Texas State at ASU in-depth preview
Texas State (6-3, 2-2) at ASU (5-4, 3-1)
6:30 p.m. Saturday, Liberty Bank Stadium, Jonesboro
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Radio Network (107.9 FM Jonesboro, 93.3 FM Little Rock)
TV: Sun Belt Network
Live Stats: AStateRedWolves.com, TapStats
THE PRINCIPALS: The Red Wolves have won their last two games and enter the contest in second place in the Sun Belt standings with a 3-1 league record. The Bobcats have won three consecutive games to become bowl eligible and are fourth in the conference standings with a 2-2 mark. Texas State brings a 2-2 road record into the game, while the Red Wolves are 3-1 at home this season and 14-2 over its last 16 games at Liberty Bank Stadium.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . .: Ensure it a winning record at Liberty Bank Stadium for the ninth consecutive season . . . Make it bowl eligible for the third consecutive year and the sixth time over the last nine seasons . . . Extend its winning streak in the month of November to nine games . . . Give it a 10th straight victory over an opponent from the state of Texas . . . Leave the Red Wolves in no worse than second place in the Sun Belt Conference standings, depending on the UL Lafayette-Georgia State game victor . . . Make it 4-1 in Sun Belt Conference play through five games for the second straight year.
THE ASU - TEXAS STATE SERIES: Saturday's game marks the first meeting between Arkansas State and Texas State.
RUSHING OFFENSE vs RUSHING DEFENSE: Saturday's game will feature an Arkansas State offense ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference in rushing offense (199.4 ypg) and a Texas State defense ranked first in rushing defense (106.2 ypg). The Red Wolves have rushed for over 200 yards in three games this season and hold a nine-game winning streak when hitting the mark. A-State has also rushed for at least 150 yards in five games this year and holds a 5-0 record in those contests. Texas State hasn't allowed an opponent to rush for 150 yards in seven outings and is 5-2 in those outings.
LONE STAR SUCCESS: Dating back to the 2007 season, Arkansas State has won its last nine games against teams from the Lone Star state. The Red Wolves fell to Texas in their 2007 season opener, but came back to sweep their games over SMU and North Texas that year. A-State knocked off Texas A&M, Texas Southern and North Texas in 2008 and also defeated the Mean Green in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
TEXAS RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has 13 players on its roster from the state of Texas, the second most among all states outside of Arkansas (Alabama, 16). Players on A-State's roster from the state of Texas includes Kendrick Daniels (Sulpher Springs), Christian Flewellen (Duncanville), Jeremy Fulcher (Dallas), John Gandy (Houston), Hunter Holmes (Dallas), Money Hunter (Prosper), Colin Janice (Orange), Ja'Von Jones (Mesquite), Cliff Mitchell (Jasper), Chris Odom (Arlington), Cade Oliver (Mansfield), Eddie Porter (Woodlands) and Raziel Valgis (El Paso).
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 18 of its last 20 league games to run its all-time record in the conference to 52-38. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against Louisiana-Monroe with 21. With the exception of Texas State and Georgia State, which are in their first season as a member of the league, the Red Wolves have defeated every team in the SBC since the football league was formed in 2001. Along with Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette, A-State is one of three teams that have been a part of the conference since 2001.
RED WOLVES NOVEMBER: Arkansas State is undefeated in November since the 2011 season with an 8-0 record over that span. All eight victories have come against Sun Belt Conference opponents, including five by a double-figure margin.
BIG BLOCKS: A-State blocked its first two kicks of the season last week against ULM, making it one of just nine teams in the nation to block multiple kicks in a game this season. Senior DL Ryan Carrethers blocked a field goal attempt and senior LB?LaAngelo Albright was responsible for a blocked punt against ULM. The other teams to block multiple kicks in a game this season are Syracuse (3), UAB (3), Minnesota, Colorado State, Virginia Tech, Boise State, Akron, Oklahoma, North Texas and Texas A&M.
