A-State at New Mexico State in-depth preview
A-STATE (7-3, 6-0) at NEW MEXICO STATE (3-7, 3-3)
3 p.m. Saturday
Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Network, 92.7 FM Conway, 107.9 FM Jonesboro
TV: ESPN3/ESPN College Extra
Live Stats: AStateStats.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
THE PRINCIPALS: Receiving votes in both the Associated Press and Coaches Top 25 polls, the Red Wolves enter Saturday's game with a 6-0 Sun Belt Conference record and two league games remaining on their schedule. A-State, which won the SBC championship 2011-13, needs one more win to clinch at least share of the 2015 title. Dating to last season, the Red Wolves have won seven consecutive Sun Belt games to tie for the fifth longest conference winning streak in the nation. While New Mexico State dropped its first seven games this season, it has responded by winning its last three to even its Sun Belt record to 3-3. The Aggies have won three games in a season for the first time since 2011 and claimed three consecutive victories for the first time since 2004 when they won three Sun Belt games in a row.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : guarantee the Red Wolves at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship for the fourth time over the last five seasons . . . give it 43 victories since 2011, which would be the most in school history over a five-year span . . . give it eight or more victories in one season for the 14th time in school history . . . give it seven or more Sun Belt Conference wins for the third time in school history (2015, 2012, 2011) . . . give it seven consecutive victories for the first time since the 2012 season . . . give the Red Wolves an 8-3 or better overall record through 11 games for the first time since 2012 and third time ever as an FBS member . . . improve its conference record to 7-0 for the second time in school history (A-State went undefeated in Sun Belt play in 2011) . . . run its record in the month of November to 16-3 dating back to the 2011 season . . . give it 32 victories over its last 38 Sun Belt Conference games . . . give it three consecutive wins over NMSU and run its all-time series record against the Aggies to 4-6 . . . improve its record over the last five seasons to 43-20.
THE ARKANSAS STATE - NEW MEXICO STATE SERIES: While Arkansas State and New Mexico State have played nine times, including an initial meeting in 1993, Saturday's game will be just the second between the two schools since 2003. The Red Wolves stand 3-6 all-time against the Aggies with their three victories coming in 2014, 2003 and 1998. A-State picked up a 68-35 win in its 2014 regular-season finale, while the 2003 matchup saw the Red Wolves claim a 28-24 victory in Las Cruces. Arkansas State's other victory in the series came in 1998 when it collected a 34-31 overtime win at Centennial Bank Stadium. The games have historically been very competitive with six of the nine contests decided by a touchdown or less, and only last year's meeting was decided by more than 14 points.
OLD TIES: Along with Arkansas State, New Mexico State was a charter member of the Sun Belt Conference's inaugural football season in 2001. However, the Aggies moved to the Western Athletic Conference in 2005 before rejoining the Sun Belt again last year. At the same time, the Red Wolves and Aggies were both also members of the Big West Conference from 1993-95.
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
· 0 points allowed by A-State in four of its last six quarters played.
· 0.7 career sacks p/g by Ja'Von Rolland-Jones is the 3rd highest average in the nation among active players.
· 1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 21 of 23 games under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
· 3 A-State players named a Sun Belt Player of the Week (Michael Gordon, J.D. McKissic, Cody Brown).
· 3 second half comeback victories this season by A-State and four total under Blake Anderson.
· 4 current players have already earned their degree -- T. Houston, L. Ferguson, B. Mays, C. Girley.
· 4 consecutive bowl game appearances, including back-to-back GoDaddy Bowl wins in 2013 and 2014.
· 4 receptions needed by J.D. McKissic for the 28th most in NCAA FBS history.
· 5 consecutive winning seasons (2011-15) by A-State (last time 1949-53).
· 5 of last six games A-State has rushed for at least 200 yards.
· 5 head coaches over the last 6 years (Steve Roberts, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Bryan Harsin, Blake Anderson).
· 6 defensive touchdowns this season by A-State are the second most in the nation.
· 6 school records held by J.D. McKissic, including single-game (15), season (103) & career receptions (278).
· 6 game winning streak by A-State is tied for the sixth longest in the nation.
· 6 special teams statistical categories A-State ranks among the top 51 teams in the nation.
· 7 or more victories each of the last five seasons (2011-15) -- first time in school history.
· 7 statistical categories inwhich A-State leads the Sun Belt Conference.
· 7 consecutive Sun Belt wins are tied for the nation's fifth longest conference winning streak.
