GAME 10: Arkansas State (6-3, 5-1) at ULM (4-6, 4-3)
Nov. 25, 2017 | Malone Stadium
Monroe, La. | 2:00 p.m.
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
Live Stats: SidearmStats.com/ULMonroe/Football/
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
ON TAP: Back-to-back Sun Belt champion Arkansas State will play its final regular-season road contest this Saturday when it face Louisiana-Monroe at Malone Stadium in a game set to be broadcast on ESPN3. 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, sits in a four-way tie with Appalachian State, Georgia State and Troy atop the Sun Belt standings. The team enters Saturday’s game needing one more victory to secure a school-record seventh consecutive winning season. They will have to get past the Sun Belt’s total offense leader in ULM first, but if the Red Wolves can win this week then they will be set up to play for at least a share of the league title in their regular-season finale Dec. 2. ULM enters the game 4-6 overall and in sixth place in the Sun Belt race under second-year head coach Matt Viator. ULM must wins its final two games against Arkansas State and Florida State to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2013, when it finished with a 6-6 record.
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
0 points allowed in the 3rd quarter by the A-State defense in 5 of 9 games, including 4 of 6 SBC outings.
1 negative rushing attempt in 85 carries this season by Warren Wand.
1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 40 of 48 games (83%) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
1 of just two programs in league history owning five Sun Belt Conference championships.
1 victory needed by A-State to secure its 7th consecutive winning season for the first time in school history.
2.0 opponent punt return avg. ranks A-State’s punt return defense No. 4 in the nation, while it’s own 14.1 avg. ranks 11th.
2 passes defended needed by Blaise Taylor to break the Sun Belt Conference record for a career (33).
3 or more points scored by A-State in 29 of 36 quarters (81%), including 20 of 24 versus Sun Belt opponents.
3 sacks needed by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones to break the NCAA FBS career record (44.0).
3.5 sacks needed by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones to break the A-State single-season record (14.0).
3 touchdown receptions needed by Chris Murray to tie the school record (10) for a single season.
5 Sun Belt Conference championships (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016) over the last six seasons.
5 A-State players with at least 25 receptions this season, tying the third most in the nation.
5 head coaches over the last 8 years (Steve Roberts, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Bryan Harsin, Blake Anderson).
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 or more victories each of the last six seasons (2011-16) -- first time in school history.
7 statistical categories in which A-State leads the Sun Belt, one less than Troy for the most in the league.
8 of last 11 years w/at least one NFL Draft selection.
9 different starting lineups by the A-State defense this year.
9.1 TFL per game by A-State is ranked No. 3 in the nation, while its 3.44 sacks average ranks No. 4.
10 of the last 13 seasons (2005-17) have seen A-State reach bowl eligibility, including the last 7 in a row.
10 or more tackles in at least two games each this season by Kyle Wilson, BJ Edmonds and Justin Clifton.
11 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 14 years, including 2015.
13 players in school history, including Warren Wand, who have rushed for over 2,000 yards in a career.
13 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-17).
14 consecutive games with 1 or more touchdown passes by Justice Hansen.
16 players (6 offense/10 defense) who started their first career game at A-State this season.
17 of A-State’s 42 (40%) explosive plays (20+ yds) have gone for TDs & 20 have also covered at least 30 yds.
18 defensive touchdowns over the last 4 seasons under DC Joe Cauthen.
20 A-State victories over its last 25 games played in the month of November.
22 A-State victories over its last 27 Sun Belt Conference road games.
25 of A-State’s 52 scoring drives (48%) have taken less than 2 minutes & only 2 have lasted longer than 4:00.
26 consecutive games with at least five tackles for loss by the A-State defense.
27 career rushing touchdowns by Johnston White are the sixth most in school history.
28 passing TDs this season by Justice Hansen are the most in school history and 4 shy of tying the SBC record.
28 of A-State’s 30 victories under HC Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.
30 A-State victories under Blake Anderson mark the most by any A-State head coach over his first 48 games.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 53 of its last 80 regular-season games (66 percent).
