UNLV at A-State in-depth preview

UNLV at A-State in-depth preview

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UNLV (2-1) at A-State (2-1)
6 p.m. Saturday, Centennial Bank Stadium
RADIO: 107.9 FM Jonesboro, 106.7 & 99.3 FM in Central Ark.
TV: ESPN3
LIVE STATS: AStateStats.com
LIVE GAME NOTES: twitter.com/AStateGameDay

AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . :  move its record to 3-1 or better through four games for the first time since 2008 and second time since joining the FBS in 1992 . . . secure a regular-season winning record against non-conference opponents for the first time since 1995 (3-2) . . . give it back-to-back non-conference wins against FBS opponents for the first time ever since moving to FBS status in 1992 . . . make it 2-1 all-time versus Mountain West Conference opponents (at the time of the game) . . . even its record against UNLV at 1-1.

THE PRINCIPALS:  Arkansas State, the only FBS program in the nation to win five conference championships over the last seven seasons (2011-17), is off to a 2-1 start through three games for the first time since the 2013 season.  The Red Wolves most recently knocked off Tulsa 29-20 last Saturday, marking their first non-conference road victory since defeating Texas A&M 18-14 in 2008. A-State entered the season receiving votes in both the Associated Press and Amway Coaches top-25 polls, but is now receiving two points in only the Coaches Poll.  The Red Wolves will host UNLV, which also brings a 2-1 record into the game, for the first time in school history.  The Rebels have won their last two games against THE ARKANSAS STATE - UNLV SERIES:  Arkansas State is set to play UNLV for just the second time in school history.  The first meeting between the two programs saw the Rebels claim a 28-23 home victory in 1995.  This year’s game is the first in a home-and-home series that will see the Red Wolves travel to Las Vegas next season.

OLD TIES:  While Saturday’s game will be the second all-time meeting between A-State and UNLV, it will be the first non-conference tilt between the two schools.  The first meeting came in 1995 while both teams were a member of the Big West Conference, which they shared from 1993-95.

A-STATE vs. MOUNTAIN WEST:  While Arkansas State has faced nine current members of the Mountain West Conference, this week’s game will mark just the third time it has played a game against an opponent while it was a member of the league -- the other two were both against Utah State in 2014 (W, 21-14, OT) and 2016 (L, 34-20).  The Red Wolves have played Boise State (0-2), Colorado State (0-2), Hawai’i (1-0), Nevada (2-3), San Diego State (0-1), San Jose State (1-1), UNLV (0-1), Utah State (3-4) and Wyoming (0-2), although all but two of those games were played before those teams joined the MWC.  A-State holds a combined 6-16 record in those contests.  Additionally, A-State at one point or another was a member of the Big West Conference with five of those teams -- Boise State, Nevada, San Jose State, UNLV and Utah State.UTEP and Prairie View A&M after falling 43-21 at then-ranked No. 15 USC in their season opener.

BY THE NUMBERS . . .
1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 45 of 54 games (83%) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.

1 of just two programs in league history owning at least five Sun Belt Conference championships.

1 or more touchdown passes by Justice Hansen in 19 of the last 20 games.

1 touchback in 66 career punts by Cody Grace.

3 punt returns this season by A-State’s opponents for -6 yards (No. 1 punt return defense in the nation).

5 Sun Belt Conference championships (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016) over the last seven seasons (2011-17).

6 A-State players on a combined 15 college football award watch lists.

6 touchdown passes by Justice Hansen vs SEMO was a school record and tied the second most in Sun Belt history.

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.

7 current A-State players have already earned their degree.

9 A-State players on the Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team were the second most in the league.

9 all-time Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards

9 points scored by Blake Grupe (2-2 FG, 3-3 PAT) in his first collegiate appearance against Tulsa.

10 or more tackles by Darreon Jackson three of A-State’s last four games.

10 or more players with at least one reception in each of A-State’s first three games.

10 of the last 13 seasons (2005-17) have seen A-State reach bowl eligibility, including the last 7 in a row.

13 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-17).