DAVIS NAMED LOU GROZA AWARD SEMIFINALIST: Senior kicker Brian Davis has been named one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award. Davis, also a semifinalist for the award in 2012, is 10-of-10 on field goal attempts this year with a career-long of 50 yards.
SUN BELT PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Senior quarterback Adam Kennedy was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. The Red Wolves have seen four different players earn one of the weekly honors from the league a combined five times this year. In addition to Kennedy, who was also named the Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 14, the other A-State players recognized this season are senior safety Sterling Young (Nov. 4), senior DL Ryan Carrethers (Oct. 28) and sophomore WR J.D. McKissic (Oct. 14, Special Teams).
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
1 of just 16 FBS programs to win at least 20 games over the last two years (2011 & 2012).
1 receiving touchdown needed by Allen Muse to tie the 9th most (9) in school history.
1 point needed by Brian Davis to break the Sun Belt record for points by kicking in a career (295).
1.3 passes defended per game by Rocky Hayes ranks 15th in the nation.
3 ASU was picked to finish 3rd in the preseason Sun Belt Coaches Poll with 45 pts. and 2 first-place votes.
3 out of the last four games Qushaun Lee (12.8 tpg over that span) has posted double-figure tackles.
3 A-State players (Davis, Hayes, McKissic) ranked 1st in the Sun Belt in at least 1 statistical category.
4 games with over 300 yards total offense by Adam Kennedy, including the ULM?game.
4 consecutive seasons with a victory over the top team in the Sun Belt Preseason Coaches Poll, including 2013.
5 of the last eight seasons have seen A-State achieve bowl eligibility.
5 players named to one of college football's major award watch lists.
7 preseason All-Sun Belt Conference selections, the most in the league.
8 consecutive wins in the month of November dating back to the 2011 season.
8 consecutive winning seasons at Liberty Bank Stadium.
8 receptions needed by J.D. McKissic to break the school record for career receptions (163).
8 straight victories in games decided by 7 points or less, the second longest active streak in the nation.
9 turnovers lost by A-State is tied for the seventh fewest in the nation.
9 players (Albright, Campbell, Carrethers, Haunga, Kennedy, McCants, Muse, Oliver, Williams) already with their degree.
9 consecutive games won by A-State against teams from the state of Texas.
10.0 tackles per game by Qushaun Lee is ranked as the 17th highest average in the nation.
10 game Sun Belt Conference road winning streak held by A-State.
10 tackles needed by Qushaun Lee to become first ASU player since 2002-03 with 100 stops in consecutive seasons.
10 win seasons in 2011 & 2012, making ASU the first team in SBC history w/ back-to-back 10-win campaigns.
10 A-State players named to Phil Steele's midseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team.
10 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 11 years.
12 passes defended by Rocky Hayes is three more than the most by an ASU player for all of last season.
12 consecutive field goals made by Brian Davis for the second longest streak in school history.
13 consecutive victories by A-State when scoring at least 30 points.
13 votes in the final 2012 USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll, ranking A-State No. 32 in the nation.
13 A-State players named to at least one preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team.
15 players named to the most recent Sun Belt Conference Commissioner's List (3.5 GPA or higher).
16 statistical categories in which A-State ranks among the top 50 teams in the nation.
18 Sun Belt Conference victories over its last 20 league games.
19 receptions by Darion Griswold are the most by an A-State tight end since Trevor Gillott (24) in 2009.
19. 3 points allowed per game over A-State's last four contests, 8.7 less than its season average.
23 All-Sun Belt Conference selections over the last two years combined.
24 A-State wins over its last 33 regular-season games dating back to 2011.
26.3 yards per kickoff return by ASU is ranked 7th in the nation, and 18.4 ypr KO?coverage is ranked 16th.
27 players named to the most recent Sun Belt Conference Academic Honor Roll (3.0 GPA or higher).
28 votes in the final 2012 Associated Press Top 25 poll, ranking A-State No. 32 in the nation.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 22 of its last 32 games.
46.4 third-down conversion percentage by A-State is ranked 31st in the nation.
