W. Kentucky at ASU in-depth preview
W. Kentucky (3-1, 0-0) at ASU (2-2, 0-0)
6 p.m. Saturday at Liberty Bank Stadium, Jonesboro
Radio: EAB?Sports Radio Network (93.3 FM, 107.9 FM)
LIVE STATS: AStateRedWolves.com, TapStats
ON TAP: Arkansas State begins the defense of its 2011 Sun Belt Conference championship Saturday, hosting Western Kentucky in its league opener at 6 p.m. Every A-State game can be heard live on 107.9 FM in the Jonesboro area, 93.3 FM in Central Arkansas. The live radio broadcast can be accessed AStateRedWolves.com.
ASU coach Gus Malzahn
THE PRINCIPALS: Following a 56-0 victory over Alcorn State, the Red Wolves are off to a 2-2 start for the second consecutive year. A-State will carry an eight-game conference winning streak, tied for the longest in the nation with Northern Illinois, into Saturday's game. Western Kentucky brings a 3-1 record and two-game winning streak into the game, picking up victories over Kentucky and Southern Miss its last two times out. ASU defeated WKU 26-22 in both team's 2011 league opener, but the Hilltoppers won their final seven Sun Belt games to give them the nation's third longest conference winning streak.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : Give the Red Wolves a 3-2 record through five games played for the second consecutive season . . . Extend its home winning streak to nine games . . . Improve its record against current SBC?opponents to 72-63-1 . . . Move its record at Liberty Bank Stadium to 34-7 since the 2005 season . . . Extend its conference winning streak to nine games . . . Mark the second consecutive year it has won its league opener and run its all-time record in SBC openers to 8-4.
WHAT GIVES?: Saturday's game matches up the top two statistical teams in the Sun Belt Conference in total offense and total defense. The Red Wolves are averaging a league-high 517.2 yards of total offense, which is also the 15th highest average in the nation. At the same time, Wester Kentucky's defense is giving up a league-best 279.8 yards per game, which ranks 13th in the nation. Additionally, ASU's rushing attack is averaging 267 yards per game while the WKU run defense is allowing just 112.5 yards per contest.
THE ASU-WKU SERIES: Arkansas State is 3-2-1 all-time versus Western Kentucky and 1-1 when facing the Hilltoppers in Jonesboro. Five of the six previous contests between the two teams have been decided by four points or less, including all three meetings as Sun Belt foes. The Red Wolves pulled out a 26-22 comeback victory over WKU in Bowling Green last season, one year after falling to the Hilltoppers 36-35 in overtime in Jonesboro. ASU also claimed a 24-20 comeback victory over WKU in 2010, the first meeting between the two teams in 57 years. ASU and WKU?first met during the 1947 season when they played to a 14-14 tie. ?The very next year, A-State picked up a 13-12 victory. WKU?evened the series with a 34-19 victory in the 1952 Refrigerator Bowl played in Evansville, Ind. During the Refrigerator Bowl, the Hilltoppers overcame and opening 73-yard drive on ASU's first possession to improve their record to 9-1. They scored 34 unanswered points before a pair of fourth quarter ASU touchdowns set the final score. ASU had to play without All-America running back Richie Woit, sidelined with a broken ankle, during the game.
ASU-WKU ALL-TIME SERIES: ASU leads 3-2-1
WKU at ASU: tied 1-1
ASU at WKU: ASU leads 2-0-1
Neutral: WKU leads 1-0
Oct. 4, 1947: A-State at WKU 14-14
Oct.2, 1948: WKU at A-State ASU, 13-12
Dec. 7, 1952: A-State vs. WKU* WKU, 34-19
Dec. 3, 2009: A-State at WKU ASU, 24-20
Nov. 13, 2010: WKU at A-State WKU, 36-35 (OT)
Oct. 1, 2011: A-State at WKU ASU, 26-22
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: A-State is 71-63-1 all-time against current members of the Sun Belt Conference. Since the league's inaugural football season in 2001, the Red Wolves hold a 42-36 on-field record against all opponents that have been a member of the league. Against current members of the conference, ASU is 37-32 since 2001. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against Louisiana-Monroe with 19. With the exception of first-year member South Alabama, the Red Wolves have defeated every team in the SBC since the football league was formed.
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
0 sacks allowed by the offensive line three of ASU's first four games.
1 ASU's 2012 recruiting class was ranked No. 1 in the Sun Belt by Rivals, ESPN.com, Scout and 247Sports.com.
1 ASU's rank in the Sun?Belt Conference in total offense, rushing offense and first downs.
1 reception needed by Taylor Stockemer to become the sixth player in school history to record 100 catches.
