
HOME SWEET HOME: Arkansas State has strung together 12 consecutive years (2005-16) with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves are now 56‐13 (.811 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 31 of their last 37 home games, including the last five in a row. The Red Wolves actual on‐field record all‐time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 148‐76‐1 since it opened in 1974. A‐State’s six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.
PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: Back-to-back league champion Arkansas State was tabbed third in the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Coaches Poll after receiving one first-place vote and 122 total points. The Red Wolves finished just five points behind Troy, while Appalachian State was chosen the favorite with 136 points. Although A-State has won five of the last six Sun Belt Conference championships, it has never been picked to win the league in the preseason coaches poll. At the same time, A-State has been picked to finish among the top three teams in the league nine of the last 12 years.
SEVEN RED WOLVES NAMED PRESEASON ALL-SBC: The 2017 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team featured seven Arkansas State players, including senior defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones as the Defensive Player of the Year. The Red Wolves had eight total selections, including senior cornerback Blaise Taylor as a first-team return specialist and second-team defensive back. Joining Taylor and Rolland-Jones as first-team choices were senior tight end Blake Mack, senior linebacker Kyle Wilson and junior defensive back Justin Clifton. Representing A-State on the second team were senior wide receiver Dijon Paschal and senior defensive lineman Dee Liner, in addition to Taylor. The Red Wolves eight total selections were the third most in the league behind Appalachian State's 12 and Troy's nine.
SUN BELT CHAMPS: Arkansas State claimed the 2016 Sun Belt Conference championship, giving it back-to-back titles with a combined 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 -- Troy is the other with five as well. Arkansas State is the only FBS program in the nation to win five conference titles over the last six seasons, and the Red Wolves hold a 40-7 Sun Belt record during that time. The Red Wolves’ 7-1 Sun Belt record this season matched the 2012 squad for their third best record ever in the league -- Arkansas State went 8-0 in both 2011 and 2015.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: With a 7-5 regular-season record, A-State was bowl eligible for the sixth consecutive season in 2016 and ninth time over the last 12 years. Since joining the FBS in 1992, Arkansas State became bowl eligible in 10 games or less for the sixth time (2011-16). The earliest A-State ever became bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 through eight games.
SIX STRAIGHT: Arkansas State has secured six consecutive seasons (2011-16) with a winning record for the first time since 1912-17. The Red Wolves have piled up 52 victories from 2011-16 for its most over a six-year span in the program’s 103-year history. A-State has never produced seven consecutive winning seasons.
TOP 25: Arkansas State was receiving votes in both the Associated Press (2 points) and Coaches (6 points) Top 25 polls at the end of the 2015 regular season, making it the fourth season since 2011 that A-State was included among “others receiving votes” at one point during the year. The Red Wolves also earned votes in 2011, 2012 and 2013. A-State’s most ever points in the Associated Press (28) and Coaches (23) Top 25 came in the 2012 final polls.
103RD SEASON: Arkansas State kicked off its 103rd season of football Sept. 2 at Nebraska. A-State holds a 459-479-37 record since the inaugural season and has played in 13 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.
“1” OF A KIND: Named a William V. Campbell Trophy semifinalist, research indicates that senior cornerback and return specialist Blaise Taylor is the only current FBS player in the nation to earn both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees before the start of his true senior season. He was recently featured in a Sports Illustrated article written by Bruce Feldman, drawing attention to his many accolades in the class room. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and received his MBA this summer.
WATCH ME, WATCH ME: Arkansas State has seven different players on at least one of the major watch lists for the 2017 season, including three who play on the offensive side of the ball and four on the defensive. All combined, A-State has a player on 10 different major watch lists.
JUSTIN CLIFTON: Jim Thorpe
JUSTICE HANSEN: Johnny Unitas Golden Arm
DEE LINER: Senior Bowl
BLAKE MACK: John Mackey
JA’VON ROLLAND-JONES: Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski, Ted Hendricks, Senior Bowl
BLAISE TAYLOR: Paul Hornung, Wuerffel Trophy
WARREN WAND: Doak Walker
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 82 of its last 93 games (.882 percentage). A-State went over 300 yards in all 13 games during head coach Blake Anderson’s first season, while also reaching the mark 11 times in 2015, 10 times in 2016 and three times this season (37 of 42 games under Anderson).
