A-State at Idaho in-depth preview
A-STATE (4-3, 2-1) at IDAHO (1-6, 1-4)
4 p.m. Saturday, Kibbie Dome, Moscow, Idaho
RADIO: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM Jonesboro, 93.3 FM Little Rock)
LIVE STATS: AStateRedWolves.com
LIVE GAME NOTES: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
ON TAP: Arkansas State, the three-time defending Sun Belt Conference champion, continues league play and wraps up a three-game road swing Saturday at Idaho.
ASU WR J.D. McKISSIC
THE PRINCIPALS: Arkansas State looks to get back on the winning track Saturday, while Idaho will be trying to put together back-to-back victories after winning their first game of the year last week. The Red Wolves dropped a 55-40 road decision to Louisiana-Lafayette last Tuesday in a nationally-televised game on ESPN2, snapping a three-game winning streak. Idaho collected a 29-17 home win over New Mexico State last Saturday, but has not won back-to-back games in the same season since 2009. The Red Wolves bring a 4-3 overall record and 2-1 Sun Belt mark into the game, while the Vandals stand 1-6 overall and 1-4 in league play.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : give it five victories, matching (2006 and 2012) its second most ever through eight games since joining the FBS in 1992 . . . improve its Sun Belt Conference record since 2011 to 23-4 . . . make it 6-4 all-time versus Idaho, and make it 5-1 over its last six games against the Vandals . . . make it 11-1 over its last 12 games played in the month of November . . . make it 12-2 over its last 14 conference road games . . . run its record to 33-14 over the last four seasons.
STOP THE BLEEDING: Coming off a 55-40 setback at Louisiana-Lafayette, the Red Wolves have lost back-to-back games in the same season just twice over the last four years. Following an initial loss, A-State has rebounded to win its next game seven times since 2011.
THE A-STATE - IDAHO SERIES: Arkansas State holds an all-time 5-4 record against Idaho, including four meetings as Sun Belt Conference opponents (2001-04) and two as Big West Conference foes (1999-2000). The series dates back to 1975 when A-State claimed a 23-6 home victory on its way to an unblemished 11-0 record. Last year's 48-24 home victory by A-State marked the first meeting between the two teams since Idaho left its first stint in the Sun Belt Conference in 2004. Idaho picked up a 45-31 home victory in the 2004 contest, but Arkansas State won the previous three games. The Red Wolves hold a 4-2 home record against the Vandals and a 1-2 road mark.
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, a 13-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. Working on head coach Larry Fedora's staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at both North Carolina and Southern Miss over the last four seasons, Anderson's dynamic offense helped lead the two programs to 34 victories, three bowl game appearances and two conference or divisional titles. Along the way, his potent offense was responsible for breaking both schools' total offense records while also ranking among the most productive teams in the nation. The Hubbard, Texas, native comes to A-State after spending the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at North Carolina.
STARTING STRONG: Blake Anderson is A-State's 30th all-time head coach, but became just the 11th to claim a victory in his first ever game at the school. Last season Bryan Harsin became the first A-State head coach to win his initial game since Larry Lacewell in 1979, snapping a streak of seven head coaches to drop their debuts. A-State's head coaches to win their first game at the school include Anderson, Harsin, Lacewell, Bill Davidson (1971), Gene Harlow (1955), Glen Harmeson (1954), Bill Adams (1939), Jack Dale (1931), Bill Stanley (1924), Foy Hammons (1919) and Clint Young (1913).
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 22 of its last 26 Sun Belt Conference games (.846 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the conference to 55-40. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 23 and, with the exception of newcomers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, have defeated ever team in the SBC 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 it was formed.
FAMILIAR FOE: While Arkansas State and Idaho meet this year as Sun Belt foes, it's not the first time the two teams have shared a conference. The Red Wolves and Vandals were both members of the Sun Belt Conference from 2001-04 and the Big West Conference from 1999-2000.
