GAME 7: Arkansas State (4-2, 3-0) at New Mexico State (3-4, 1-2)
Oct. 28, 2017 | Aggie Memorial Stadium
Las Cruces, NM | 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 begins a two-game road swing Saturday at New Mexico State as it continues league action against the Aggies. The outing will appear on ESPN3, 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: A-State, the only FBS team in the nation to win five conference championships over the last six seasons, improved its Sun Belt Conference record to 3-0 last week with a 47-3 win over Louisiana. The Red Wolves have won four consecutive Sun Belt Conference games and 19 of their last 20 league games dating back to the 2014 season. New Mexico State is coming off an open week after defeating Georgia Southern 35-27 Oct. 14 to snap a two-game skid. The Aggies hold a 3-4 overall record, including non-conference wins over New Mexico and UTEP, and 1-2 mark in league play.
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
0 negative rushing attempts in 49 carries this season by Warren Wand.
0 points allowed in the 3rd quarter by the A-State defense in 4 of first 6 games (UAPB, Ga. So., CCU, ULL).
1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 37 of 45 games (82%) 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 fifth most (12) in school history.
1 receiving TD by Blake Mack in 6 of the last 8 games, including 5 of 6 contests this season.
1 sack needed by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones to tie the 3rd most (37.0) in NCAA FBS history.
1 reception needed by Dijon Paschal to become the 10th player in school history with 100 in a career.
2 or more touchdown passes by Justice Hansen in eight consecutive games.
2 conferences (Sun Belt, Big West) shared by Arkansas State and New Mexico State all-time.
3 passing TD needed by Justice Hansen to tie the most (24) in school history for a single season.
4 consecutive A-State victories versus New Mexico State (2003, 2014-16).
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).
6 different starting lineups by the A-State defense this year.
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.
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.
10 statistical categories in which A-State leads the Sun Belt Conference -- 6 more than the next closest team.
11 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 14 years, including 2015.
13 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-17).
13 players named 2017 All-Sun Belt Conference by at least one preseason publication.
14 of A-State’s 32 (44%) explosive plays (20+ yds) have gone for TDs & 16 have also covered at least 30 yds.
15 players (6 offense/9 defense) who started their first career game at A-State this season.
17 of A-State’s 37 scoring drives (46%) have taken less than 2 minutes & only 1 has lasted longer than 4:00.
18 tackles, 5.5 TFL and 4.0 sacks are all already the most by Caleb Caston during a single season.
18 defensive touchdowns over the last 4 seasons under DC Joe Cauthen.
21 A-State victories over its last 23 games played in the month of October, including its last 10 in a row.
23 consecutive games with at least five tackles for loss by the A-State defense.
25 punt returns needed by Blaise Taylor to become the second player in SBC history with 1,000 for a career.
26 of A-State’s 28 victories under HC Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.
26 career rushing touchdowns by Johnston White are tied for the sixth most in school history.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 51 of its last 77 regular-season games (66 percent).
33 A-State victories over its last 39 home games, including the last 7 in a row (T7th longest in the nation).
36.0 career sacks by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones are both school and Sun Belt Conference records.
37.6 yards per catch by Chris Murray versus Georgia Southern broke the Sun Belt Conference record.
43 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last seven (2011-17) seasons (43-7 league record).
44 point margin of victory versus Louisiana was A-State’s 2nd largest all-time in a Sun Belt Conference game.
56 victories by A-State over the last six seasons ranks tied for the 24th most in the nation.
111 consecutive games played without A-State being shutout.
127 rushing yards needed by Warren Wand to become the 13th player in school history to reach 2,000.
300 or more yds total offense in 85 of last 96 games (89 pct.), including all but 5 games under Blake Anderson.
400 yards or more of total offense in 5 of A-State’s first 6 games for the first time since the 2013 season.
975 career punt return yards by Blaise Taylor are the most in school history & 2nd most in Sun Belt history.
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 five games remaining on A-State’s 2017 schedule, Blake Anderson is already the first head coach in Arkansas State history to win 28 or more games over his first four seasons at the school. Additionally, he is the only head coach at A-State to win 28 games in 45 or fewer contests -- Bill Davidson is the next closest, reaching 28 victories in 46 games from 1971-75.
DOUBLE DIGITS: A-State’s four wins 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 26 of the Red Wolves’ 28 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 - NEW MEXICO STATE SERIES: While Arkansas State and New Mexico State have played 11 times, including an initial 1993 meeting, Saturday’s game will be just the fifth between the two teams since 2003. The Red Wolves stand 5-6 all-time against the Aggies, but have won the last four meetings. A-State’s five victories came in 2016, 2015, 2014, 2003 and 1998. The last three meetings are the only games in the series that have been decided by more than 14 points, while six of the 11 contests have been decided by a touchdown or less.
OLD TIES: Along with Arkansas State, New Mexico State was a charter member of the Sun Belt Conference’s inaugural football season in 2001. However, the Aggies moved to the Western Athletic Conference in 2005 before rejoining the Sun Belt again in 2014. At the same time, the Red Wolves and Aggies were both members of the Big West Conference from 1993-95.