400-PLUS: Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 26 times over its last 42 games (62 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach. The Red Wolves went over 400 yards in each of its first three games this season for the first time since 2013 (vs. UAPB, at Auburn, vs. Troy).
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including seven of the last nine contests, the Red Wolves have now posted at least 30 points in 48 of their last 74 regular-season games (65 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 36 of their last 41 games when scoring at least 30 points.
NOW THAT’S JUSTICE: Junior quarterback Justice Hansen was named College Sports Madness’ Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week following each of A-State’s first two games this season. He is the only player in the league to rank among the top three players in total offense (2nd), passing yards avg. (2nd), passing touchdowns (2nd) and pass efficiency (1st).
SCHOOL-RECORD PERFORMANCE: Junior quarterback Justice Hansen recorded a school-record 46 completions for 415 yards and three touchdowns against Nebraska. He completed 67 percent of his passing attempts, while his 46 completions also tied the second most in Sun Belt Conference history and are currently the most in the nation this season. His 415 yards were the second most of his career, fourth most in school history and is currently tied for the 16th most in the nation this season.
HITTING THE MARK: Including the SMU game, junior quarterback Justice Hansen has now thrown multiple touchdown passes nine times during his career, including the last five games in a row dating back to last season. He has thrown for at least 200 yards 10 times, 300 four times and 400 twice. Dating back to last season, Hansen has passed for at least 200 yards his last four games and in eight of his last 10.
MULTIPLE WEAPONS: At least nine different A-State players caught at least one pass in each of A-State’s first three games, including six wide receivers that set career highs for either receptions and/or receiving yards. Chris Murray hauled in a team-high nine catches for 90 yards against Nebraska, which were both career highs. Kendrick Edwards made his A-State debut with eight catches for 100 yards versus the Huskers, while Christian Booker and Omar Bayless both posted a career- high seven receptions each against Nebraska. Bayless also recorded a career-high 72 yards against SMU. Justin McInnis finished the Nebraska game with a career-high three catches as well, while also recording a career-best 84 receiving yards against UAPB. True freshman Jonathan Adams, Jr. made his first appearance against UAPB and caught two passes for 33 yards and a touchdown.
MAKING A MOVE: Junior Blake Mack changed positions from wide receiver to tight end last season, and he has transitioned well with 47 receptions for a team-high 816 yards and six touchdowns during that time. His first two seasons combined at wide receiver, Mack posted 17 receptions for 235 yards.
FINDING THE END ZONE: A former walk-on and Burlsworth Trophy nominee, senior running back Johnston White recorded a team and career-best 14 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore and now has 25 running scores during his career. White’s 25 career rushing touchdowns are the seventh most in school history.
MOVING FORWARD: Junior running back Warren Wand has attempted 34 rushes this season and has yet to lose you any yards on a carry. He is averaging 6.1 yards per attempt, which is the third highest in the league among its top-10 leading rushers -- only Louisiana’s Trey Ragas (8.2) and Idaho’s Aaron Duckworth (6.4) have a higher average. As a team, the Red Wolves are ranked 13th in the nation in tackles for loss allowed with 4.0 per game.
APPROACHING 2,000: Running back Warren Wand finished the SMU game with 84 rushing yards on 13 carries for a 5.8 average. He pushed his career rushing total to 1,803 yards, leaving him 197 away from becoming the 13th player in A-State history to post 2,000 in a career. He recorded 709 yards in 2015 for the most by a true freshman at A-State since Lamont Zachery ran for 846 in 1996. He entered the season 1,588 yards, the most over a freshman and sophomore season since Reggie Arnold ran for 2,136 combined yards in 2006 and 2007.
NEBRASKA GAME NOTABLES: Arkansas State scored 36 points against Nebraska, which was its most ever against a team currently in a Power 5 conference. A-State’s second highest total was 34 points scored against then-ranked No. 5 Oregon in 2012 (HC Gus Malzahn) and 34 versus Indiana in 2010 (HC Steve Roberts) . . . The Red Wolves also recorded 32 first downs, which tied the sixth most in school history and were their most since posting a school-record tying 34 against New Mexico State in 2011.