34 A-State victories over its last 40 home games, including the last 8 in a row (T7th longest in the nation).
37.6 yards per catch by Chris Murray versus Georgia Southern broke the Sun Belt Conference record.
41.5 career sacks by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones are school and SBC records, as well as the 2nd most in NCAA FBS history.
45 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last seven (2011-17) seasons (45-8 league record).
58 victories by A-State over the last six seasons ranks tied for the 27th most in the nation.
60.5 career TFL by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones are tied for the 11th most in NCAA history.
62 punt return yards needed by Blaise Taylor to break the school record for single-season yards (385).
114 consecutive games played without A-State being shutout.
300 or more yds total offense in 88 of last 99 games (89 pct.), including all but 5 games under Blake Anderson.
1,105 career punt return yds by Blaise Taylor are the most in school history & 2nd most in Sun Belt history.
1,131 receiving yds & 72 receptions by Blake Mack (TE stats only) are both the 2nd most ever by an A-State TE.
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 passing touchdowns (28 in 2017). 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 two games remaining on A-State’s 2017 schedule, Blake Anderson is already the first head coach in Arkansas State history to win 30 or more games over his first four seasons at the school. Additionally, he is the only head coach at A-State to win 30 games in 48 or fewer contests -- Bill Davidson is the next closest, reaching 30 victories in 49 games from 1971-75.
DOUBLE DIGITS: A-State’s six 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 28 of the Red Wolves’ 30 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 - ULM SERIES: Arkansas State has played ULM 38 previous times, which is tied for the third most in school history among all opponents. The Red Wolves have also played Louisiana Tech and Southern Illinois 38 times. A-State leads the all‐time series with the Warhawks 24‐14 since the first meeting in 1959. As Sun Belt foes, A‐State leads the series 12‐4 after picking up wins over ULM each of the last seven seasons, including a 51‐10 victory in Jonesboro last season.
A‐STATE vs ULM ALL‐TIME SERIES: A‐State leads 24‐14
A‐STATE vs ULM ALL‐TIME SBC SERIES: A‐State leads 12‐4
A‐STATE at ULM (SBC SERIES ONLY): A‐State leads 5‐3
ULM at A‐STATE (SBC SERIES ONLY): A‐State leads 7‐1
OLD TIES: While Arkansas State and ULM have met the past 16 seasons as Sun Belt Conference opponents, it is not the first time the two teams have shared a league. Both the Red Wolves and Warhawks were members of the Southland Conference at the same time from 1982‐86.
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 45 of its last 53 Sun Belt Conference games (.849 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 78-44. 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 22 of its last 27 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 stands 2-1 in conference road games 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 59‐13 (.819 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 34 of their last 40 home games, including the last eight 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 151‐76‐1 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.
RED WOLVES NOVEMBER: Dating back to the 2011 season, Arkansas State holds a 20-5 record over its last 25 games played in the month of November. A-State had a seven-game winning streak during November snapped in its last game of the month in 2016.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: With a 6-3 regular-season record, A-State is bowl eligible for the seventh consecutive season and 10th time over the last 13 years. Since joining the FBS in 1992, Arkansas State became bowl eligible in nine games or less for the fifth time (2011, ‘12, ‘14, ‘15, ‘17). The earliest A-State ever became bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 through eight games.
SIX STRAIGHT: Arkansas State posted a winning season the previous six years (2011-16) for the first time since 1912-17. The Red Wolves have piled up 58 victories from 2011-17 for its most over a seven-year span in the program’s 103-year history. The Red Wolves can secure their seventh consecutive winning season for the first time in program history with one more victory.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : run its all-time record versus ULM to 25-14 and mark its eighth consecutive win over the Warhawks . . . secure a school-record seventh consecutive winning season . . . give the Red Wolves at least 7 wins in each of the last seven seasons, extending its streak that is already a school record . . . guarantee that the Red Wolves will play for at least a share of the 2017 Sun Belt Conference championship in their regular-season finale against Troy on Dec. 2 . . . move its record to 21-5 in games played in the month of November since 2011 . . . keep the Red Wolves in at least a two-way tie atop the Sun Belt Conference standings . . . give it 23 victories over its last 28 conference road games . . . improve its record to 46-8 over its last 54 SBC games . . . give the Red Wolves 59 victories over the last seven seasons.
