Ga. State at A-State in-depth preview

Ga. State at A-State in-depth preview

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GA. STATE (2-4, 1-1) at A-STATE (3-3, 0-2)
6:30 p.m. Thursday
Centennial Bank Stadium
RADIO: 107.9 FM Jonesboro, 106.7 & 99.3 FM in Central Ark.
TV: ESPNU
LIVE STATS: AStateStats.com
LIVE GAME NOTES: twitter.com/AStateGameDay

AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . :  make it 4-3 or better after seven games for the fourth time in five seasons under head coach Blake Anderson (2018, 2017, 2015, 2014) . . . move its record to 23-3 over its last 26 games played in October . . . give the Red Wolves nine victories over its last 10 midweek games (Tue.-Thur.) and make them 20-7 in all midweek games played since it joined the Sun Belt Conference in 2001 . . . move its all-time record against Georgia State to 5-0 . . . would tie Blake Anderson for the fifth most wins ever by a head coach at A-State . . . give it 79 all-time Sun Belt Conference wins and give it 47 victories over its last 58 conference games.

THE A-STATE - GA STATE SERIES:  Arkansas State holds a 4-0 all-time record against Georgia State in the series that dates back to just 2013.  The Red Wolves and Panthers met four consecutive years from 2013-16, but didn’t play each other last season.  While A-State claimed a narrows 35-33 victory in Jonesboro in the initial meeting, the last three games have all been decided by at least 14 points.  The Red Wolves picked up a 52-10 road win in 2014 followed by 48-24 victory in 2014 at Centennial Bank Stadium and a 31-16 win in 2016 in Atlanta.

RED WOLVES OCTOBER:  Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State holds a 22-3 record over its last 25 games played in the month of October.  The Red Wolves had won their last 11 games in the month before falling to Appalachian State last week.

MIDWEEK MADNESS:  Historically, A-State has performed well in midweek games (Tue.-Thur.) since joining the Sun Belt Conference.  The Red Wolves hold a 19-7 record in all midweek games since its 2001 inaugural year in the league.  They have won 15 of their last 19 midweek contests.  A-State had won eight consecutive midweek games before falling to Appalachian State last week.

STOP THE BLEEDING:  Arkansas State has dropped back-to-back Sun Belt Conference games in the same season for the first time since 2014, but have not lost three consecutive league games since the 2009 campaign.

REACHING 1,000:  Last Tuesday’s game against Appalachian State marked the 1,000th game in the history of the Arkansas State football program. A-State’s program is currently in its 104th season, has played in 15 bowl games and won 12 conference titles.  The program’s first season was played in 1911, but A-State did not field a team from 1942-44 due to World War II and also in 1918 as World War I was ending.

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 saw 41 of his players earn 64 All-Sun Belt Conference selections -- the most in the league over that span.

FIVE YEARS RUNNING:  Despite A-State being just halfway through its 2018 regular season, Blake Anderson is already the only head coach in Arkansas State history to win 34 or more games over his first five seasons at the school.  Additionally, he is one of just three head coaches at A-State to ever direct the program to at least 34 wins in 57 or fewer games -- Bennie Ellender also collected 34 victories in his first 57 games between 1963-69, as did Bill Davidson between 1971-76.

DOUBLE DIGITS:  Although 30 of the Red Wolves’ 34 victories under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points, the Red Wolves have already won two games this season by a single-digit margin.  The previous four seasons combined under Anderson saw A-State claim just two wins by less than 10 points, including a 21-14 overtime victory against Utah State in 2014 and 27-26 outcome versus Georgia Southern in 2016.

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.

A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT:  Arkansas State has won 46 of its last 57 Sun Belt Conference games (.807 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 78-47.  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.

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.

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 61-15 (.803 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 36 of their last 44 home games. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 153-78-1 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.

THROUGH 6:  Arkansas State holds at least a .500 record through six games for the second consecutive year and seventh time over the last eight seasons.  The Red Wolves held a 4-2 record last season that matched their best ever through six games since joining the FBS in 1992 (2017, 2014, 2011, 2008, 2006).  A-State is 3-3 for the fourth time over the last seven years (2018, 2015, 2013, 2012).

