CAMELLIA BOWL: Arkansas State (7-4) vs. Middle Tennessee (6-6)
Dec. 16, 2017 | Cramton Bowl
Montgomery, Ala. | 7:00 p.m.
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
Live Stats: AStateStats.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
ON TAP: Arkansas State is set to make its seventh consecutive bowl-game appearance when it faces Middle Tennessee Dec. 16 in the 2017 Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala. The 7:00 p.m. game will be televised nationally on ESPN, 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: The Red Wolves concluded their regular season with a 7-4 overall record and will now make their first-ever appearance in the Camellia Bowl, which played its inaugural game in 2014. A-State will face a 6-6 Middle Tennessee team that shared the Sun Belt Conference with the Red Wolves from 2001-12 before joining Conference USA. While Arkansas State finished third in the Sun Belt standings this season with a 6-2 mark, it has still won the league five of the last seven seasons. The Blue Raiders ended the year tied for third in C-USA’s West Division with a 4-4 record.
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 42 of 50 games (84%) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
1 of just two programs in league history owning at least five Sun Belt Conference championships.
2.0 opponent punt return avg. ranks A-State’s punt return defense No. 3 in the nation, while it’s own 13.4 avg. ranks 12th.
3 or more points scored by A-State in 36 of 44 quarters (82%), including 27 of 32 versus Sun Belt opponents.
5 Sun Belt Conference championships (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016) over the last seven seasons.
5 A-State players with at least 25 receptions this season, tying the fifth most in the nation.
5 head coaches over the last 8 years (Steve Roberts, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Bryan Harsin, Blake Anderson).
7 straight bowl game appearances (2011-17) -- a school record.
7 consecutive winning seasons (2011-17) by A-State for the first time in school history.
7 or more victories each of the last seven seasons (2011-17) -- first time in school history.
8 of last 11 years w/at least one NFL Draft selection.
8.3 TFL per game by A-State is ranked No. 6 in the nation, while its 3.09 sacks average ranks No. 10.
11 different starting lineups by the A-State defense this year.
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 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-17).
14 players in school history, including Warren Wand & Johnston White, who have rushed for over 2,000 yards in a career.
15 statistical categories in which A-State ranks among the top three teams in the Sun Belt.
15 current A-State players have already earned their degree.
16 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.
18 players named 2017 All-Sun Belt Conference are the most in both school and league history.
19 defensive touchdowns over the last 4 seasons under DC Joe Cauthen.
21 of A-State’s 67 (31%) explosive plays (20+ yds) have gone for TDs & 35 have also covered at least 30 yds.
27 of the last 28 games with at least five tackles for loss by the A-State defense.
28 career rushing touchdowns by Johnston White are the sixth most in school history.
29 of A-State’s 31 victories under HC Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 54 of its last 82 regular-season games (66 percent).
31 of A-State’s 66 scoring drives (47%) have taken less than 2 minutes & only 3 have lasted longer than 4:00.
31 A-State victories under Blake Anderson ties the most by any A-State head coach over his first 50 games.
34 passing TDs this year by Justice Hansen are the most in school and Sun Belt history.
34 A-State victories over its last 41 home games.
35 career passes defended by Blaise Taylor -- most in SBC history; 15th most in the nation among active players.
35 different starters (15 offense/20 defense) are tied for the 20th most in the nation.
37.6 yards per catch by Chris Murray versus Georgia Southern broke the Sun Belt Conference record.
38.5 points per game ranks 15th in the nation this season.
40 TDs responsibility by Justice Hansen are most in SBC history, & 22.0 ppg responsibility are 2nd most in the nation.
43.5 career sacks by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones are school and SBC records, as well as the 2nd most in NCAA FBS history.
46 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last seven (2011-17) seasons (46-9 league record).
59 victories by A-State over the last six seasons ranks tied for the 24th most in the nation.
64 career TFL by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones are the eighth most in NCAA history.
116 consecutive games played without A-State being shutout.
