Thursday night: A-State at Troy preview
A-STATE (5-4, 5-0) at No. 25 TROY (8-1, 5-0)
8:30 p.m. Thursday
Veterans Memorial Stadium, Troy, Ala.
RADIO: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
TV: ESPNU, WatchESPN
Live Stats: AstateStats.com/AStateRedWolves.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
THE PRINCIPALS: The only two remaining undefeated teams in Sun Belt Conference play, Arkansas State and Troy will meet Thursday night in a showdown for first place in the league standings. The Red Wolves will carry a 14-game winning streak against conference opponents into the matchup, while the Trojans have the nation’s fourth longest overall winning streak at seven games. Not only is the Red Wolves’ conference winning streak tied for the third longest in the nation, A-State is the only FBS program in the country to win four conference championships over the last five seasons. A-State can reach bowl eligibility for the sixth consecutive year with a victory against a Troy team that is the first ever Sun Belt program to be ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll. While the Red Wolves have won 17 of their last 20 conference road games, the Trojans are undefeated at home this season with a 5-0 record at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : Improve A-State’s all-time record against Troy to 9-5 . . . Give the Red Wolves their fourth consecutive win against the Trojans . . . Make it 6-0 in Sun Belt Conference play for the second consecutive season and third time school history (2016, 2015, 2011) . . . Extend its conference winning streak to 15 games . . . Improve its record in the month of November to 19-3 since the 2011 season, including wins the last seven games in a row . . . Move A-State’s record against Sun Belt foes to 39-6 over its last 45 league games . . . Give the Red Wolves a winning record through 10 games for the sixth consecutive year . . . Give it 18 wins over its last 21 conference road games, including the last six in a row . . . Make it bowl eligible for the ninth time over the past 12 seasons . . . Give it six consecutive wins for the fourth longest winning streak in school history . . . Mark its second all-time win against a Top-25 team since joining the FBS 1992 and its first in a true road game.
THE ARKANSAS STATE - TROY SERIES: Arkansas State is set to play Troy for the 11th time as Sun Belt Conference opponents and 14th time overall in the series that dates back to 1951, but also find the Trojans on its schedule for the first time since 2013. A-State leads the all-time series with Troy 8-5. The Red Wolves picked up a 39-0 road victory in the 1951 game. The two teams also split a pair of games in 1991 and 1992 in Jonesboro, but have played the last 10 games as Sun Belt Conference foes. The Red Wolves won the first three games as SBC foes, the Trojans won the next four through the 2010 season, and now A-State has won the last three (45-14 in Jonesboro in 2011, 41-34 at Troy in 2012 and 41-34 at home in 2013).
KEY MATCHUP: Thursday’s game between the Red Wolves and Trojans will be the first ever between two Sun Belt teams that both hold a 5-0 or better record in league play. Additionally, the contest will mark the latest date in a calendar year that two teams undefeated in Sun Belt Conference action have ever played each other. The previous latest date came on Nov. 16, 2002, when North Texas (5-5, 4-0 Sun Belt) played New Mexico State (6-4, 4-0 Sun Belt). The Mean Green defeated the Aggies, 38-27.
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
0 turnovers committed by A-State in three games this season.
0 sacks allowed by A-State last game vs. NMSU, giving it two such games this season.
0.77 career sacks p/g by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones is the 4th highest avg. in the nation among active players.
1 sack needed by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones to tie the most in Sun Belt Conference history (26).
1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 30 of 35 games under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
3 current players have already earned their degree -- Austin Moreton, Darrius Rosser, Blaise Taylor.
4 consecutive games with an interception by the A-State defense.
4 career interception returns for a touchdown by Money Hunter are the most in Sun Belt history.
4 Sun Belt Conference championships (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015) over the last five seasons (2011-15).
5 Sun Belt Players of the Week: Justice Hansen (twice), Chris Humes, Blaise Taylor and Money Hunter.
5 second half comeback wins under Blake Anderson, including the Georgia Southern game this year.