WINNING NON-CONFERENCE RECORD:  With a 3-1 record, Arkansas State secured a winning record this season against non-conference opponents for the first time since 1995 when it went 3-2. Additionally, with wins against Tulsa and UNLV, the Red Wolves won back-to-back non-conference games against FBS opponents for the first time ever since moving to FBS status in 1992.

RON CARROLL WORKS No. 500:  Now in his 43rd season as Arkansas State’s head certified trainer, A-State Hall of Honor inductee (2005) Ron Carroll reached a milestone number in his career when the Red Wolves played Georgia Southern this year.  A part of eight all-time A-State conference championships and eight bowl games, Carroll worked his 500th all-time Arkansas State game on Sept. 29, 2018.  Carroll has not only worked every A-State football contest since his first in 1976, he has never missed a fall practice and missed only one spring practice in 2013 to have his gallbladder removed.  Since being named A-State’s first certified athletic trainer at the age of 24, he has worked with 11 head football coaches and 11 athletics directors.  Now 66 years old, Carroll has also since been married (1979), has three children and is expecting his seventh grandchild this October.

ROAD WARRIORS:  Arkansas State has won 23 of its last 29 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, 3-1 in 2016 and 2017, 2-1 in 2013 and 2-2 in 2014.

BOWL ELIGIBLE:  Arkansas State has obtained bowl-eligible status each of the past 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.

104TH SEASON:  Arkansas State kicked off its 104th season of football Sept. 1 at home against Southeast Missouri State.  A-State holds a 468-485-37 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
EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE:
  Based on gains of at least 15 yards passing and 12 rushing, Arkansas State has recorded at least nine explosive plays in all but one game this season and is averaging 9.8 per contest.  The Red Wolves recorded a season-high 15 explosive plays against SEMO, followed by 11 versus UNLV, 10 at Georgia Southern and nine against both Tulsa and Alabama. A-State has recorded 59 total explosive plays, including 30 covering at least 20 yards.

RUSHING RED WOLVES:  Arkansas State has already rushed for at least 170 yards in four games, which matched its total for all of last season.  A-State reached the mark in four consecutive outings (first four games) for the first time since doing so in five straight during the 2015 season.  A-State has also posted at least 100 rushing yards in every game this year, marking the first time it has reached the century mark in six consecutive games since the 2015 season as well (nine straight).

300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 97 of its last 108 games (.898 percentage).  A-State has produced 300 yards in 52 of 57 games under head coach Blake Anderson, including the last 18 in a row.

400-PLUS:  Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 36 times over its last 57 games (63 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 35th in the nation this season at 449.0 yards per game, one year after it posted a school-record 494.8 average that ranked 10th in the nation.

LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD:  Including 14 of the last 23 contests, the Red Wolves have now posted at least 30 points in 55 of their last 88 regular-season games (63 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 43 of their last 48 games when scoring at least 30 points.

TOP 30:  Senior quarterback Justice Hansen was named on Oct. 5 as a “top 30” candidate for the 2018 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.  The senior from Edmond, Okla., was named a “top 20” candidate for the award last season as a junior.

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.

MERRITT ON THE RECEPTION:  Junior receiver Kirk Merritt has either led A-State or tied for the team high in receptions five of the first six games, hauling in a combined 38 receptions over that span.    Merritt’s 38 receptions are the most by an A-State player over the first six games of a season since J.D. McKissic (now with the Seattle Seahawks) had 39 in 2012.  He most recently finished the Appalachian State with nine receptions, once game after posting a career-high 11 catches against Georgia Southern that rank tied for the seventh most in school history for a single game.  He has caught at least five passes five of the Red Wolves’ six games as well and is currently leading the Sun Belt Conference with 6.3 receptions per game.

HITTING THE MARK:  Junior quarterback Justice Hansen has thrown at least one passing touchdown in 21 of his last 23 games and two or more touchdown passes in 15 of his last 20 outings.  He has thrown multiple scoring passes in 20 career games.  The former Oklahoma transfer has thrown for at least 200 yards 22 times, 300 11 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 20 of his last 25 games. 