300 or more yds total offense in 90 of last 101 games (89 pct.), including all but 5 games under Blake Anderson.
340.7 passing yards per game ranks sixth in the nation this season and 1st in A-State history.
365.3 yards total offense per game by Justice Hansen is the 3rd highest average in the nation.
497.7 yards average total offense per game ranks 11th in the nation this season and 1st in A-State history.
781 yards total offense by A-State vs ULM was the school and Sun Belt Conference record.
1,117 career punt return yds by Blaise Taylor are the most in school history & 2nd most in Sun Belt history.
1,264 receiving yds & 80 receptions by Blake Mack (TE stats only) are both the most ever by an A-State TE.
RECORDS WATCH BY THE NUMBERS . . .
JUSTICE HANSEN NEEDS...
29 completions to become the 4th player in school history with 500 in a career.
31 completions to break the single-season school record (304).
133 yards total offense to become the 4th player in school history with 7,000 in a career.
160 yards total offense needed by Justice Hansen to break the single-season school record (4,176).
256 yards total offense to break the Sun Belt Conference single-season record (4,273).
370 passing yards to become the third player in SBC history with 4,000 in a season.
CHRIS MURRAY NEEDS...
1 touchdown reception to tie the school record (10) for a single season.
3 touchdown receptions to tie the school record for a career (16).
JA’VON ROLLAND-JONES NEEDS...
1 sack to break the NCAA FBS career record (44.0).
1 sack to break his own single-season Sun Belt record (13.5).
1.5 sacks to break the A-State single-season record (14.0).
BLAISE TAYLOR NEEDS...
4 passes defended to tie the Sun Belt Conference single-season record (19).
6 punt returns for the most in Sun Belt Conference history.
50 punt return yards to break the school record for single-season yards (385).
101 punt return yards to break the Sun Belt Conference single-season record.
WARREN WAND NEEDS...
84 rushing yards to become A-State’s 10th all-time leading rusher.
SAWYER WILLIAMS NEEDS...
10 points to become the second player in school history w/100 points by kicking in a season.
15 points to break the school record for points by kicking in a season (104).
THE RED WOLVES NEED...
5 TDs to reach 60 in a season for the 3rd time in school history & 3rd time under HC Anderson.
28 first downs to break the school record (319).
70 passing yards to break the single-season school record.
245 yards total offense to ensure it breaks the school-record for single-season average.
525 yds total offense to eclipse 6,000 for the 3rd time in school history and 2nd time under HC Anderson.
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 has led the Red Wolves to Sun Belt Conference championships in 2015 and 2016, as well as four consecutive winning seasons and bowl-game appearances (2017 Camellia Bowl, 2016 Cure Bowl, 2015 New Orleans Bowl, 2014 GoDaddy Bowl). Under his direction, the Red Wolves have set new school records for total offense (6,174 yards in 2014), average yards total offense (497.7 yards per game in 2017), total plays (1,024 in 2014), points scored (520 in 2015), touchdowns scored (69 in 2015) and passing touchdowns (35 in 2017). During his first four years at the helm of the program, he has seen 41 of his players earn 64 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: Blake Anderson is the first head coach in Arkansas State history to win 31 or more games over his first four seasons at the school. Additionally, he one of just two head coaches at A-State to win 31 games in 50 or fewer contests -- Bill Davidson also reached 31 victories in 50 games from 1971-75.
DOUBLE DIGITS: Including all seven A-State wins this season, 29 of the Red Wolves’ 31 victories 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 - MIDDLE TENNESSEE SERIES: While Arkansas State is 5-9 all-time versus Middle Tennessee, the Red Wolves have won the last three meetings in the series that dates back to 1948. Middle Tennessee won the first two games in the series in 1948 and 1949, and the two teams didn’t meet again until 2001 as Sun Belt foes. They played every year from 2001-12 as SBC opponents before the Blue Raiders joined Conference USA in 2013. The last nine games have been decided by at least 17 points.