5 straight bowl game appearances (2011-15).
5 consecutive winning seasons (2011-15) by A-State (last time 1949-53).
5 head coaches over the last 7 years (Steve Roberts, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Bryan Harsin, Blake Anderson).
5 career kick blocks, including 1 vs. Georgia St., by Chris Odom are the 2nd most in A-State history.
7 or more TFL by A-State each of its last five games, including a season-tying 11 vs. NMSU last week.
7 or more victories each of the last five seasons (2011-15) -- first time in school history.
7 or more explosive plays (20+ yards) by A-State four of its last six games.
7.8 average TFL, topping A-State’s avg. last year when it finished with its 3rd most since joining FBS in 1992.
8 of the last 11 seasons (2005-15) have seen A-State reach bowl eligibility, including the last five in a row.
8 of last 10 years w/at least one NFL Draft selection.
10 or more tackles by Xavier Woodson-Luster in nine career games, including three this season.
11 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 14 years, including 2015.
12 wins by A-State over its last five midweek (Tue.-Thur.) games, including the last five in a row.
12 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-16).
14 consecutive Sun Belt wins are tied for the nation’s third longest conference winning streak.
17 wins by A-State over its last 20 conference road games, including the last five in a row.
18 wins by A-State over its last 21 games played in the month of November dating back to 2011.
19 of A-State’s 21 victories under HC Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.
23 career rushing touchdowns by Johnston White are the eighth most in school history.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 44 of its last 68 regular-season games (65 percent).
38 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last six (2011-16) seasons (38-6 league record).
42 interception return yards needed by Money Hunter to break the Sun Belt Conference record (309).
49 victories by A-State over the last six seasons ranks tied for the 27th most in the nation.
55 combined points allowed by A-State last four games are the fewest over a four-game span since 2006.
55 victories and just 13 losses at Centennial Bank Stadium since 2005 (.809 winning percentage).
62 All-Sun Belt Conference selections over the last five seasons.
66 punt return yards needed by Blaise Taylor for the most career yards in A-State history.
200 or more yards passing by Justice Hansen the last three games and five times this season.
300 or more yds total offense in 76 of last 86 games (88 pct.), including all but 4 games under Blake Anderson.
348.7 average yards allowed by A-State’s defense the last six games, which would rank 22nd in the nation.
400 or more yards total offense averaged last six seasons (2010-15).
683 career punt return yards by Blaise Taylor are the second most in Sun Belt Conference history.
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, a 16-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 A-State to back-to-back winning seasons, a pair of bowl game appearances (2015 New Orleans Bowl and 2014 GoDaddy Bowl) and the 2015 Sun Belt Conference championship his first two seasons at the helm, which also saw the Red Wolves break the school records for total offense (6,174 yards in 2014), average yards total offense (476.5 yards per game in 2014), total plays (1,024 in 2014), points scored (520 in 2015), touchdowns scored (69 in 2015) and interceptions (26 in 2015). During his first two years at the helm of the program, he saw 20 of his players earn 26 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 (2014) in his first season 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).
THREE YEARS RUNNING: Even with at least three games remaining on the Red Wolves’ schedule, Blake Anderson is already the first head coach in Arkansas State history to win 21 or more games over his first three seasons at the school. Additionally, he is the just the second head coach at A-State to win 21 games in 35 or fewer contests -- Bennie Ellender reached 21 victories in 32 games from 1963-66.
ABOVE AVERAGE: The Red Wolves have averaged 35.17 points per game over the last three seasons, making Blake Anderson one of just 13 current head coaches with at least two full FBS seasons under their belt to average at least 35 points per game.