14 players in school history, including Warren Wand, who have rushed for over 2,000 yards in a career.

19 points for A-State in the top-25 Coaches’ Poll tied Troy for the most ever by an SBC program in a preseason poll.

19 A-State players on at least one preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team.

20 defensive touchdowns between 2014-18 under DC Joe Cauthen.

27 consecutive games with at least one sack by the A-State defense.

30 of the last 32 games with at least five tackles for loss by the A-State defense.

30 of A-State’s 33 victories under HC Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.

30 or more points scored by A-State in 55 of its last 85 regular-season games (65 percent).

33 A-State victories under Blake Anderson are the most by any A-State head coach over his first five seasons.

35 A-State victories over its last 42 home games.

35 point scoring margin (48-13) by A-State in the third quarter.

46 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last seven (2011-17) seasons (46-9 league record).

61 victories by A-State over the last eight seasons ranks tied for the 25th most in the nation.

67 interceptions by the A-State defense over the previous four years (2014-17) were the fifth most in the nation.

78 all-time Sun Belt Conference victories by A-State, which are the most in the history of the league by any program.

120 consecutive games played without A-State being shutout.

170 rushing yards or more in three consecutive games for the first time since the 2015 season.

173 rushing yards vs Alabama were the most allowed by the Crimson Tide since 2015 vs. Georgia -- a span of 41 games.

299 yards or less total offense by A-State’s opponents in 10 of the Red Wolves’ last 19 games.

300 or more yds total offense in 94 of last 105 games (90 pct.), including all but 5 games under Blake Anderson.

400 or more yds total offense in 35 of 54 games (64 pct.) under HC Blake Anderson.

HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, an 18-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 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) during his first four seasons leading the program.  Under his direction, the Red Wolves have set nine new single-season school records for average yards total offense (494.8 yards per game in 2017), first downs (322 in 2017), first downs passing (190 in 2017), passing yards (4,106 in 2017), passing touchdowns (38 in 2017), points scored (520 in 2015), touchdowns scored (69 in 2015), total offense (6,174 yards in 2014) and total plays (1,024 in 2014).  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).

FIVE YEARS RUNNING:  Despite A-State being just three games into the 2018 season, Blake Anderson is already the only head coach in Arkansas State history to win 33 or more games over his first five seasons at the school.  Additionally, he is just the third head coach at A-State to direct the program to 33 wins in 54 or fewer games -- Bennie Ellender also reached 33 victories in 54 games from 1963-68, as did Bill Davidson between 1971-76.

DOUBLE DIGITS:  Including the Red Wolves’ 2018 season opener, 30 of the Red Wolves’ 33 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, a 27-26 victory over Georgia Southern in 2016 and a 29-20 outcome against Tulsa this season.

CLIMBING THE LADDER:  Blake Anderson has led the Red Wolves to a pair of Sun Belt titles and collected 26 league wins along the way, which are the fifth most ever by any of the conference’s all-time head coaches.  Anderson has the opportunity to climb as high as second on that list this season.

Coach (School), Wins
Larry Blakeney (Troy), 52
Rick Stockstill (Middle Tennessee), 32
Rickey Bustle (Louisiana), 31
Darrell Dickey (North Texas), 29
Scott Satterfield (Appalachian State), 27
Blake Anderson (Arkansas State), 26

THROUGH 3:  Arkansas State stands 2-1 through three games for the first time since the 2013 season and the fifth time since moving to FBS status in 1992 (2018, 2013, 2008, 2003, 1995).  The last time A-State started 3-1 or better was 2008, and prior to that it was 1986.

OWNING THE THIRD QUARTER:  Arkansas State has scored 48 of its 84 total points (57 percent) this season in the third quarter.  At the same time, the Red Wolves have also limited their opponents to just 13 of their 98 total points (13 percent) this year in the third quarter.  Not only has A-State outscored its opponents 48-13 in the third quarter, it is actually the only quarter where it has outscored its opponents based on cumulative totals for all three games.  While the Red Wolves have both scored their most points and given up their fewest points in the third quarter, their cumulative time of possession in the third quarter (13:14 of 88:38 total) is the lowest out of all four quarters.