RED WOLVES NOVEMBER: Dating back to the 2011 season, Arkansas State holds a 10-1 record over its last 11 games played in the month of November. The Red Wolves won 10 consecutive games in the month of November before falling to Western Kentucky in their 2013 regular-season finale.
ROAD WARRIORS: Despite dropping a 55-40 road decision to Louisiana-Lafayette last week, Arkansas State has still won 11 of its last 13 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 at Western Kentucky in its 2013 regular-season finale. The Red Wolves went 4-0 in conference road games in both 2011 and 2012, 2-1 in 2013 and is 1-1 this season.
THROUGH SEVEN: Arkansas State has a winning record (4-3) after seven games for the first time since the 2012 season and just the sixth time since joining the FBS in 1992 (2014, 2012, 2011, 2006, 2005, 2002). The Red Wolves' 4-3 record matches the 2012, 2005 and 2002 teams as their third best record through seven games since joining the FBS. The 2011 and 2006 teams were both 5-2 through seven contests.
STRONG IN THE SECOND: Dating back to last season, eight of Arkansas State's last 12 victories have come when it was either tied or trailing at halftime. Two of A-State's four victories this season have come under the circumstances, while its six last year were its most ever since returning to NCAA Division I-A (now FBS) status in 1992.
STARTING FRESH: The Red Wolves have had a new starting lineup on offense or defense in every game this season, and they have had 11 players make their first career start this season. A-State's first-time starters this season include offensive linemen Jemar Clark, Devin Mondie and Tyler Greve, wide receivers Dijon Paschal and Booker Mays, quarterback Fredi Knighten, running back Johnston White, defensive lineman Chuks Ota and defensive ends Ja'Von Rolland-Jones and Caleb Caston.
NEW FACES: Arkansas State has seen 30 total players, including 14 true freshmen and nine redshirt freshmen, achieve their first game experience this season at A-State. Eight of those true freshmen are listed on the two-deep, including defensive lineman Chuks Ota and defensive end Caleb Caston -- the only two to start a game this year.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Arkansas State has 29 combined freshmen and sophomores on its depth chart to tie for the fourth most in the nation, along with Wake Forest, Alabama and Tennessee. Oklahoma State has the most with 35. The Red Wolves' 11 seniors on the depth chart are tied for the 21st fewest in the country. Temple has the fewest with five.
FOUR-YEAR WINS TOTAL: Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012, eight more in 2013 and four this year, the Red Wolves have recorded 32 victories that are tied for the 22nd most in the nation over the last four years.
STREAK SNAPPED: Entering last week's Louisiana-Lafayette game, Arkansas State had won 24 consecutive games when posting more yards in total offense. However, the streak came to an end as the Red Wolves outgained the Ragin' Cajuns 595 to 521. The last time A-State dropped a game when outgaining its opponent was in 2010 when it posted 448 yards total offense to Western Kentucky's 378, but dropped the game 36-35 in overtime.
SECOND-HALF SURGE: Arkansas State's four victories this season have seen it score at least 21 points in the second half, and the Red Wolves have put up more point in the second half than the first in three of them. The Red Wolves have posted at least 17 second half points in five games this year, including the last four in a row. Including overtime, A-State has put up 124 second-half points in comparison to 93 in the first. The Red Wolves have outscored their opponents 45-38 in the third quarter and 72-38 in the fourth.
QUICK STARTS: While the Red Wolves were held scoreless in the first half against both Utah State and ULM, that comes in stark contrast to their quick starts in their other five games when they scored a touchdown on one of their first two possessions. In fact, A-State's 31 first-half points two weeks ago versus Georgia State were its most in a half against an FBS opponent since scoring 35 first-half points against Middle Tennessee in its 2012 regular-season finale.