48 of J.D. McKissic's 54 receptions have come over the last seven games (6.9 per game).
66 tackles by Ryan Carrethers are the most in the nation by a defensive lineman.
68.4 completion percentage by Adam Kennedy is ranked 10th in the nation.
300 yards or more of total offense recorded by ASU?in 42 of its last 47 games.
400 or more yards total offense by A-State in six of its first nine games.
433.2 yards total offense per game is the third highest in school history for a single season.
26.7 million-dollar football facility project in Liberty Bank Stadium's north end zone announced.
HEAD COACH BRYAN HARSIN: Bryan Harsin was named the Red Wolves' 29th head football coach on Dec. 12, 2012. Harsin is a 13-year coaching veteran at the NCAA FBS level who has coached in 10 bowl games as either an assistant or offensive coordinator. Harsin, a finalist for the 2009 Broyles Award recognizing the top assistant coach in the country, has been associated with two nationally-prominent programs during his rise to A-State's head coach. Working closely with Chris Petersen at Boise State and Mack Brown at Texas, two of the most well-respected coaches in the country, Harsin spent the last seven seasons as an offensive coordinator with the Broncos and Longhorns.
STARTING STRONG: With the Red Wolves victory over UAPB, Bryan Harsin became the Red Wolves first head coach to win his inaugural game at the school since Larry Lacewell in 1979. ASU's previous seven head coaches all suffered setbacks in their first game, including Al Kincaid, Ray Perkins, John Bobo, Joe Hollis, Steve Roberts, Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn.
CFPA HONORS GORDON: Sophomore running back Michael Gordon was recognized by the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) following the ULM game, earning national Honorable Mention All-Purpose Player of the Week honors. Gordon was also a CFPA honorable mention pick for running back of the week earlier this season. Other players recognized by the CFPA with a weekly award include sr. kicker Brian Davis (three times), sr. DL Amos Draper, soph. TE Darion Griswold and sr. WR Allen Muse.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 42 of its last 47 games. The Red Wolves have posted at least 300 yards total offense in all but two games this season and is ranked 49th in the nation (433.2 ypg).
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including four games this season, A-State has posted at least 30 points in 22 of its last 32 regular-season games dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 13 consecutive games when scoring at least 30 points.
ROAD WARRIORS: Arkansas State has won 10 consecutive road conference games, its longest streak ever as a member of any league. The Red Wolves went 4-0 in conference road games in both 2011 and 2012 and is 2-0 in 2013. Its previous longest road conference winning streak was seven against Southland foes from 1973-75.
HOME SWEET HOME: With a 5-1 home mark last season, Arkansas State secured its eighth consecutive winning record at Liberty Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. ASU?is now 39-9 at Liberty Bank Stadium since the 2005 season and has won 14 of its last 16 home games. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Liberty Bank?Stadium is 131-72-1 since it opened in 1974. ASU's six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.
OFFENSIVE PACE: Arkansas State is producing offensive numbers that are on pace to rank among the best in school history in several categories. The Red Wolves are averaging 433.2 yards per game, 5.9 yards per play and 235.1 passing yards per game, which all rank among the top five in school history. The total offense average and yards per play are both the third highest and passing yards average is the fifth highest.
DEFENSE STEPS UP: The A-State defense has held each of its last two opponents to under 17 points and at least 41 yards under its season average for total offense entering the games. The Red Wolves have now won 12 consecutive games when holding its opponents under 17 points. Additionally, the A-State defense is giving up 19.3 points per game over its last four outings, which is 16.7 less than its average for the previous four.
PICK IT OFF: The A-State defense has recorded at least one interception in each of the last four games and has five over that span, which is two more than its total for the first five games combined. The Red Wolves recorded a season-high three interceptions against Troy, their third opponent of the season, and had two last week against ULM.