SEVEN-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 six this season, the Red Wolves have recorded 58 victories that are tied for the 27th most in the nation over the last seven seasons.
THAT’S A FIRST: The Red Wolves have seen 16 players start their first career game as a member of the A-State program this season. Eight of those 16 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, Louisiana and South Alabama. The list includes four offensive linemen, two wide receivers, four defensive linemen, one linebacker, one cornerback and four 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), Jefferie Gibson (S) and Christian Howard (DL). The Red Wolves have used a different defensive starting lineup in nine of their 10 games and a different offensive starting lineup three times.
ON THAT NOTE: Not only has A-State seen 16 players make their first start with the Red Wolves, 29 different players have taken their first snap ever as a member of the team this season. The squad’s current 2-deep features 23 of 54 players (43 percent) listed who had never played a snap as an A-State player entering this season.
44-POINT MARGIN: Arkansas State’s 44-point margin of victory (47-3) over Louisiana 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.
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 8 total selections, which were the 3rd 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 last season matched the 2012 squad for their third best record ever in the league -- Arkansas State went 8-0 in both 2011 and 2015.\
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 463-480-37 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 finalist, Wuerffel Trophy finalist and Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year 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 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 88 of its last 99 games (.889 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 nine times this season (43 of 48 games under Anderson).
400-PLUS: Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 30 times over its last 48 games (63 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach. The Red Wolves went over 400 yards in seven of its first nine games this season. A-State is currently averaging 454.2 yards per game, which is the third highest in school history.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including 12 of the last 15 contests, the Red Wolves have now posted at least 30 points in 53 of their last 80 regular-season games (67 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 41 of their last 46 games when scoring at least 30 points.
RUSHING RED WOLVES: Arkansas State rushed for 240 yards last week versus Texas State, its second most this season behind only 262 vs Louisiana on Oct. 19. The squad’s three rushing touchdowns in the game tied its most this season, also originally set against the Ragin’ Cajuns. Junior running back Warren Wand recorded 138 rushing yards (second most of his career) on a career-high 29 carries. He became the second A‐State player this year to run for over 100 yards in a game, joining junior quarterback Justice Hansen (121 vs. Louisiana). Hansen ran for a career-high two rushing touchdowns against the Bobcats, running his season total to three.
QUARTERLY REPORT: A-State has scored at least three points in 29 of 36 quarters (81%), including 20 of 24 (83%) versus Sun Belt opponents. The Red Wolves scored in 43 of 52 quarters for the entire 2014 season for an .827 percentage that is the highest under head coach Blake Anderson. This year’s team has scored its most points in the first quarter (88), but has posted at least 74 in each quarter.
QUICK STRIKE: Twenty-five of A-State’s 52 scoring drives this season have taken less than two minutes (48%) and only two have lasted longer than four minutes. Additionally, 22 of its 40 touchdown-scoring drives have taken two minutes or less, increasing the percentage to 55 percent.
EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE: A-State has recorded at least five explosive plays (20+ yards) in five of its first nine games, including a season-high eight against Louisiana. Out of its 42 total explosive plays, 17 have gone for touchdowns (40%) and 20 have also covered at least 30 yards.
NOW THAT’S JUSTICE: Junior quarterback Justice Hansen has twice been named the College Sports Madness’ Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week. He has also been tabbed the Co-Offensive Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week, a Davey O’Brien Award “Great 8” Performer of the Week, and a Manning Award Star of the Week nominee once each. He is the only player in the league to rank among the top three players in passing touchdowns (1st), total offense (2nd), passing yards avg. (2nd) and passing efficiency (3rd).
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 second most in the nation this season. His 415 yards were the second most of his career and fourth most in school history.