1. Jeff Brohm, WKU – 43.79 (1,664 points/38 games)
2. Mark Helfrich, Oregon – 43.18 (2,202 points/51 games)
3. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M – 40.05 (4,566 points/114 games)
4. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech – 39.10 (1,877 points/48 games)
5. Chris Petersen, Washington – 38.55 (5,435 pts/141 games)
6. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State – 37.25 (5,625 pts/151 games)
7. Bryan Harsin, Boise State – 36.43 (1,785 points/49 games)
8. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State – 36.32 (3,341 points/92 games)
9. Bobby Petrino, Louisville – 36.15 (5,386 points/149 games)
10. Todd Graham, Arizona State – 36.08 (5,123 pts/142 games)
11. Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion – 35.53 (3,340 pts/94 games)
12. Larry Fedora, North Carolina – 35.39 (4,070 pts/115 games)
13. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State – 35.17 (1,231/35 games)
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 38 of its last 44 Sun Belt Conference games (.863 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the conference to 71-42. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 24. The Red Wolves have 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.
MIDWEEK MADNESS: Historically, A-State has performed well in midweek games (Tue.-Thurs.) since joining the Sun Belt Conference. The Red Wolves hold a 16-6 record in all midweek games since its 2001 inaugural year in the league. They have won 12 of their last 15 midweek contests, including the last five in a row.
RED WOLVES NOVEMBER: Dating back to the 2011 season, Arkansas State holds an 18-3 record over its last 21 games played in the month of November. The Red Wolves have won their last six games in the month dating back to the 2014 season.
TAKING ON THE TOP 25: Arkansas State is set to play its first game this season against a Top 25-ranked opponent at the time of the game. The last time the Red Wolves played a Top 25 team was its first two games of last season when they played then-ranked No. 8 USC and No. 21 Missouri. The Red Wolves’ lone victory over a top-25 team since joining the FBS in 1992 came against No. 25 Kent State in the 2013 GoDaddy Bowl.
ROAD WARRIORS: Arkansas State has won 17 of its last 20 conference road games, including its last five in a row, 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 2011, 2012 and 2015, 2-1 in 2013 and 2-2 in 2014. This year A-State is 1-0 with its win coming at Georgia State.
HOME SWEET HOME: Arkansas State has strung together 12 consecutive years (2005-16) with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves are now 55‐13 (.809 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 30 of their last 36 home games. The Red Wolves actual on‐field record all‐time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 147‐76‐1 since it opened in 1974. A‐State’s six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.
THROUGH NINE: Arkansas State holds a winning record through nine games for the sixth consecutive season and eighth time (2011-16, 2006, 2005) since gaining FBS status in 1992. All eight of those teams finished the season with at least six wins, while the last five seasons (2011-15) saw the program record seven or more victories.
5-0 IN THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State holds a 5-0 record in Sun Belt Conference play for the second consecutive year and third time in school history, also beginning league play with a 5-0 record in 2011. The previous two A-State teams to start Sun Belt action with five consecutive victories went on to go undefeated in league play and claim the SBC championship.
THAT’S A FIRST: The Red Wolves had 20 players participate in their first career game at A-State this season, including nine as starters. There were 12 offensive players who saw their first action at A-State, including Chad Voytik (Sr., QB, starter), Kendall Sanders (Sr., WR, starter), Cam Echols-Luper (Jr., WR, starter), Armond Weh-Weh (Jr., RB), Christian Booker (Jr., WR), Justice Hansen (So., QB), Justin McInnis (So., WR), Omar Bayless (Fr.-R, WR), Darveon Brown (Fr.-R, WR), Avery Johnson (Fr.-R, TE), Troy Elliott (Fr., OL) and Dalton Ford (Fr.-R, OL). There were six defensive players, including Dee Liner (Jr., DL, starter), BJ Edmonds (Fr., S), Kyle Martin (Jr., CB), Trent Ellis-Brewer (Fr., DB), Antwon Turnage (Jr., LB) and Kyle Wilson (Jr., LB). The remaining two were Sawyer Williams (Fr.-R, K) and Damon Foncham (Fr.-R, P).