EXPLOSIVE PLAYS: Arkansas State recorded 19 of its 36 (52 percent) plays of over 20 yards this season in its last three games. The Red Wolves had seven plays versus both ULM and Louisiana-Lafayette and five more against Georgia State that covered at least 20 yards. A-State posted five of its six longest plays against Louisiana-Lafayette last week.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 52 of its last 58 games. A-State went over 300 in each of its first seven games this season, including 547 yards versus Montana State, 331 against Tennessee, 329 at Miami, 316 versus Utah State, 572 against ULM, a season-high 618 at Georgia State and 595 against Louisiana-Lafayette.
500-PLUS: Arkansas State has recorded at least 572 yards total offense in each of its last three games, increasing its average to 472.6 yards per game that ranks 26th in the nation. A-State has posted at least 500 yards total offense in four games for the year.
TAKING OVER AT QB: In five of his first seven career starts, junior quarterback Fredi Knighten has posted over 200 yards total offense. Most recently, Knighten piled up 355 yards against ULM, 308 against Georgia State and a career-high 405 last week vs. Louisiana-Lafayette. He has four games with over 330 yards total offense and is ranked 27th in the nation with 289.9 yards per game.
QUARTERBACK KEEPER: While junior quarterback Fredi Knighten's 394 rushing yards this season are 130 shy of former A-State quarterback Adam Kennedy's 524 posted last year, his 56.3 average per game is the highest by an A-State quarterback since Roy Johnson averaged 71.1 in 1991. Johnson recorded 782 yards rushing in 1991, but the highest total since then by an A-Sate quarterback was 588 by Ryan Aplin in 2011.
A FLARE FOR THE DRAMATIC: Sophomore RB Michael Gordon is responsible for five of the 10 longest plays this season by an A-State player, and all five were posted in one of the last three games. The five plays include runs covering 70 (vs ULL), 68 (vs ULM), 53 (vs GSU), 50 (vs GSU) and 49 (vs ULM) yards. Gordon is averaging 9.3 yards per rushing attempt, which is ranked second in the nation and would currently tie the school record of 9.3 by his teammate Rocky Hayes. Gordon's one run over 40 yards versus Louisiana-Lafayette give him nine such carries for his career:
92 yd TD vs UAPB (2013); 70 yd TD vs ULL (2014); 68 yd vs ULM (2014); 64 yd TD vs Troy (2013); 53 vs GSU (2014); 50 vs GSU?(2014); 49 yd vs ULM (2014); 42-yd TD vs Montana State (2014); 40 yd TD vs Texas State (2013)
ANOTHER 100: Arkansas State junior running back Michael Gordon added another 100-yard rushing game to his career totals with 134 yards versus Louisiana-Lafayette. It was his third consecutive 100-yard performance after also recording 168 against ULM and a career-high 188 versus Georgia State. Gordon has surpassed 100 yards rushing seven times during his career, and he is averaging 163.3 yards per game over the Red Wolves last three outings.
GOING THE DISTANCE: Junior RB Michael Gordon and junior QB Fredi Knighten have both recorded two touchdown runs covering at least 50 yards, which is tied for the sixth most in the nation. Four players in the nation have three rushing touchdowns of at least 50 yards, while Georgia Southern's Matt Brieda has the most with six.
WALK-ON 100: Redshirt freshman and walk-on running back Johnston White not only recorded the first 100-yard rushing game of his career versus Utah State, it was the first 100-yard game of the season at the time by an A-State player. Johnston has posted 303 rushing yards this season and his four rushing touchdowns are tied for the most among all A-State running backs.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Just six games into the season, Arkansas State has already completed at least one pass to 19 players -- seven more than all of last season. Fourteen of those players have multiple receptions, including J.D. McKissic with a team-high 42. The last time A-State had 19 or more players with a catch was 2006 when it had 19 as well.
HOUSTON, WE DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM: Just over halfway through the regular season, junior wide receiver Tres Houston ranks second on the team in receptions (25) and third in receiving yards (275). Houston caught eight passes for 135 yards, both career highs, against Montana State and has hauled in two touchdown passes (vs Tennessee and ULL). Houston had eight receptions for 44 yards all of last season.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: A-State has posted at least 30 points in 28 of its last 42 regular-season games (67 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 17 of their last 19 games when scoring at least 30 points.