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 60-14 (.811 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 35 of their last 42 home games. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 152-77-1 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.

WATCH ME, WATCH ME:  Arkansas State has six different players on at least one major watch list for the 2018 season, including four who play on the offensive side, two on defense and one on special teams.  All combined, A-State has a player on 13 different major watch lists.

LANARD BONNER (1):  Outland

JUSTIN CLIFTON (3):  Nagurski, Thorpe, Wuerffel

CODY GRACE (1):  Ray Guy

JUSTICE HANSEN (8):  Walter Camp, Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Wuerffel, Golden Arm, Manning, CFPA National Performer of the Year, Senior Bowl

RONHEEN BINGHAM (1):  Senior Bowl

WARREN WAND (1):  Doak Walker

BOWL ELIGIBLE:  Arkansas State has obtained bowl-eligible status each of the last seven years (2011-17) and 10 times over the last 13 seasons.  Since joining the FBS in 1992, Arkansas State has become bowl eligible in nine games or less five times (2011, ‘12, ‘14, ‘15, ‘17).  The earliest A-State ever became bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 through eight games.

SEVEN STRAIGHT:  Arkansas State has secured a winning record in a school-record seven consecutive seasons (2011-17).  The next longest streak was six straight seasons from 1912-17.  The Red Wolves piled up 59 victories from 2011-17 for its most over a seven-year span in the program’s 103-year history.

SUN BELT CHAMPS (5 of 7):  Arkansas State is the only FBS program in the nation to win five conference championships over the last seven years.  The Red Wolves most recently 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.

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 78-45.  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.

104TH SEASON:  Arkansas State kicked off its 104th season of football Sept. 1 at home against Southeast Missouri State.  A-State holds a 466-483-37 record since the inaugural season and has played in 15 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.

FOR STARTERS:  The Red Wolves defeated Southeast Missouri State 48-21 to claim its first season-opening victory since picking up a 37-10 win over Montana State in 2014, Blake Anderson’s first year at A-State.  Since moving to FBS status in 1992, the Red Wolves have now posted a 6-21 record in season openers.  In addition to its season-openings wins this year and in 2014, Arkansas State also began the 2013 (62-11 vs. UAPB), 2008 (18-14 at Texas A&M), 2006 (14-6 vs. Army) and 1995 (21-17 vs. Utah State) seasons with wins.

HOME OPENERS:  With its win over Southeast Missouri State, Arkansas State has now won its first game at Centennial Bank Stadium 12 of the last 14 seasons dating back to 2005.  The Red Wolves stand 32-13 all-time in home openers at the stadium and are also 18-8 in such games since moving to FBS status in 1992.

OFFENSIVE NOTES
JUSTICE SERVED:  Senior quarterback Justice Hansen was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 3, recognizing his record-setting performance against Southeast Missouri State.  He set a school record with six touchdown passes and finished the night 26-of-36 passing with 423 yards.  All six touchdowns went to different receivers, and he became the first Sun Belt quarterback to toss six or more touchdown passes since Giovanni Vizza of North Texas had eight against Navy on Nov. 10, 2007.

RUSHING RED WOLVES:  Arkansas State has rushed for at least 170 yards in every game this season, marking the first time the Red Wolves have posted at least 170 in three consecutive games since the 2015 season.  The Red Wolves rushed for at least 170 yards in four games total for the entire 2017 season.

300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 94 of its last 105 games (.895 percentage).  A-State has produced 300 yards in 49 of 54 games under head coach Blake Anderson, including the last 15 in a row.

300-PLUS YDS OFFENSE UNDER ANDERSON
2014 season
13 of 13 games

2015 season
11 of 13 games

2016 season
10 of 13 games

2017 season
12 of 12 games

2018 season
3 of 3 games

TOTALS
49 of 54 games 

400-PLUS:  Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 35 times over its last 54 games (65 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach.  The Red Wolves went over 400 yards in nine of its 12 games last season.  A-State is ranked 29th in the nation this season at 490.7 yards per game, one year after it posted a school-record 494.8 average that ranked 10th in the nation.