HITTING THE MARK: Junior quarterback Justice Hansen has thrown at least one passing touchdown in 14 consecutive games and two or more touchdown passes in 10 of his last 11 outings. He has thrown multiple scoring passes in 14 career games. The former Oklahoma transfer has thrown for at least 200 yards 16 times, 300 six times and 400 twice during his two-year career at A-State. Dating back to last season, Hansen has passed for at least 200 yards his last 10 games and in 14 of his last 16.
MULTIPLE WEAPONS: At least nine different A-State players caught at least one pass in six of A-State’s first nine games, including six wide receivers that have set career highs for either receptions, receiving yards and/or receiving touchdowns. The Red Wolves have five players with at least 25 receptions, which is tied for the third most in the nation this season. Washington State (8) and Connecticut (6) are the only two teams with more. A-State is one of 11 teams in the nation with at least five players possessing 25+ receptions.
MAKING A MOVE: Junior Blake Mack changed positions from wide receiver to tight end last season, and he has transitioned well with 72 receptions for a team-high 1,131 yards and nine touchdowns during that time. Mack has scored a touchdown in six of his last 11 games, including five of nine this season. His first two seasons combined at wide receiver, Mack posted 17 receptions for 235 yards.
MORE ON MACK: Junior Blake Mack’s 1,131 receiving yards accumulated since he changed positions to tight end are the second most in school history by a player at the position, trailing only Steve Lockhart’s 1,216 yards accumulated between 1968-71. Additionally, Mack’s 72 receptions are also the second most by an A-State tight end behind Lockhart (79). It should be noted that Mack’s career totals at both the tight end and wide receiver positions are 89 receptions for 1,366 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 27 running scores during his career. White’s 27 career rushing touchdowns are 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 29th 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 85 rushes this season and has lost yards on only one of those carries. As a team, the Red Wolves are ranked 21st in the nation in tackles for loss allowed with 4.67 per game.
ECLIPSING 2,000: Running back Warren Wand finished the Texas State game with 138 rushing yards, pushing his career total to 2,032 yards and in the process making him 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 this season with 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 26 consecutive games. A-State posted a season-high 13 tackles for loss versus Texas State and has now recorded at least 10 in four consecutive games. The Red Wolves are ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference and third in the nation in tackles for loss with 9.1 per game. Arkansas State led the nation in tackles for loss per game last season with a 9.6 average.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK: A-State recorded a season-high seven sacks against New Mexico State to tie the seventh most in school history, and it now has 31 for a 3.44 average that ranks No. 4 in the nation. The Red Wolves ranked sixth in country in sacks per game last year with a 3.31 average.
UNDER 300: Arkansas State has held four opponents, including the three of the last four, under 300 yards total offense. The Red Wolves limited Texas State to just 188 yards, their fewest allowed since holding UAPB to 173 in the 2013 season opener. A-State is allowing 263.5 yards per game over its last four contests.
17 OR LESS: The Red Wolves’ 12 points allowed last week versus Texas State were their third fewest this season and marked the fourth time this year they gave up just 17 points or less. A‐State won its 29th consecutive game when allowing 17 points or less. The A-State defense is allowing exactly 17.0 points per game versus Sun Belt opponents -- the best average in the league.
STOPPING THE RUN: Including the Texas State game last week, the Red Wolves have held four consecutive opponents (five total) under 100 rushing yards. During that four-game span, A-State is allowing an average of just 52.0 rushing yards.
PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES: A-State is ranked seventh and 11th in the nation in fourth (30%) and third-down (29%) percentage defense, respectively. Since beginning league play, the Red Wolves have not allowed a third-down percentage better than .350 in any of its last six games. The Red Wolves’ defense has also been able to get off the field on seven of 10 fourth-down attempts by its opponents for the entire season.