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 43 of its last 50 Sun Belt Conference games (.860 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 76-43. 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 21 of its last 25 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. A-State defeated Georgia Southern in its only conference road game played so far this season.
HOME SWEET HOME: Arkansas State has strung together 13 consecutive years (2005-17) with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves are now 58‐13 (.817 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 33 of their last 39 home games, including the last seven in a row that stands tied for the seventh longest current streak in the nation. The Red Wolves actual on‐field record all‐time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 150‐76‐1 since it opened in 1974. A‐State’s six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.
RED WOLVES OCTOBER: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State holds a 21-2 record over its last 23 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 10 games in the month, including three victories this season.
THROUGH SIX: Arkansas State’s 4-2 record matches its best ever through six games since joining the FBS in 1992 (2006, 2008, 2011, 2014, 2017). All five of the previous teams to post a 4-2 record through six games went on to finish with at least a .500 record, while the 2011 squad was 10-3 and the 2014 team 7-6.
3-0 IN THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State holds a 3-0 record in Sun Belt Conference play for the third consecutive year and fifth time in school history (2006, 2011, 2015-17). The three previous A-State teams to start Sun Belt action with three straight victories went on to claim the SBC championship with a combined 23-1 league record.
44-POINT MARGIN: Arkansas State’s 44-point margin of victory (47-3) over Louisiana last week was its second largest ever against a Sun Belt Conference opponent. The largest was a 45-0 win over Middle Tennessee in the final regular-season game of the 2012 season. Additionally, the Red Wolves’ 44-point win versus Louisiana represented the largest margin of victory by either team in the series that dates back to 1953.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : mark its fifth consecutive victory versus New Mexico State and run its all-time record versus the Aggies to 6-6 . . . give it 22 victories over its last 26 Sun Belt Conference road games . . . move its record to 22-2 in games played in October and mark its 11th consecutive victory in the month . . . make it 5-2 to match its best ever record through seven games since joining the FBS in 1992 (2006, 2011, 2017) . . . extend its winning streak against Sun Belt opponents to five games and improve its record to 44-7 over its last 51 SBC games . . . make it 4-0 in Sun Belt action for the third consecutive season and fourth time in school history (2011, 2015-17) . . . give the Red Wolves 57 victories over the last seven seasons.
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 four this season, the Red Wolves have recorded 56 victories that are tied for the 24th most in the nation over the last seven seasons.
THAT’S A FIRST: The Red Wolves have seen 15 players start their first career game as a member of the A-State program this season. Eight of those 15 gained their first start against Nebraska, while an additional two made their first start against UAPB and Georgia Southern and one versus SMU, Coastal Carolina and Louisiana. The list includes four offensive linemen, two wide receivers, four defensive linemen, one linebacker, one cornerback 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), Michael Johnson (S), Hunter Moreton (DL), Ronheen Bingham (DE), Kyle Martin (CB) and Christian Howard (DL). The Red Wolves have used a different defensive starting lineup all six games and a different offensive starting lineup three times.
ON THAT NOTE: Not only did A-State have 15 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 21 of 56 players (38 percent) listed who had never played a snap as an A-State player entering this season.
MIDWEEK MADNESS: Historically, A-State has performed well in midweek games (Tue.-Thurs.) since joining the Sun Belt Conference. The Red Wolves hold a 19-6 record in all midweek games since its 2001 inaugural year in the league. They have won 15 of their last 18 midweek contests, including the last eight in a row.
UNBUCKLE THE BELT: With its 43-25 win over Georgia Southern this season, the Red Wolves now stand 12-5 all-time in Sun Belt Conference openers. A-State has won its last five Sun Belt openers for its 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.
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 461-479-37 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 and Senior CLASS Award candidate, 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, William V. Campbell Trophy, Senior CLASS Award
WARREN WAND: Doak Walker
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 85 of its last 96 games (.885 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 six times this season (40 of 45 games under Anderson).
400-PLUS: Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 28 times over its last 45 games (62 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach. The Red Wolves went over 400 yards in five of its first six games this season for the first time since 2013. As an FBS member (since 1992), A-State has never eclipsed 400 yards total offense in six of its first seven games.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including 10 of the last 12 contests, the Red Wolves have now posted at least 30 points in 51 of their last 77 regular-season games (66 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 39 of their last 44 games when scoring at least 30 points.
QUICK STRIKE: Seventeen of A-State’s 37 scoring drives this season have taken less than two minutes (46%) and only one has longer than 3:49. Additionally, 16 of its 29 touchdown-scoring drives have taken two minutes or less, increasing the percentage to 55 percent.
EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE: A-State has recorded at least six explosive plays (20+ yards) in four of its first six games, including a season-high eight against Louisiana last week. Out of its 32 total explosive plays, 14 have gone for touchdowns (44%) and half of them have also covered at least 30 yards.