IN THE CLUTCH: Junior safety Sterling Young has come up with a pair of clutch interceptions each of the last two games to help lead the Red Wolves to back-to-back victories. Much like his pick against South Alabama, his interception against ULM came at a critical junction of the game and sparked a solid second-half performance by the Red Wolves. His interception against ULM came with score tied 14-14 and at the ULM's 38-yard line, directly leading to a touchdown that started a 28-0 scoring outburst by A-State. His pick against South Alabama came with Red Wolves trailing 6-0 and in the back of A-State's end zone. It occurred on the Jaguars first drive of the second half, and the Red Wolves marched down the field for a touchdown and 7-6 lead on its ensuing drive.
HITTING 1,000: Senior WR Julian Jones went over 1,000 career yards receiving during the South Alabama game, making him the third player on the Red Wolves roster to accomplish the feat. Sophomore WR J.D. McKissic leads the way with 1,473 to his credit (8th most in school history), while senior WR Allen Muse has 1,172 and Jones 1,085.
ONE POINT: Senior kicker Brian Davis needs one point to break the Sun Belt Conference record for points by kicking in a career (295). Davis already owns the A-State career records for points by a kicker (295) and extra points made (142). He has made his last 12 consecutive field goals for the second longest streak in school history.
COVERING AT CORNERBACK: Sophomore corner Rocky Hayes has made a big impact in his first season on the defensive side of the ball, leading the team in both pass break-ups (9) and interceptions (3). ?He is ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference in passes defended with 12, which is three more than the most by an A-State player for all of last season (Chaz Scales, 7 PBU, 2 INT). Hayes is ranked 15th in the nation in passes defended.
RECEIVING RECORDS: Just a sophomore, J.D. McKissic is already taking over the Arkansas State record books in almost every major receiving statistical category. He already holds the school record for receptions in a game (15) and season (103), and he now needs just eight more to break the record for a career (163). He is ranked eighth for career receiving yards with 1,473 to his credit.
MAKING A RETURN: Sophomore WR?J.D. McKissic is ranked fourth in the nation in kickoff returns (29.6 ypr) and 48th in punt returns (6.9 ypg). He recorded a career-high 125 kickoff return yards against Idaho, including a 98-yard return for a touchdown in the contest. The return for a touchdown was the first by an A-State player since 2001. Additionally, McKissic has posted eight kickoff returns of at least 25 yards, including a 50-yarder last week against ULM.
ON THE RISE: Senior WR Julian Jones has recorded at least four receptions in six of the last eight games, including a career-high 10 versus Missouri and four last week vs ULM. Jones has either led or tied for the team high in receptions in four games this season and is ranked fifth in the Sun Belt Conference in receptions per game (5.1 pg). Jones' 46 total receptions are 29 more than he had for his entire career entering the 2013 season.
100-YARD RUSHERS: Senior QB Adam Kennedy rushed for a career-high 102 yards last game against ULM, making him the fifth A-State player to reach the 100-yard mark in a game this season. Senior RB David Oku, senior RB Sirgregory Thornton, sophomore RB Michael Gordon and sophomore QB Fredi Knighten have also rushed for 100 yards in at least one game this year.
TOTAL OFFENSE PRODUCER: Senior quarterback Adam Kennedy ranks third in the Sun Belt Conference in total offense with 265.3 yards per game, which also ranks 32nd in the nation. Kennedy recorded 358 yards of total offense against Auburn, 334 versus Missouri, a career-high 397 against Idaho and 337 last week against ULM. He also just missed going over 300 versus Troy with 299 to his credit. His 397 yards versus Idaho were the fifth most in school history. He has recorded over 200 yards total offense in six of the last eight games.
MAKING A CONNECTION: Senior QB Adam Kennedy tied the school record for completions in a game with 37 against Missouri (tied Ryan Aplin, 2011 vs. Western Kentucky). Kennedy has already completed 180 passes, which ranks as the seventh most in school history for a single season. He is ranked 30th in the nation in completions (20.0 pg) and 10th in completion percentage (.684). His completion percentage currently stands as the highest in school history for a single season.