16 OR LESS: Arkansas State has allowed 16 points or less in seven of its last 11 games and given up a combined 199 points over that span (18.1 per game), which is the lowest total for 11 consecutive games by the Red Wolves since allowing 199 over the same span in 2011. The Red Wolves have won their last 39 straight games when holding their opponent to no more than 10 points. A-State has won 26 consecutive games when holding its opponent to 17 points or less.
A LOSS ON THE PLAY: Dating back to the 2016 season, the Red Wolves have posted at least five stops behind the line of scrimmage in 20 consecutive games. Arkansas State led the nation in tackles for loss per game last season with a 9.6 average.
FORCING TURNOVERS: While Arkansas State didn’t create a turnover against Nebraska or SMU, it forced five in its game against UAPB. Its five total turnovers gained (3 interceptions, 2 fumble recoveries) where the Red Wolves most since the ninth game of the 2015 season (4 INT/1 FR vs. ULM). A-State’s three interceptions were also its most since recording three against New Mexico State in the 11th game of the 2015 season.
TEAM LEADER: Thanks in part to 12 tackles and two pass break-ups against SMU, both of which tied his career highs, junior defensive back Justin Clifton leads the team in both statistical categories on the season. His performance against the Mustangs marked the fourth time of his career he has finished with a double-figure tackles total. He is currently ranked ninth in the nation in solo tackles with 6.7 per game.
CAREER GAME: Sophomore linebacker Trent Ellis-Brewer recorded a career-high nine tackles against SMU, topping his previous best of seven against Georgia Southern last season. He has posted at least five tackles in all three games this season and has 19 on the year, leaving him just three shy of his total for all of last season.
PLAYING IN THE BACKFIELD: Senior defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones already holds the A-State and Sun Belt Conference records for sacks in a career with 30.5 to his credit, but is now also within 13.5 of tying the NCAA FBS record currently held by Terrell Suggs (Arizona State, 2000-02). He has also recorded at least a half TFL in 26 of his last 33 contests dating back to his freshman year, and he has 46 during his career.
DEFENSE IS THE BEST OFFENSE: Arkansas State has ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation in defensive touchdowns each of the last three seasons (2014-16) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen. In fact, the 2015 season saw the Red Wolves record an FBS-high eight touchdowns. A-State posted four defensive touchdowns in 2014 to rank No. 14, while also recording four in 2016 that ranked eighth. The Red Wolves have 16 total defensive touchdowns over the last three seasons (2014-16).
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
PUNT/RETURN) GAME: The Red Wolves are currently ranked among the top 28 teams in the nation in both punt return defense and punt returns. A-State’s punting unit is allowing just 2.7 yard per return to rank 28th in the nation, while it’s own 23.0 average per return ranks fourth. Sophomore punter Cody Grace enjoyed the best game of his young career against SMU with career highs for punting yards (289), average (46.5) and punts inside the 20 (3). Blaise Taylor has accounted for every A-State return, ranking him fourth in the nation individually as well.
ELITE KICKOFF COVERAGE: While Arkansas State ranks 126th in the nation in kickoff return defense at 31.29 yards per return, that average is an abberation from the previous three years and is skewed with a 99-yard return by Nebraska. Take out the 99-yard return, and A-State’s average allowed drops to 20.0 yards per return. Arkansas State has ranked among the top four teams in the nation in kickoff return defense two of the last three years (2014-16) and among the top 18 teams all three seasons under special teams coordinator Luke Paschall. A-State allowed just a 16.1 average last season to rank 3rd in the nation, while the 2015 squad ranked 18th (18.7 avg.) and the 2014 team No. 4 (16.3 avg.).
BLOCK THAT KICK: Arkansas State has recorded nine blocked kicks over the past two seasons (2015-16), including five last year that ranked as the fifth most in the nation and four in 2015 to rank the Red Wolves No. 7. The totals over the last two seasons include two blocked punts (both last season) and seven blocked field goals/extra points.
ON THE RETURN: Senior cornerback Blaise Taylor has become one of the most prolific punt return men in both Arkansas State and Sun Belt Conference history, ranking No. 1 at A-State in career punt return yards and No. 2 among all-time Sun Belt players. He has four punt returns for a touchdown and has gone over 100 return yards twice, including a career-high 111 yards against New Mexico State in 2015.