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. Most recently, he was named the Co-Offensive Sun Belt Conference player of the Week and a Davey O’Brien Award “Great 8” Performer of the Week following the Louisiana game. The week prior, he was tabbed a Manning Award Star of the Week nominee for his performance against Coastal Carolina. He is the only player in the league to rank among the top three players in passing efficiency (1st), passing touchdowns (1st), total offense (2nd) and passing yards avg. (2nd).
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 25th most in the nation this season.
HITTING THE MARK: Including the Louisiana game, junior quarterback Justice Hansen has now thrown multiple touchdown passes 12 times during his career, including the last eight games in a row dating back to last season. He has thrown for at least 200 yards 13 times, 300 six times and 400 twice. Dating back to last season, Hansen has passed for at least 200 yards his last seven games and in 11 of his last 13.
MULTIPLE WEAPONS: At least nine different A-State players caught at least one pass in four of A-State’s first six games, including six wide receivers that have set career highs for either receptions, receiving yards and/or receiving touchdowns.
MAKING A MOVE: Junior Blake Mack changed positions from wide receiver to tight end last season, and he has transitioned well with 61 receptions for a team-high 1,001 yards and nine touchdowns during that time. Mack has scored a touchdown in six of his last eight games, including five of six this season. 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 26 running scores during his career. White’s 26 career rushing touchdowns are tied for the sixth most in school history.
ABOVE AVERAGE: Senior wide receiver Chris Murray recorded five receptions for a career-high 188 yards and career-best two touchdowns, averaging a Sun Belt Conference record 37.6 yards per catch to help lead Arkansas State to a 43-25 road victory over Georgia Southern. Murray’s receiving yards tied the fourth most in school history and were the most by an Arkansas State player since 1999. They are also the third most by a Sun Belt Conference player this season, as well as the 22nd most in the nation. He caught three passes that covered at least 51 yards, including touchdown receptions of 56 and a career-long 57 yards.
MOVING FORWARD: Junior running back Warren Wand has attempted 49 rushes this season and has yet to lose you any yards on a carry. He is averaging 5.8 yards per attempt, which is the fourth highest in the league among its top-10 leading rushers -- only Louisiana’s Trey Ragas (6.0), South Alabama Xavier Johnson (6.0) and Idaho’s Aaron Duckworth (5.9) have a higher average. As a team, the Red Wolves are ranked 10th in the nation in tackles for loss allowed with 3.83 per game.
APPROACHING 2,000: Running back Warren Wand finished the Coastal Carolina game with nine rushing yards, pushing his career rushing total to 1,873 yards, leaving him 127 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.
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 23 consecutive games. A-State posted a season-high 12 tackles for loss versus Louisiana. The Red Wolves are ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference and ninth in the nation in tackles for loss with 8.1 per game. 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, four against Georgia Southern, two versus Louisiana and another versus Coastal Carolina. Its five total turnovers gained against the Golden Lions (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.
SHUTTING ‘EM OUT: The A-State defense hasn’t allowed any points in the third quarters in four of its first six games, including the UAPB, Georgia Southern, Coastal Carolina and Louisiana contests. The Red Wolves have allowed their fewest points in the third quarter this season, giving up just 14 so far.
WILSON TIES CAREER HIGH: Senior linebacker Kyle Wilson was responsible for a team-high 13 tackles against Georgia Southern, which also tied his personal best originally set last year against the Eagles as well. Wilson has now recorded at least 10 tackles in two of A-State’s first six games this season and in three games during his career. Wilson, ranked fourth in the Sun Belt Conference in tackles, has led the team in stops three of the first six games (Nebraska, Georgia Southern and Coastal Carolina).
DOUBLE-DIGIT STOPS: Thanks in part to a season-high 2 pass break-ups against both SMU and Louisiana, which also tied his career highs, junior defensive back Justin Clifton leads the squad and is ranked tied for third in the Sun Belt Conference in pass break-ups. Through just six games he has already tied his total for pass break-ups (6) entering this season, giving him 12 for his career.
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 36.0 to his credit, but is now also within eight 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 29 of his last 36 contests dating back to his freshman year, and he has 52.5 during his career.
CASTON STEPPING UP: Just six games into the season, senior defensive end Caleb Caston has already put up his single-season best numbers for tackles (18), tackles for loss (5.5), sacks (4.0), fumble recoveries (2) and forced fumbles (1). His previous highs were 12 tackles (2015), 3.0 TFL (2016), 2.0 sacks (2014, 2016) and 1 fumble recovery (2014, 2015). He is currently second on the team in sacks and TFL, while also ranking among the top 12 players in the Sun Belt Conference in both statistical categories.
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. With defensive touchdowns in back-to-back weeks vs CCU and ULL, A-State is ranked 20th in the nation this season with two. The Red Wolves have 18 total defensive touchdowns over the last three seasons (2014-17).
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
PUNT/RETURN) GAME: The Red Wolves are currently ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation in both punt return defense and punt returns. A-State’s punting unit is allowing just 2.0 yard per return to rank 15th in the nation, while its own 21.6 average per return ranks second.
ELITE KICKOFF COVERAGE: While Arkansas State ranks 21st in the nation in kickoff return defense at 17.9 yards per return, it 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.