A-STATE vs. CONFERENCE USA: Arkansas State, which shared the Sun Belt Conference with five current C-USA members at some point between 2001-13, has played eight of the 14 teams comprising the league today. The Red Wolves hold a 41-63-1 all-time record against current members of the league, including UAB (0-2), FAU (2-3), FIU (4-2), Louisiana Tech (12-26), Middle Tennessee (5-9), North Texas (13-8), Southern Miss (2-9) and Western Kentucky (3-4-1). The last time the Red Wolves played a team while it was a member of Conference USA was 2015, when they fell 47-28 against Louisiana Tech in the 2015 New Orleans Bowl. A-State was a member of the Sun Belt with current C-USA programs North Texas and Middle Tennessee from 2001-12, FIU and FAU from 2005-12 and Western Kentucky from 2009-13.
RED WOLVES DECEMBER: Dating back to the 2009 season, Arkansas State has won seven of its last 10 games in the month of December, including a 1-1 record in bowl games played during the month.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: With a 7-4 regular-season record, A-State was 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.
BOWL HISTORY: Not including the Camellia Bowl, Arkansas State has played in 14 bowl games all-time and holds a 5-8-1 record in those contests. The Red Wolves have played in a bowl game seven consecutive years (2011-17) for the first time in school history. They defeated UCF in the Cure Bowl last season, while also playing in the 2015 New Orleans Bowl and in the GoDaddy Bowl the four years prior to that, winning two of them during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Arkansas State also played in the 2005 New Orleans Bowl, which marked its first bowl appearance since 1970. A-State played in seven bowl games from 1951-70, including the Pecan Bowl (1968-70), Refrigertor Bowl (1951-52) and the Tangerine Bowl (1952 &1954). The Tangerine Bowl was played in Orlando, Fla., the Pecan Bowl in Arlington, Texas, and the Refrigerator Bowl in Evansville, Ind.
SEVEN STRAIGHT: Arkansas State has secured a winning record for a school-record seventh consecutive season (2011-17). The next longest streak was six straight seasons from 1912-17. The Red Wolves have piled up 59 victories from 2011-17 for its most over a seven-year span in the program’s 103-year history.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : run its all-time record versus Middle Tennessee to 6-9 and mark its fourth consecutive win over the Blue Raiders . . . give it at least eight wins for the third straight season and fifth time over the last six years . . . give the Red Wolves back-to-back bowl-game victories, make it 4-3 in bowl games over the last seven seasons and improve its all-time record in bowl games to 6-8-1 . . . improve its December record to 8-3 since 2009 . . . give the Red Wolves 60 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 seven this season, the Red Wolves have recorded 59 victories that are tied for the 24th most in the nation over the last seven seasons.
ALL-CONFERENCE: Arkansas State senior defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones has repeated as the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, while junior quarterback Justice Hansen has been named the Offensive Player of the Year to highlight a school-record 19 A-State selections to the 2017 All-Sun Belt Conference Team. The all-conference team features a conference-high 18 A-State players, including senior Blaise Taylor as both a first-team defensive back and third-team return specialist.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Senior defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones is the second player in school history and third Sun Belt player to ever win the league’s Player of the Year multiple times. Including A-State’s Ryan Aplin (2011-12) and North Texas’ Brandon Kennedy (2002-03), all three players have earned the honor in back-to-back seasons. Arkansas State’s four all-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year selections are also the most in league history. North Texas has the second most with three (Kennedy and Jamario Thomas in 2004). Rolland-Jones and Aplin have combined to give an A-State player the award four of the last seven seasons.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Junior quarterback Justice Hansen becomes the second Arkansas State player to ever be named the Sun Belt’s Offensive Player of the Year, joining Danny Smith in 2002. This is the second time in school history that the Red Wolves have seen individuals win both the Player of the Year and Offensive or Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. Aplin was tabbed with the league’s highest recognition in 2011 when former defensive end Brandon Joiner was also named the Defensive Player of the Year.
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 all 10 games.
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.