102ND SEASON: Arkansas State kicked off its 102nd season of football Sept. 2 vs. Toledo. A-State holds a 455-476-37 record since the inaugural season and has played in 13 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.
FIVE-YEAR WINS TOTAL: Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012, eight more in 2013, seven in 2014, nine last season and five this year, the Red Wolves have recorded 49 victories that are tied for the 27th most in the nation over the last six years.
DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK: Arkansas State has achieved one victory this season (vs. Georgia Southern) when entering halftime behind on the scoreboard, giving it five second-half comeback victories all-time under head coach Blake Anderson. Three of Arkansas State’s victories last season came under the same circumstances. During those three victories, A-State outscored its opponents by a combined 86-23 in the second half. The Red Wolves also defeated Utah State during the 2014 season after entering the second half behind.
DOUBLE DIGITS: Four of A-State’s five wins this season have come by at least 10 points, and the Red Wolves average margin of victory in its five Sun Belt wins is 14.3 points. Additionally, all nine of its wins last season and six of its seven in 2014 came by a double-figure margin, meaning 19 of the Red Wolves’ 21 wins 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 and a 27-26 victory over Georgia Southern this year.
FIVE ALIVE: Arkansas State secured five consecutive winning seasons (2011-15) for not only the first as an FBS member, but also the first time at any level since 1949-53. The only time A-State has ever strung together six straight winning seasons was 1912-17. The Red Wolves piled up 44 victories from 2011-15 for its most over a five-year span in the program’s 102-year history.
TOP 25: Arkansas State was receiving votes in both the Associated Press (2 points) and Coaches (6 points) Top 25 polls at the end of the 2015 regular season, making it the fourth season since 2011 that A-State was included among “others receiving votes” at one point during the year. The Red Wolves also earned votes in 2011, 2012 and 2013. A-State’s most ever points in the Associated Press (28) and Coaches (23) Top 25 came in the 2012 final polls.
SUN BELT CHAMPS: Arkansas State won the 2015 Sun Belt Conference championship with an unblemished 8-0 record, giving it the league title for the fourth time over the last five seasons with a 33-6 conference record over that span. A-State also won the league title 2011-13, including outright championships in 2011 and 2012. It is just the second program in Sun Belt history with three (2015, 2011-12) outright titles, along with North Texas (2002-04). Arkansas State is one of three programs to ever win at least four total Sun Belt Conference championships, joining North Texas (4) and Troy (5)
ALL-TIME CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS: Including four of the last five Sun Belt Conference titles, Arkansas State has won 11 conference championships all-time. A-State won the Southland Conference seven times (1986, 1985, 1978, 1975, 1970, 1969, 1968). The Red Wolves also won the 2005 Sun Belt Conference title, but it was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
BOWL HISTORY: Arkansas State has played in 13 bowl games all-time and holds a 4-8-1 record in those contests. The Red Wolves have made a bowl game five consecutive years (2011-15) for the first time in school history. They played in the New Orleans Bowl last season and in the GoDaddy Bowl the four years prior to that, winning two of them during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. A-State also played in the 2005 New Orleans Bowl, which marked its first bowl appearance since 1970. Arkansas State played in seven bowl games from 1951-70, including the Pecan Bowl (1968-70), Tangerine Bowl (1952 & 1951) and the Refrigerator Bowl (1951-52). The Tangerine Bowl was played in Orlando, Fla., the Pecan Bowl in Arlington, Texas, and the Refrigerator Bowl in Evansville, Ind
RUSHING RED WOLVES: While Arkansas State rushed for over 100 yards only once in its four non-conference games, it has now reached the mark in four of its first five Sun Belt games. There has been a stark contrast in A-State’s rushing production since beginning conference play as its 183.6 average over its last five outings is 102.8 yards per game higher than its non-conference average. The Red Wolves have actually rushed for at least 200 yards in two of their last five games, including a season-high 343 against Georgia Southern. A-State has won its last 10 games when rushing for at least 200 yards.