LEARNING EXPERIENCE: Arkansas State's collective offensive line entered the 2014 season with the nation's third fewest combined starts in the nation. The Red Wolves returned just two offensive lineman with starting experience, including sophomore Colton Jackson and senior Alan Wright. The 22 combined starts entering the year were the fewest behind just Tennessee (six) and Ohio State (20). Following A-State was San Jose State with 23 and Army with 24.
ACTIVE DUTY: Among active players, junior wide receiver J.D. McKissic is among the career leaders in several statistical categories, including receptions (5th: 227), kickoff return average (10th: 27.7 average per attempt), receiving yards (20th: 2,166), all-purpose yards (29th: 3,386).
RECEIVING RECORDS: Just a junior, J.D. McKissic is already taking over the Arkansas State record books in almost every major receiving statistical category. He holds the school record for receptions in a game (15), season (103) and career (227). He is ranked third for career receiving yards with 2,154 to his credit and has nine receiving touchdowns that rank tied for ninth. He is the only player in school history to have 70 or more receptions in two different seasons. He is also currently ranked fifth in the nation in career receptions among active players, and he is the only junior among the top-10 leaders.
ON A ROLL: A Freshman All-America selection in 2011 and Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-America in 2012, sophomore WR J.D. McKissic has caught at least one pass in all 33 games of his career at A-State. His 33 consecutive games with a reception are tied for the 13th longest streak in the nation. He had a school-record 15 against Missouri last season.
GREVE ADDED TO WATCH LIST: Senior center Tyler Greve was added to the Rimington Trophy Watch List in mid-October. He joined 55 other players across the nation on the watch list for the award presented annually to the nation's premier college center. Greve is the fourth A-State player ever named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List, joining Bryce Giddens, Tom Castilaw and Tanner Jenkins.
KNIGHTEN HONORED: Junior quarterback Fredi Knighten picked up a trio of honors for his performance against Georgia State, earning Sun Belt Conference (SBC) Offensive Player of the Week, College Sports Madness SBC Player of the Week, and Manning Award Star of the Week accolades. Knighten piled up a 308 yards total offense and accounted for four touchdowns in the win, including a career-high three passing scores.
SCORING DEFENSE: While Arkansas State gave up a season-high 55 points last game versus Louisiana-Lafayette, it has held four opponents to 14 points or less -- the most since holding four to no more than 14 in 2008. ?The last time A-State held more than four opponents to 14 points or less in a season was 1986 when it did so 10 times. The Red Wolves have won 16 consecutive games when holding an opponent to 17 point or less.
GETTING TO THE QB: Arkansas State recorded a combined 23 sacks against its first seven opponents, giving it a 3.3 average per game that ranks 14th in the nation. The Red Wolves had six sacks against Montana State, which were its most since posting the same number against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in its 2013 season opener. Through just seven games, A-State is already over halfway to its total (26) for all of last season.
PLAYING BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE: Twenty-one players have combined to record 49 tackles for loss over the first seven games of the season, giving the Red Wolves a 7.0 average per game that ranks 29th in the nation. Sophomore linebacker Xavier Woodson has a team-leading 7.0 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, posting at least a half-tackle for loss in six of seven games.
AMONG THE LEAGUE LEADERS: Sophomore linebacker Xavier Woodson leads the team and is ranked tied for fifth in the Sun Belt Conference in tackles, averaging 8.7 per game. He has 61 total tackles, 14 more than the Red Wolves' second leading tackler Qushaun Lee. Woodson is averaging 6.6 solo tackles per game, which ranks 11th in the nation. Woodson also leads the team in tackles for loss with seven, which ranks tied for fifth in the Sun Belt. He has posted a double-figure tackles total three times this season and four times during his career, including a career-high 14 last week versus Louisiana-Lafayette.