1.5 tackles for loss per game by Tim Starson, the most in the Sun Belt Conference.
2 A-State players (David Oku and Rod Smith) with a 100-yard rushing game this season.
2 ASU was picked to finish second in the preseason Sun Belt Coaches Poll with 85 points and 2 first -place votes.
3 touchdown receptions needed by Taylor Stockemer to become ASU's career leader in the stat.
3 field goals needed by Brian Davis to become ASU's fifth all-time leader in the stat.
4 ASU?players named Preseason?All-SBC, including Ryan Aplin, Josh Jarboe, Zack McKnight and Don?Jones.
4 of the last seven seasons have seen Arkansas State achieve bowl eligibility with at least six victories.
6 or more receptions by J.D. McKissic in ASU's last three games.
6 points needed by Brian Davis to take become ASU's fifth all-time leader in points by kicking.
7 consecutive winning seasons at Liberty Bank?Stadium, including a 6-0 mark in 2011.
8 game home winning streak by the Red Wolves.
8 A-State games scheduled to be televised by ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3.com in 2012.
8 game conference winning streak currently held by ASU, which is tied for the longest in the nation with NIU.
9 of the last 10 years the football team has won the Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Award.
9.2 tackles per game by Nathan Herrold, the third highest average in the Sun Belt Conference.
10 A-State's national rank in rushing offense (267.0)
13 receptions by Josh Jarboe against Oregon, tying the most in ASU?history.
15 ASU's national rank in sacks allowed (0.8 pg).
15 ASU's national rank in total offense (517.3 yards per game).
16 ASU's national rank in pass defense (168.5 ypg).
17 statistical categories in which A-State ranks among the top half of the league.
19 combined single game, season and career school records held by Ryan Aplin.
22 seniors on the 2012 roster, including 12 redshirt seniors.
25 Brian Davis' national rank in field goals made (1.5 per game).
28 J.D. McKissic's national rank in receptions per game (6.5 avg.).
30 or more first downs recorded by A-State in two of its first four games.
32 Ryan Aplin's national rank in total offense (278.3 yards per game).
33 consecutive games with a reception by Taylor Stockemer, the second most in the nation.
34 yards needed by Taylor Stockemer to take over fifth place at ASU?for career receiving yards.
98 plays ran by the A-State offense against Memphis -- the most by an ASU team since 1975.
300 yards or more of total offense recorded by ASU?in 27 of its last 29 games.
388 yards needed by Ryan Aplin to become the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leader in total offense.
500+ yards of total offense recorded by A-State in three of its first four games.
HEAD COACH GUS MALZAHN: Gus Malzahn was named the Red Wolves' 28th head football coach at Dec. 14 press conference, bringing him back to his home state after most recently enjoying highly successful stints as a top assistant coach at three NCAA FBS universities that garnered him national acclaim. A name highly recognized throughout Arkansas and the nation, Malzahn comes to Arkansas State after serving as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Auburn for the past three seasons. A native of Fort Smith, Malzahn was named the winner of the 2010 Frank Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top collegiate assistant coach.
ASU ANNOUNCES FOOTBALL FACILITY PROJECT: Arkansas State University announced a $22 million football facility project, including a two-level football operations building and 76,000 square-foot indoor practice facility in ASU Stadium's north end zone, at an 11 a.m. press conference held Sept. 6 at the current ASU Football Facility . . . The new football operations building's first floor will house A-State's locker room, state-of-the-art strength and conditioning and sports medicine centers, a players lounge and equipment room. The second floor will feature coaching and administrative offices, team meeting rooms, a history and heritage showroom and a team film room with theatre seating. The indoor practice facility will run east and west and be connected to the north side of the operations building . . . The facility will have a brick exterior and feature an outdoor plaza facing the field on the building's second level. The interior will have a strong Red Wolves' theme with black and red dominating the esthetic appearance.
IT'S ALL IN THE NAME: In recognition of a $5 million contribution by Liberty Bank, the ASU Board of Trustees announced last Saturday that Liberty Bank Stadium is the new name of the football stadium at Arkansas State University. The naming rights to the stadium are for the next 15 years, as announced at the newly-named facility just prior to kickoff of the Red Wolves' home football game against the Memphis Tigers.
COACH TO CURE MD: The Arkansas State and Western Kentucky coaching staffs will be wearing Coach to Cure MD patches this week to raise awareness and funding for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research. Fans are encouraged to donate online at www.CoachtoCureMD.org or donate $5 by texting CURE to 90999.
UNBUCKLE THE BELT: ASU is 7-4 all-time in Sun Belt Conference openers. The Red Wolves snapped a two-game skid in league openers with a 26-22 win over Western Kentucky to start their league slate in 2011.