EXPLOSIVE PLAYS: Arkansas State increased its number of plays covering at least 20 yards each of its first four games this season, and the Red Wolves’ posted a season-high nine against both UCA and Georgia Southern. A-State is averaging 5.7 explosive plays (20+ yards) per game and has at least seven in four of its last six contests, including last game versus New Mexico State.
PROTECTING THE FOOTBALL: A-State was able to reverse its turnover trend its last four games, turning the ball over just three times after committing 12 combined over its previous three games. The Red Wolves haven’t committed a single turnover in three games and no more than one in each of its last four outings. The team entered the Utah State game as one of just seven teams in the nation that had not committed a single turnover. Since joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2001, A-State had gone back-to-back games without a turnover only one other time -- its final regular-season game and bowl game of the 2012 season.
TWO-MINUTE OFFENSE: Nineteen of Arkansas State’s 35 scoring drives this season have taken less than two minutes (54.3 percent) and just six drives have consumed more than three minutes. Last year’s team tended to score in the same manner, taking less than two minutes on 35 of its 58 touchdown drives for a 60.3 percentage that ranked among the 10 highest in the nation.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 76 of its last 86 games (.884 percentage). A-State went over 300 yards in all 13 games during head coach Blake Anderson’s first season, reached the mark 11 times last year and has done so seven times this season.
400-PLUS: Arkansas State recorded a season-high 525 yards total offense against Georgia Southern and has hit the 400-yard mark 22 times over its last 35 games (63 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach. A-State had increased its total offense each game this season prior to the South Alabama contest (first five games).
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including the last three contests, the Red Wolves have now posted at least 30 points in 44 of their last 68 regular-season games (64 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 12 consecutive games and 32 of their last 36 when scoring at least 30 points. A-State broke the school record in 2015 for both points scored (520) and touchdowns scored (69). Additionally, the Red Wolves ranked 12th in the nation in scoring offense last year, averaging 40.0 points per game.
RANKING THE O-LINE: With all five starters returning on the offensive line in 2016, the Red Wolves’ front five received high praise from Athlon Sports as the No. 27 ranked o-line unit in the nation. A-State’s first-team unit has 148 combined starts between them. Senior center Devin Mondie is a member of the Rimington Award Watch List, Colton Jackson has started 45 games during his career (all but two) and Jemar Clark joined them on the Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team.
OVER 100: Senior wide receiver Kendall Sanders recorded six receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns, all career highs, during Arkansas State’s 41-22 win over NMSU . . . His two touchdown catches tied the most by a Sun Belt player this season and both covered at least 40 yards. He averaged 16.8 yards per reception and became A-State’s third player this year to post over 100 yards receiving in a game, joining Cam Echols-Luper and Blake Mack.
NOW THAT’S JUSTICE: Since taking over as starting quarterback in the Central Arkansas game, sophomore Justice Hansen has helped lead the Red Wolves to a 5-1 record. During that span, Hansen has recorded at least two hundred passing yards four times, while also throwing multiple touchdown passes in four outings. The last six games combined have seen Hansen post a pass efficiency rating of 141.97 and average 245.2 passing yards and 262.5 yards total offense, all of which would rank among at least the top four players in the Sun Belt Conference. He has thrown 12 touchdown passes (all but one over the last six games), which are just two shy of the 10th most in school history for a single season. Hansen has been named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week twice this season.
MAKING A MOVE: Junior Blake Mack changed positions from wide receiver to tight end this season, and he appears to have transitioned well as he already has 29 receptions for a team-high 522 yards and two touchdowns. His first two seasons combined at wide receiver, Mack posted 17 receptions for 235 yards. He caught eight passes for 142 yards against UCA, which were both career highs, and was named a Mackey Award Honorable Mention Tight End of the Week for his performance.