FORCING TURNOVERS: While Arkansas State didn’t create a turnover against Nebraska or SMU, it has forced 16 in its other seven games combined. The Red Wolves forced a season-high five turnovers against UAPB, which were their most since the ninth game of the 2015 season. Arkansas State has recorded at least one turnover gained in 40 of 48 games (83%) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
SHUTTING ‘EM OUT: The A-State defense hasn’t allowed any points in the third quarter in five of its first nine games, including four of six Sun Belt games. The Red Wolves have allowed their fewest points in the third quarter this season, giving up just 27 so far. The next closest is 46 points allowed in the first quarter.
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 35th in the nation this season with two. The Red Wolves have 18 total defensive touchdowns over the last four seasons (2014-17).
DOUBLE-FIGURE STOPS: Senior linebacker Kyle Wilson (2), junior nickel Justin Clifton (2) and sophomore safety BJ Edmonds (3) have combined to post double-figure tackles seven times this season. Clifton has recorded at least 10 stops five times during his career, while Wilson and Edmonds have both hit the mark three times.
BREAK IT UP: Thanks in part to a season-high 3 pass break-ups against South Alabama, junior defensive back Justin Clifton is tied with Blaise Taylor for the team-high with 10 and is ranked fourth in the Sun Belt Conference in passes defended. Through nine games he has already surpassed his total for pass break-ups (6) entering this season, giving him 17 for his career.
CLOSE TO THE RECORD: Senior CB Blaise Taylor tied his career high for pass break‐ups (3) for the third time against Texas State last week, running his career passes defended (INT + PBU) total to 32 that ties the second most in Sun Belt Conference history (Sherrod Martin of Troy, 2004‐08). He needs one more interception or pass break‐up to tie the conference record currently held by Greg James (ULM, 2006‐09).
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 41.5 to his credit, but is now also within 2.5 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 32 of his last 39 contests dating back to his freshman year, and he has 60.5 during his career, which is tied for the 11th most in NCAA history.
CASTON STEPPING UP: Nine games into the season, senior defensive end Caleb Caston has already put up his single-season best numbers for tackles (27), tackles for loss (8.5), sacks (5.0), 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 10 players in the Sun Belt Conference in both statistical categories.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
PUNT/RETURN GAME: The Red Wolves are currently ranked among the top 11 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 fourth in the nation, while its own 14.1 average per return ranks 11th.
THE PUNTER FROM DOWN UNDER: Sophomore punter Cody Grace was among 10 semifinalists for the prestigious Ray Guy Award. He is the fourth all-time Arkansas State player to be tabbed a candidate, but is now the first ever to be named a semifinalist. Grace has recorded 40 punts for 1,689 yards, giving him a 42.2 average per attempt. He has posted eight punts covering at least 50 yards, including a long of 55 yards in the Red Wolves’ season opener at Nebraska. Grace has seen 21 of his punts result in a fair catch, as well as 20 pin A-State’s opponents inside their own 20-yard line. He hasn’t allowed a touchback this season and has seen 36 of his 40 punting attempts go unreturned for a .900 percentage.
ELITE KICKOFF COVERAGE: While Arkansas State ranks 25th in the nation in kickoff return defense at 18.55 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 previous seasons under special teams coordinator Luke Paschall entering this year. 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 11 blocked kicks over the past three seasons (2015-17), 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 squad has two blocks this season (both over the last two games), running the totals over the last three to three blocked punts and eight 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 three times, including a career-high 114 yards against New Mexico State earlier this season.
SUN BELT SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior cornerback Blaise Taylor was named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after helping lead Arkansas State to a 37-21 road victory over New Mexico State, recording a school and Sun Belt Conference-record nine punt returns for a career-high 114 yards that were also the third most ever by an A-State player and fifth most in Sun Belt history. Taylor averaged 12.9 yards per attempt on his nine returns that were also the most by an FBS player this year. He recorded over 100 punt return yards in a game for the third time of his career and, in the process, became just the second player in Sun Belt history to go over 1,000 career yards. Taylor’s 114 yards were the most by a Sun Belt player and seventh most in the nation this season, while also giving him four of the top-10 single-game totals in Arkansas State history. He had a long return of 54 yards, which was the second longest in the Sun Belt this year behind only his 63-yard return against Nebraska.