DEFEND THIS HOUSE: Arkansas State has won its last eight home games, which gives the Red Wolves their longest winning streak at Liberty Bank Stadium since 2004-2006 when they won 11 in a row. ASU's home winning streak is currently tied for the sixth longest in the nation.
HOME SWEET HOME: With a 6-0 home record last season, Arkansas State secured its seventh consecutive winning record at Liberty Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. ASU is now 33-7 at ASU Stadium since the 2005 season. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Liberty Bank?Stadium is 125-70-1 since it opened in 1974. ASU's six home wins last season were its most since 1985.
SUN BELT CHAMPIONS: Arkansas State claimed its first ever outright Sun Belt Conference championship in 2011. Including last season, ASU has won eight conference championships all-time. ASU won the Southland Conference seven times (1986, 1985, 1978, 1975, 1970, 1969, 1968). ASU also won the 2005 Sun Belt Conference title, but it was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
SENIOR CLASS AWARD: Ryan Aplin was named last week as one of just 30 candidates from across the nation for the 2012 Senior CLASS?Award, annually recognizing an NCAA FBS senior with notable achievements in areas of community, classroom, character and competition. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the prestigious Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
CFPA RECOGNIZES APLIN: The College Football Performance Awards recognized senior Ryan Aplin as an Honorable Mention National Quarterback of the Week following A-State's victory over Alcorn State. Aplin broke a pair of school records and took over second place for career total offense yards in the game. Aplin only played in the first half, leading ASU to 42-0 lead at the break with 198 yards passing, another 24 rushing and three touchdown passes. Aplin completed 12-of-13 pass attempts for a school-record .923 completion percentage. His three touchdown tosses gave him 50 for his career, making him ASU's all-time leader in the stat and one of just four players in Sun Belt history to record at least 50 touchdown passes. Aplin ended the game with 222 yards of total offense, pushing his career total to 9,847 and leaving him just 387 yards shy of the league's all-time record.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense 27 of its last 29 games. ASU's 12-game streak with over 300 yards total offense came to an end just two games shy of the school record against Nebraska earlier this season.
THAT'S OFFENSIVE: A-State's 634 yards of total offense against Alcorn State was the seven most in school history and marked the second time this year the Red Wolves have recorded over 600 yards. They also piled up 619 yards against Memphis, which were the most against an FBS opponent since recording a school-record 681 against Louisiana-Lafayette in 2007. ASU has now posted at least 500 yards total offense in three of its first four games and at least 30 first downs in two.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: With 34 (vs. Oregon), 33 (vs. Memphis) and 56 (vs. Alcorn State) points scored in three of its first four games this season, A-State has now posted at least 30 points in 11 of its last 15 regular-season games dating back to last season. The Red Wolves scored 30 or more points in eight games during the 2011 season, the most since 1951 when it hit the total 10 times.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: With its 56-0 win over Alcorn State, ASU recorded its first shutout since defeating Mississippi Valley State 61-0 in its 2009 season opener. ASU limited Alcorn State to just 2.2 yards per play, which tied the fifth lowest average for a game in Sun Belt Conference history. ASU's defense allowed just 130 yards, which is the fewest since giving up 69 to Mississippi Valley State in 2009 as well. The Red Wolves also held Memphis under 300 yards total offense, limiting the Tigers to 293 yards for the fewest by an ASU opponent since FAU recorded 281 last season.
HERALDED PEFORMANCE: Senior linebacker Nathan Herrold recorded 11 tackles against both Oregon and Nebraska, giving him two games this year and five for his career with double-figure stops. He now has a team-high 37 tackles, placing him tied for third in the Sun Belt Conference and tied for 41st in the nation in tackles.
AT LEAST SIX: Redshirt freshman receiver J.D. McKissic recorded at least six receptions in ASU's last three games, including a career-high eight against both Memphis and Nebraska. He now has a team-high 26 catches to place him tied for 28th in the nation in receptions. McKissic also has a team-best 249 receiving yards.
MORE OFTEN THAN NOT: Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin‘s 12-game streak with at least one touchdown pass came to an end against Nebraska, but he bounced back to throw a career-tying three against Alcorn State. He has now tossed at least one touchdown in 29 of his last 32 games dating back to his freshman season. Aplin has also thrown for at least 200 yards 24 times in his career and all 24 have come over ASU's last 31 games. Additionally, he has 15 career games with over 300 yards total offense, including five of the last seven.