FINDING THE END ZONE: A former walk-on and Burlsworth Trophy nominee, junior running back Johnston White recorded a team and career-best 14 rushing touchdowns last season as a sophomore to give him 20 running scores during his career. He recorded a season-high two rushing touchdowns against Georgia State and has at least one in 10 of his last 18 games played. White’s 14 running scores last season tied the fifth most in school history. His 23 career rushing touchdowns are the eighth most in school history. Additionally, he is ranked 43rd in the nation among active players in career rushing scores.
WAND BREAKS 1,000: Running back Warren Wand has run for a team-high 607 yards this season to go along with his 709 he recorded as a true freshman, pushing him over 1,000 for his career with 1,316 to his credit. His 709 yards were the most by a true freshman at A-State since Lamont Zachery ran for 846 yards in 1996.
16 OR LESS: Arkansas State has allowed 16 points or less in three of its last four games and given up a combined 55 points over that span, which is the lowest four-game total by the Red Wolves since 2006. A-State’s defense held USA and ULM to seven and 10 points, respectively, marking the first time it held back-to-back opponents to 10 points or less since 2006 as well. The Red Wolves have won their last 37 games when holding their opponent to no more than 10 points. A-State has won 22 consecutive games when holding its opponent to 17 points or less.
DECEIVING AVERAGE: While A-State’s defense is allowing 411.4 yards total offense per game to rank 68th in the nation, the Red Wolves’ opponents are averaging 348.7 over the last seven games. The 348.7 average total offense allowed would rank the Red Wolves 22nd in the nation. A-State gave up 556 yards to Toledo and 706 to Auburn, but has held six of its last seven opponents to no more than 382 yards.
BETTER ON THIRD DOWN: Arkansas State has allowed opponents to convert, on average, 31 percent of its third-down attempts the last seven games, considerably lower than its 40 percent for the entire season that ranks 71st in the nation. A-State’s third-down conversion percentage over the last seven games would rank 13th in the country.
A LOSS ON THE PLAY: The Red Wolves had seven players combine for a season-tying 11 tackles for loss last game against New Mexico State, giving them at least five stops behind the line of scrimmage in every game this year. The squad has now posted eight or more TFL in four of their last five contests. A-State has 71 TFL this season. The Red Wolves are averaging 7.9 tackles for loss, which is a higher average than it had last season (6.6) when it recorded 86. The Red Wolves’ 86 TFL last year were the most since 2011 and tied the program’s third most since gaining FBS status in 1992.
PICK IT OFF: While A-State has just seven interceptions this year, six of them came over the last four games and it recorded a season-high two versus both ULM and Georgia State. The Red Wolves led the nation in picks last year with a Sun Belt Conference record 26. Fifteen different players combined for those 26 picks that were the third most in school history and the most by an A-State team since the 1969 squad posted a school-record tying 32 (tied with the 1961 team).
PICK-SIX: Arkansas State posted its first pick-six this season last week after recording six interception returns for a touchdown last year, which was the second most in Sun Belt Conference history and just two shy of the NCAA record currently held by the 2011 Southern Miss and 2012 SMU teams. While he coached on the offensive side of the ball, A-State head coach Blake Anderson was also a member of that 2011 Southern Miss team.
TURNOVER KINGS: Arkansas State, which forced at least one turnover in seven of its nine games this season, ranked second in the nation in turnovers gained last year with 34. That total included 26 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. They turned eight of those turnovers into defensive touchdowns, which led the nation. A-State’s 34 turnovers gained tied the 2002 team for the most by the Red Wolves since joining the FBS in 1992, and it was also the programs most at any level since 1988 when it had 39. The Red Wolves have recorded at least one turnover gained in 30 of 35 games played under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
HUNTER NAMED SBC DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior safety Money Hunter was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive player of the week Monday after he became the Sun Belt Conference’s all-time leader in career interception returns for a touchdown, collecting his fourth during Arkansas State’s 41-22 victory over New Mexico State. Hunter, who also recorded five tackles, a pass break-up and recovered a punt return fumble by the Aggies, picked off an NMSU pass with 10:12 left in the first quarter and scored on a 46-yard return to give the Red Wolves a 13-0 lead. He pushed his career interception return yards total to 268, which gave him the second most in Sun Belt history and the third most ever by an A-State player. He is also now tied for the most pick-six’s in the nation among active players, while his 268 return yards are the sixth most among the same group.