INSIDE FORCE: A member of the Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy Watch Lists, senior defensive lineman Ryan Carrethers is ranked second on the team and ninth in the Sun Belt in tackles with 66 through nine games. He is averaging 7.3 tackles per game, 2.0 more than he averaged last season when he finished with 68 total for the most by an A-State interior defensive lineman since former NFL?standout Jon Bradly in 2002. His 66 tackles this season are the most in the nation by a defensive lineman. He posted a career-high 16 tackles against UL Lafayette, which hare also the most in the nation this season by a defensive lineman for a single game.
ON PACE FOR 100: Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee has recorded a team-high 90 tackles, which is also ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference. He is averaging 10.0 tackles per game, which is the 17th highest in the nation and puts him on pace for 100 tackles for the second straight season. The last time an A-State player had at least 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons was 2003 and 2002 when linebacker Les Echols had 123 and 105, respectively. Lee recorded a career-high 16 tackles at South Alabama and has at least 10 tackles in three of the last four games, giving him seven career games with double-figure stops.
GRISWOLD VACATION TO THE END ZONE: Senior tight end Darion Griswold tied his career high with five receptions for a career-high 89 yards and his first two career touchdowns against Idaho, earning CFPA national Honorable Mention Tight End of the Week for his efforts. He has now caught 19 passes for 251 yards, both the most in a season by an A-State tight end since Trevor Gillott recorded 24 receptions for 283 yards in 2009.
ON A ROLL: A Freshman All-America selection last season, sophomore WR?J.D. McKissic has caught at least one pass in all 22 games of his career at A-State. He has come on strong the last seven games, recording 48 of his 54 receptions over that span. He had a school-record 15 against Missouri. McKissic also finished the Missouri game with a season-high 117 receiving yards, marking the fifth time of his career he has posted 100 in a game.
A FLARE FOR THE DRAMATIC: Sophomore RB Michael Gordon is responsible for two of the three longest runs by A-State this year, including a 92-yard outburst against UAPB that was the second longest in school history. Gordon posted a 64-yard touchdown run against Troy as well, and he is averaging 7.0 yards per attempt (51) that stands tied for the sixth highest in school history for a single season. Gordon has two 100-yard rushing games, including a 102-yard showing against UAPB and a 115-yard effort versus Troy.
UNBUCKLE THE BELT: The Red Wolves opened Sun Belt Conference play in their third game of the season, the earliest since 2010 when they played their second game against a league opponent. A-State improved to 8-5 all-time in Sun Belt Conference openers with its 41-34 victory over Troy. The Red Wolves' victory was their first in an SBC opener since 2011.
NFF RECOGNIZES DAVIS: Senior kicker Brian Davis was announced as a National Football Foundation (NFF) Scholar-Athlete Awards candidate and a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes the top scholar-athlete in the nation. Davis is among 170 national candidates, including 54 from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), for the NFF's Scholar-Athlete Awards. Candidates for the awards must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a GPA of at least a 3.2, possess outstanding football ability as a first-team player or significant contributor, and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Arkansas State has 25 underclassmen (sophomores or freshmen) listed on its 2-deep. The list includes 13 sophomores, six redshirt freshmen and six true freshmen. Among the underclassmen, six are listed as starters on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. A-State's 25 underclassmen on its two-deep was tied for the 14th most in the nation with Colorado and Illinois according to the 2013 initial depth charts. Virginia listed 34 players on its opening-day two-deep for the most among all teams.
IN THE POLLS: Arkansas State ended the 2012 season receiving votes in the final major polls, including 28 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and 13 in the USA Today Coaches Top 25 Poll. Both totals placed the Red Wolves 32nd in the nation. The Red Wolves were also among "others receiving votes" in the 2013 preseason and week two USA Today Coaches Top 25 Poll.
NCAA RECORD: A-State became the seventh FBS team in NCAA history to have four players (David Oku, Fredi Knighten, Michael Gordon, Sirgregory Thornton vs. UAPB) rush for over 100 yards in the same game. The other teams include Arizona (1951), Texas (1969), Alabama (1973), Army (1984), Nebraska (2001) and Nevada (2009).