ACTIVE APLIN: Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin is ranked among the top active players in the NCAA in several career statistics, including:
4th, career total offense yards (9,847)
6th, career passing yards (8,377)
6th, career completions (714)
6th, career TD responsible for (77)
9th, career touchdown passes (50)
15th, career rushing touchdowns (26)
TWO MORE SCHOOL RECORDS: Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin set four new school records this year, giving him 19 combined game, season and career records at ASU . . . His single-game records include most plays, total offense, most average yards per game, passes attempted, completion percentage and completions . . . His single-season records include most plays, total offense, passes attempted, completions, touchdown passes, highest completion percentage and most passing yards per game . . . His career records include total offense, most average yards per game, completions, highest completion percentage, touchdown passes and most passing yards per game.
REACHING THE CENTURY MARK: Sophomore running back Rod Smith broke 100 yards rushing for the first time of his career last game, finishing the Alcorn State contest with a career-high 104 yards. He is the second ASU player to rush for 100 yards in a game this season, joining David Oku (111 yards vs. Memphis). A-State had a running back record over 100 yards in a rushing in a game only once all of last season.
PLAYING IN THE BACKFIELD: Senior defensive end Tim Starson recorded a career-high three tackles for loss last game against Alcorn State, and now has a Sun?Belt Conference best six tackles for loss. He has recorded at
least a partial tackle for loss in ASU's last three games. He had three career tackles for loss entering his senior season this year.
CAREER HIGH TACKLES: Chris Humes (7 tackles), Kyle Coleman (7 tackles) and Dexter Blackmon (4 tackles) all set new career highs for tackles. Tim Starson (6 tackles) and LaAngelo Albright (4 tackles) matched their career highs.
FCS WINNING STREAK EXTENDED: Arkansas State is coming off a 56-0 win over Alcorn State, which extended its winning streak against FCS oppoents to eight games. The Red Wolves have won those eight games by a combined 426-60 score. ASU improved to 19-4 against FCS?opponents since moving to the FBS in 1992.
SULLIVENT HONORED: Senior punter Neely Sullivent was announced as a College Football Performance Awards national honorable mention punter of the week following the Nebraska game. Sullivent averaged 48 yards per punt against the Huskers, almost a full 10 yards more than his season average of 38.4 entering the game. He recorded his second punt of the season to travel over 50 yards and also posted his first punt inside the 20. Sullivent raised has season average to 41.8 yards per punt to rank him third in the Sun Belt Conference.
PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE: Senior quarterback Ryan Aplin was named Sun Belt Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and one of four A-State players named to the all-conference team at the league's Media Day in New Orleans. Aplin, senior wideout Josh Jarboe, senior offensive lineman Zack McKnight and senior defensive back Don Jones were all named to the Preseason All-SBC Team.
RED WOLVES TABBED SECOND IN PRESEASON SBC POLL: The Red Wolves were picked second in the preseason coaches poll announced as part of the league's annual Media Day. Arkansas State received 85 points and two first place votes, just behind Florida International, which received five first place votes and 92 points to earn the nod as the preseason favorite in the league race. The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt Conference Championship a year ago after posting a perfect 8-0 record in league play during the 2011 season. Louisiana-Lafayette, Western Kentucky and Troy rounded out the top five in the poll, and FIU defensive lineman Tourek Williams was named the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
HIGHLY TOUTED RECRUITING CLASS: With a Parade All-Amercian, Under Armour All-American, NJCAA All-American, 23 players that earned either junior college all-conference or high school all-state recognition and 18 players rated at least three stars by one or more of the major recruiting sources, the 2012 ASU signing class could be considered one of the best in the history of the ASU football program. Arkansas State had the top-rated class in the Sun Belt Conference by Rivals.com, Scout.com, ESPN.com and 247Sports.com.
RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS: A-State returns five 2011 All-Sun Belt Conference players this season, including the league's Player of the Year in senior quarterback Ryan Aplin. Aplin was a first-team selection and was joined by second-team choices Josh Jarboe (Sr., WR) and Nathan Herrold (Sr.,?LB). Returning as honorable mention choices are senior wideout Taylor Stockemer and senior punter Neely Sullivent.
SUN BELT CHAMPIONS: Arkansas State claimed its first ever outright Sun Belt Conference championship last season. Including 2011, Arkansas State has won eight conference championships all-time. ASU won the Southland Conference seven times (1986, 1985, 1978, 1975, 1970, 1969, 1968). ASU also won the 2005 Sun?Belt Conference championship, but it was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
IN THE POLLS: Arkansas State received as many as 18 votes in the AP Top 25 Poll and 13 votes in the USA Today Top 25 Coaches Poll, while also ranking as high as No. 35 in the BCS?and reaching No. 30 in the CBSSports.com 120 rankings during the season.