BROWN ON THE STOP: Senior safety Cody Brown recorded a career-high 11 tackles against NMSU, topping his previous high of eight that he had set three times. Additionally, he had two pass break-ups to tie his career high.
ODOM CONTINUES TO SHINE: Senior defensive end Chris Odom has come on strong this season, especially over the last four games with 16 tackles, seven tackles for loss and five sacks over that span. Odom tallied a career-high three sacks against South Alabama and with at least three games remaining, he has already posted career high totals for tackles (40), tackles for loss (10.0), sacks (7.0) and forced fumbles (2). In fact, his tackles, TFL, sacks and FF are all more than he had combined for his entire career entering this season.
SWALLEY NAMED SEMIFINALIST: Senior DL Jake Swalley was tabbed as one of the William V. Campbell Trophy’s 156 semifinalists, announced Sept. 28 by the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF). The award recognizes an individual as the best football scholar-athlete in the nation. Swalley, a general studies major, holds a cumulative 3.9 GPA and is on course to graduate in December.
DOUBLE-FIGURE STOPS: Senior linebacker Xavier Woodson-Luster recorded a double-figure tackles total during three of A-State’s first nine games, including a career-tying 14 against both Toledo and Georgia Southern. He has now reached double figures in the tackles column nine times during his career. Woodson-Luster is ranked 34th in the nation among active players in career tackles with 266.
PLAYING IN THE BACKFIELD: Junior defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones has recorded at least a half TFL in seven games this season and in 21 of his last 26 contests dating back to his freshman year. He also has a team-high 8.0 sacks this season and 25.0 for his career that ranks as the second most in both school and Sun Belt Conference history. He has tallied at least a half sack in 17 of his last 27 games.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
BOOT IT AWAY: Freshman punter Damon Foncham recorded two punts inside the opponent’s 20 yard line last game against NMSU, giving him at least one in the last six consecutive games and 12 for the season. He had one punt covering at least 50 yards (52), running his total to five for the year. Four of those came over the last two games.
NICE RETURN: Sophomore running back Daryl Rollins-Davis has 10 kickoff returns this season for a team-high 299 yards, good enough for a 29.9 average that currently stands as the fourth highest in school history for a single season. Rollins-Davis posted a career-long 78 yard kickoff return against ULM, which was also the longest this season by an A-State player. He finished the ULM game with over 100 kickoff return yards for the second time of his career, and his 109 yards were also the second most of his career behind only his 126 versus Miami in 2014.
BLOCK PARTY: Senior defensive end Chris Odom recorded his first blocked kick (extra point) this season against Georgia State, but he posted a team-high three blocked kicks last season as a junior (tied third most in school history) and one as a sophomore. Now with five career blocks, he has the second most in school history behind only Jimmy Lisko’s eight from 1972-75. Odom recorded two blocks during the 2015 Georgia State game, his first coming on a field goal and the second on an extra point attempt. In the process, he became the seventh player in school history to record multiple blocks in the same game.
ON THE RETURN: Junior cornerback Blaise Taylor recorded 322 punt returns yards last season to lead the Sun Belt Conference and account for the second most in school history. His three-year career has seen him pile up 683 punt return yards that are the second most in both A-State and Sun Belt history. He has three punt returns for touchdowns (1 in 2014, 2015 and 2016), which are the second most in Sun Belt Conference history.