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 46 of its last 55 Sun Belt Conference games (.836 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 79-45. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 25. 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 23 of its last 28 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. A-State posted a 3-1 record in conference road games played 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 59‐14 (.808 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 34 of their last 41 home games. The Red Wolves actual on‐field record all‐time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 151‐77‐1 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.
SUN BELT NOTABLES: 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. The 44-point win also represented the largest margin of victory by either team in the series that dates back to 1953 . . . A-State scored 67 points against ULM for its most ever against a Sun Belt Conference opponent . . . The Red Wolves and ULM combined for 117 points, which was the most ever for an A-State game against a Sun Belt opponent . . . The 50 points allowed by A-State against ULM were its most ever against any opponent in a game it won . . . A-State broke the school and Sun Belt Conference records with 781 yards total offense against ULM.
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.
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.
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 465-480-37 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 had 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 90 of its last 101 games (.891 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 all 11 games this season (45 of 50 games under Anderson).
400-PLUS: Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 32 times over its last 50 games (64 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach. The Red Wolves went over 400 yards in nine of its 11 regular-season games this season. A-State is currently averaging 497.7 yards per game, which is the highest in school history and ranks 11th in the nation this season.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including 13 of the last 17 contests, the Red Wolves have now posted at least 30 points in 54 of their last 82 regular-season games (66 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 42 of their last 47 games when scoring at least 30 points.
QUARTERLY REPORT: A-State has scored at least three points in 36 of 44 quarters (.818 percent), including 27 of 32 (84%) 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 fourth quarter (115), but has posted at least 95 in each quarter.
QUICK STRIKE: Thirty-one of A-State’s 66 scoring drives this season have taken less than two minutes (47%) and only three have lasted longer than four minutes. Additionally, 27 of its 51 touchdown-scoring drives have taken two minutes or less, increasing the percentage to 53 percent.
EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE: A-State recorded at least five explosive plays (20+ yards) in seven of its 11 regular-season games, including a season-high 16 against Louisiana-Monroe. Out of its 67 total explosive plays, 21 have gone for touchdowns (31%) and 35 have also covered at least 30 yards. The Red Wolves are averaging 6.1 explosive plays per game.
NOW THAT’S JUSTICE: Junior quarterback Justice Hansen has received numerous weekly awards this season for his performances, which have combined to help him rank first in the Sun Belt in total offense and passing touchdowns and second in pass efficiency and passing yards. He is the only player in the league to rank among the top three in all four statistical categories. His 2017 honors and accolades can be found on page 3 of the notes package.
HITTING THE MARK: Junior quarterback Justice Hansen has thrown at least one passing touchdown in 16 consecutive games and two or more touchdown passes in 12 of his last 13 outings. He has thrown multiple scoring passes in 16 career games. The former Oklahoma transfer has thrown for at least 200 yards 18 times, 300 eight times and 400 four times during his two-year career at A-State. Dating back to last season, Hansen has passed for at least 200 yards his last 12 games and in 16 of his last 18.
MULTIPLE WEAPONS: At least nine different A-State players caught at least one pass in seven of A-State’s 11 regular-season 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 ties the fifth most in the nation. Only New Mexico State (8), Washington State (8), Connecticut (6) and Iowa State (6) have more.
MAKING A MOVE: Junior Blake Mack changed positions from wide receiver to tight end last season, and he has transitioned well with 80 receptions for a team-high 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns during that time. Mack has scored a touchdown in seven of his last 13 games, including six of 11 this season. His first two seasons combined at wide receiver, Mack posted 17 receptions for 235 yards.
MORE ON MACK: Junior Blake Mack’s 1,264 receiving yards accumulated since he changed positions to tight end are the most in school history by a player at the position, passing Steve Lockhart’s 1,216 yards recorded between 1968-71. Additionally, Mack’s 80 receptions are also the 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 97 receptions for 1,499 yards.