LEAVE NO STONE UNBLOCKED: Junior defensive end Chris Stone has recorded at least a half-sack in five of six outings this season, giving him 4.5 on the season that ranks fourth in the Sun Belt Conference. Additionally, he has at least one tackle for loss in six of seven games this year for a 6.0 total that ranks tied for 10th in the Sun Belt. Last season, he posted a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss that ranked 11th in the league. He entered the season with four career sacks, already topping that total over A-State's first seven games this season.
PICK IT OFF: Five A-State players have combined for six interceptions this season, and the Red Wolves have picked off at least one pass in six of their last eight games dating back to the 2014 GoDaddy Bowl.
UNDER 100: A-State allowed its first 100-yard rushing performance by an opponent player last week versus Louisiana-Lafayette, which actually snapped a two-game streak where the Red Wolves didn't allow the opposing TEAM to rush for 100 yards. A-State has held three teams, including Georgia State, ULM and Montana State, to under 100 yards total rushing.
ANOTHER 100: Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee recorded a team-high 134 tackles last season, making him the first A-State player to record over 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons since linebacker Les Echols in 2002 (105) and 2003 (123). He ranked 12th in the nation in tackles and led the Sun Belt Conference in 2013.
LOADED SECONDARY: Arkansas State's secondary has combined to start 132 career games, which is among at least the six highest in the nation. A-State's players in the defensive backfield with starting experience include Sterling Young, Chris Humes, Money Hunter, Artez Brown, Andrew Tryon, Rocky Hayes, Frankie Jackson and Charleston?Girley.
LEE EARNS SBC WEEKLY HONOR: Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in A-State's 21-14 victory over Utah State. Lee, who earned the weekly honor for the third time of his career, recorded a season-high 13 tackles, team-high 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a pass break-up. His 13 tackles were just three shy of his career-high 16 (at South Alabama last season) and marked the 11th time of his career he recorded a double-figure stops total.
WOODSON RECOGNIZED: Sophomore linebacker Xavier Woodson picked up a pair of weekly honors from College Sports Madness (CSM) and College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) for his performance against ULM. Woodson was named CSM's Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week and a national Honorable Mention Linebacker of the Week by the CFPA. He recorded a team-high 10 tackles, career-high three tackles for loss and one sack in the Red Wolves' 28-14 win over ULM.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
TWICE AS NICE: Through its first seven games this season, A-State has seen two different players named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. Junior punter and kicker Luke Ferguson was named both the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week and a College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) national Honorable Mention Specialist of the Week for his performance against Montana State. Senior cornerback Artez Brown earned the recognition for his performance against Utah State, most notably for blocking a Utah State field goal attempt to force overtime.
INSIDE THE 20: Junior punter Luke Ferguson has recorded a career-best 18 punts inside the 20-yard line this season for a 2.5 average per game. He has pinned the opponent inside its own 20-yard line at least one time in every game this season. His 18 total are tied for the most in the Sun Belt Conference. He has placed 51.4 percent (18 of 35) of his punts inside the 20, which is tied for the fourth highest percentage in the nation behind just J.K. Scott of Alabama (59.3 percent; 16 of 27), Nick O'Toole of West Virginia (55.9 percent; 19 of 34) and Will Gleeson of Ole Miss (52.6 percent; 20 of 38). Ferguson, who entered the season with eight career kicks inside the 20, is ranked fifth in the league in punting average with a 42.3 average per attempt.
IT'S GOOD: Junior kicker Luke Ferguson was 2-of-2 on his field goal attempts last game, including a career-long of 44, and has now made his last three attempts to improve to 6-of-10 on the season. Ferguson was 3-of-3 in the season opener before missing his next four attempts, but has since rebounded to go 1-of-1 versus Georgia State and 2-of-2 against ULL. His 0.86 field goals made per game is tied for third in the conference, while he is ranked fourth in scoring by kick (5.9 per game).