400-PLUS YDS OFFENSE UNDER ANDERSON

2014 season

9 of 13 games

2015 season

9 of 13 games

2016 season

5 of 13 games

2017 season

10 of 12 games

2018 season

2 of 3 games

TOTALS

35 of 54 games

LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD:  Including 14 of the last 20 contests, the Red Wolves have now posted at least 30 points in 55 of their last 85 regular-season games (65 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 43 of their last 48 games when scoring at least 30 points.

HITTING THE MARK:  Junior quarterback Justice Hansen has thrown at least one passing touchdown in 19 of his last 20 games and two or more touchdown passes in 14 of his last 17 outings.  He has thrown multiple scoring passes in 19 career games.  The former Oklahoma transfer has thrown for at least 200 yards 20 times, 300 ten times and 400 five times during his three-year career at A-State.  Dating back to the 2015 season, Hansen has passed for at least 200 yards in 18 of his last 22 games.

ECLIPSING 2,000:  Running back Warren Wand has pushed his career rushing total to 2,456 yards, making him 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. 

DEFENSIVE NOTES
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 30 of its last 32 games.  A-State posted a season-high 13 tackles for loss in 2017 versus Texas State and has now recorded at least 10 in six of the last 10 games.

GETTING TO THE QB:  A-State has ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation in sacks four of the last five years, posting a combined 152 sacks over that span.  The Red Wolves have recorded at least one sack in 27 consecutive games dating back to the 2016 season.

UNDER 300:  Arkansas State held five opponents under 300 yards total offense each of the previous two years (2016-17), matching its combined total for the two seasons prior to that (2014-15).  Dating back to the 2016 campaign, the Red Wolves have held 10 of their last 19 opponents to under 300 yards total offense.

PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES:  A-State has put up strong defensive numbers in third and fourth-down situations over the last five seasons (2014-18), ranking no worse than 36th nationally in either category four of those seasons.  The Red Wolves’ best third-down ranking (for a full season) came in 2015 at No. 19, while they finished among the top 10 teams on fourth down each of the last two seasons (2016-17).  While A-State’s third-down percentage defense ranks 81st in the nation this season at 40%, it is actually just 28% (8 of 29) excluding the Alabama game -- that would rank 18th in the nation.  Likewise, its fourth-down percentage defense in games excluding Tulsa is .000 (0 of 1).

PICK IT OFF:  A-State has proved to be an opportunistic defense the previous four seasons (2014-17) when the ball has been put in the air, intercepting a combined 67 passes over that time that ranked as the fourth most in the nation over that span.  The only teams with more interceptions were San Diego State (77), Louisville (71) and Ohio State (71).  Sophomore safety Demari Medley picked off the first pass this season for A-State last week against Tulsa, and he returned it 53 yards for a touchdown.

FORCING TURNOVERS:  Arkansas State has recorded at least one turnover gained in 45 of 54 games (83 percent) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.  The Red Wolves have ranked among the top 29 teams in turnovers gained three of the previous four years as well (2014-17), and their combined 108 forced turnovers over that span were the fifth most in the nation.  While it recorded just one turnover (vs. Alabama) gained over its first two games, it recorded a season-high three last week against Tulsa. 

DEFENSE IS THE BEST OFFENSE:  Arkansas State has ranked among the top 21 teams in the nation in defensive touchdowns each of the last five seasons (2014-18) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.  In fact, the 2015 season saw the Red Wolves record an FBS-high eight touchdowns.  The Red Wolves have 20 total defensive touchdowns over the last five seasons (2014-18).

DOUBLE-FIGURE STOPS:  Senior safety Darreon Jackson recorded a career-high 13 tackles against Tulsa, which are also the most this year by an A-State player through three games.  Jackson has now posted double-figure stops in three career games, all coming over the Red Wolves’ last four outings.

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