BACK-TO-BACK CAREER HIGHS: Junior running back Warren Wand posted his second straight 100-yard rushing performance with a career-high 173 yards against ULM. The outburst came on the heels of a 138-yard performance against Texas State, which is now the second highest total of his career. He also carried the ball a career-high 29 times against Texas State, while his rushing yardage against the Warhawks included a career-long 82-yard touchdown run that is the fifth longest in school history.
ECLIPSING 2,000: Running back Warren Wand has pushed his career rushing total to 2,257 yards this season, becoming one of 14 players 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.
ANOTHER 2,000: Running back Johnston White also pushed his career rushing total over 2,000 yards this season with 2,007 to his credit. He recorded a single-season best 614 yards as a sophomore, but has posted at least 400 yards all four years of his career.
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 28 running scores during his career. White’s 28 career rushing touchdowns are the sixth most in school history.
TOP FIVE: Senior receiver Chris Murray and junior wide receiver Justin McInnis have both posted a receiving yards total in a game this year that rank among the top five performances in school history. Most recently, McInnis posted a career-high 211 receiving yards against ULM that ranks as the third highest total in school history. While he became the third player in school history to eclipse 200 yards in a game, junior Chris Murray’s 188-yard performance against Georgia Southern isn’t far behind. His total versus the Eagles ranks tied for the fifth most in A-State history, while he also averaged a Sun Belt Conference record 37.6 yards per catch. Including McInnis, Murray, Kendrick Edwards and Blake Mack, A-State has seen four players post at least 100 receiving yards in a game this year.
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 27 of its last 28 games. A-State posted a season-high 13 tackles for loss versus Texas State and has now recorded at least 10 in four of the last six games. The Red Wolves are ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference and sixth in the nation in tackles for loss with 8.3 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 34 for a 3.09 average that ranks No. 10 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 five opponents, including four of the last six, 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.
18 OR LESS: Although the Red Wolves gave up 32 points to Troy their last time out, that included 14 by an interception return and kickoff return. Excluding those two scores by Troy, A-State has allowed 18 points or less in five games this season. The team has won 29 consecutive games when allowing 17 points or less.
STOPPING THE RUN: The Red Wolves have held five of their last six opponents (six total on the year) under 100 rushing yards. During that six-game span, A-State is allowing an average of just 65.2 rushing yards.
PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES: A-State is ranked 12th and 18th in the nation in fourth (36%) and third-down (32%) percentage defense, respectively. Since beginning league play, the Red Wolves have not allowed a third-down percentage better than .350 seven of eight games. The Red Wolves’ defense has also been able to get off the field on seven of 11 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 21 in its other nine 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 42 of 50 games (84%) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
DEFENSE IS THE BEST OFFENSE: Arkansas State has ranked among the top 17 teams in the nation in defensive touchdowns each of the last four seasons (2014-17) 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, as well as versus ULM, A-State is ranked 17th in the nation this season with three. The Red Wolves have 19 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 13 and is ranked fifth in the Sun Belt Conference in passes defended. Through 11 games he has already surpassed his total for pass break-ups (6) entering this season, giving him 18 for his career.
A NEW RECORD: Senior CB Blaise Taylor recorded one pass break-up and an interception at ULM, running his career passes defended (INT + PBU) total to a Sun Belt Conference record 34. He now has 35 on the year, passing Greg James (ULM, 2006‐09) to become the league’s all-time leader.
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 43.5 to his credit, but is now also within a half-sack 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 34 of his last 41 contests dating back to his freshman year, and he has 64.0 during his career, which is the eighth most in NCAA history.
CASTON STEPPING UP: Ten games into the season, senior defensive end Caleb Caston has put up his single-season best numbers for tackles (38), tackles for loss (9.0), 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 18 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 12 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 third in the nation, while its own 13.4 average per return ranks 12th.
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 44 punts for 1,800 yards, giving him a 40.9 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 23 of his punts result in a fair catch, as well as 23 pin A-State’s opponents inside their own 20-yard line. He hasn’t allowed a touchback this season and has seen 40 of his 44 punting attempts go unreturned for a .909 percentage.
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, running the totals over the last three seasons 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.