ECLIPSING 2,000:  Running back Warren Wand has pushed his career rushing total to 2,527 yards, making him one of 10 players in A-State history to post 2,500 in a career.  He is currently ranked 21st in the nation among active players in career rushing yards, while his 18 career rushing touchdowns are the 47th most.

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 33 of its last 35 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 13 games.

GETTING TO THE QB:  A-State has ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation in sacks three of the last five years, posting a combined 157 sacks over that span.  The Red Wolves have recorded at least one sack in 30 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 22 opponents to under 300 yards total offense.

PICK IT OFF:  A-State has proved to be an opportunistic defense the last five seasons (2014-18) when the ball has been put in the air, intercepting a combined 71 passes over that time that rank tied for the fifth most in the nation over that span.  The only teams with more interceptions are San Diego State (83), Ohio State (77), Alabama (77), Louisville (73).

FORCING TURNOVERS:  Arkansas State has recorded at least one turnover gained in 46 of 57 games (81 percent) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.  The Red Wolves have ranked among the top 30 teams in turnovers gained three of the last five years as well (2014-18), and their combined 116 forced turnovers over that span are tied for the sixth most in the nation.

DEFENSE IS THE BEST OFFENSE:  Arkansas State has ranked among the top 21 teams in the nation in defensive touchdowns four 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).

BRADLEY-KING COLLECTS WEEKLY HONOR:  Sophomore defensive end William Bradley-King was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week after his dominating performance in the Red Wolves’ 27-20 victory over UNLV.  He recorded his second career forced fumble while setting career highs with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. With the Red Wolves leading 27-20, Bradley-King recorded a strip-sack on fourth down that ended UNLV’s final possession and secured the victory for Arkansas State. The Kansas City, Mo., native also posted a sack on the final play of the first half, helping preserve a six-point A-State lead by not allowing UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers to get off a pass to the end zone. He additionally came up with tackles on two third-down plays that forced UNLV punts during the game.

JACOBS HONORED BY CSM:  College Sports Madness named junior cornerback Jerry Jacobs its Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week following his two-interception performance against UNLV.  Jacobs became the first A-State player to intercept multiple passes in a game since Kyle Martin had two against ULM in the Red Wolves’ 10th game of last season.  Jacobs is ranked tied for second in the conference in interceptions and tied for 14th in passes defended.

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 six games.  Jackson has now posted double-figure stops in four career games, all coming over the Red Wolves’ last seven outings.  Jackson is currently ranked tied for second in the Sun Belt Conference with 7.7 per game.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
COVERAGE GAME:  Arkansas State’s punt and kickoff coverage units have been successful early this season as both rank among the top 16 in the nation.  In fact, the Red Wolves are ranked first in the nation in punt coverage by allowing -2.8 yards per return by its opponents.  The kickoff coverage team is allowing just 16.6 yards per return, which is a significant improvement over its 21.4 average and No. 74 ranking a year ago.

ON THE RETURN:  Stepping into a punt return role for the first time of his career, senior running back Warren Wand has already recorded 164 return yards that leaves him just 49 shy of breaking into the top 10 single-season marks in A-State history.  While his 9.6 yards per attempt ranks fourth in the Sun Belt Conference, it ranks Wand 25th in the nation.

AMAZING GRACE:  Junior punter Cody Grace has posted only one touchback in 82 punting attempts during his two-year career at A-State, while his punts have also been returned just nine times (11 percent).  He has played a big part in the Red Wolves ranking No. 1 in the nation this season and No. 2 a year ago in punt return defense.  He has posted at least one punt inside the opponent’s 20-yard line every game of his career (17) and multiple in all but four.

GRUPE ON THE KICK:  Since taking over place kicking duties in the third game (Tulsa) of the season, redshirt freshman Blake Grupe has made seven of his eight field goal attempts.  He made a career-high three against Appalachian State, including a career-long covering 47 yards.

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