· 7 wins matches the 2012 team for A-State's second most ever as an FBS member through 10 games.
· 8 of the last 11 seasons (2005-15) have seen A-State reach bowl eligibility, including the last five in a row.
· 8 players named to at least one major award watch list.
· 8 of last nine years w/at least one NFL Draft selection.
· 9 consecutive games with at least one interception -- A-State's longest streak since 2003.
· 10 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 13 years.
· 11 career 100-yard rushing games by Michael Gordon, including A-State's last game vs. App State.
· 11 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-15).
· 13 of A-State's 14 victories under HC Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.
· 13 career runs covering at least 40 yards by Michael Gordon.
· 14 victories under Blake Anderson, making him 1st HC in A-State history w/14+ wins 1st two seasons.
· 15 victories by A-State over its last 18 games in the month of November.
· 15 wins by A-State over its last 18 Sun Belt Conference road games.
· 16 players named to a Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team by at least one college football publication.
· 21 interceptions are the most in the nation and most by an A-State team since 1985 (23).
· 25 "top-10" school records held by Fredi Knighten.
· 26 punts inside the opponent's 20 by Luke Ferguson -- the most in the Sun Belt Conference.
· 27 turnovers gained by A-State are the second most in the nation.
· 27.9 career kickoff return average by J.D. McKissic is the 23rd highest NCAA?FBS?history.
· 30 or more points scored by A-State in 39 of its last 57 regular-season games (68 percent).
· 31 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last five seasons (31-6 league record).
· 42 victories by A-State over the last five seasons ranks tied for the 29th most in the nation.
· 42.4 career punting average by Luke Ferguson is the second highest in school history.
· 46 All-Sun Belt Conference selections over the last four seasons.
· 50 victories and just 11 losses at Centennial Bank Stadium since 2005 (.820 winning percentage).
· 63.6 percent of A-State's touchdown drives have taken 2 minutes or less (highest percentage in the nation).
· 168 rushing yards needed by Michael Gordon for his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season.
· 280 career catches by J.D. McKissic -- most in A-State & SBC history & 2nd most in the nation among active players.
· 300 or more yds total offense in 66 of last 74 games (89 pct.), including all but 2 games under Blake Anderson.
· 400 or more yards total offense averaged last six seasons (2010-15).
· 596 rushing yds by Warren Wand are the most by a true freshman at A-State since Lamont Zachery in 1996.
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, a 14-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 its fourth consecutive winning season and bowl-game appearance his first season at the helm, which also saw the Red Wolves break the school records for total offense (6,194), average yards total offense (476.5 yards per game), total plays (1,024), points scored (477) and touchdowns scored (65). Despite injuries forcing Anderson to use a different starting lineup in every regular-season game, his squad ranked among the top 45 teams in the nation in 23 combined offensive, defensive and special teams categories. In the process, he saw 11 of his players earn All-Sun Belt Conference recognition, which tied the second most in the league.
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).
TWO YEARS RUNNING: Now with 14 career victories leading the Red Wolves, Blake Anderson is the first head coach in A-State history to win 12 or more games over his first two seasons at the school. Additionally, Anderson is tied with Bennie Ellender (23 games between 1963-65) as the second fastest coach in A-State history to reach 14 wins behind only Gene Harlow (22 games between 1955-57).
BREAKING THE CYCLE: Arkansas State began a season with the same head coach it had the season before for the first time since 2010. Not only is Blake Anderson back for his second consecutive year, the Red Wolves have their entire coaching staff back for a second straight year for the first time since 2007. Following a nine-year stint by Steve Roberts as A-State's head coach, Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss), Gus Malzahn (Auburn) and Bryan Harsin (Boise State) all spent one year at the helm of the program.
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 31 of its last 37 Sun Belt Conference games (.838 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the conference to 64-42. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 23. With the exception of Georgia Southern, which A-State has never faced as an SBC opponent, 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 it was formed.
TOP 25: Arkansas State is currently receiving votes in both the Associated Press (1 point) and Coaches (1 point) Top 25 polls, making this the fourth season over the last five A-State has been 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.
RED WOLVES NOVEMBER: Dating back to the 2011 season, Arkansas State holds a 15-3 record over its last 18 games played in the month of November. The Red Wolves won 10 consecutive games in the month before falling to Western Kentucky in their 2013 regular-season finale.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: A-State is set to conclude a three-game road stretch covering the entire month of November. It marks just the second time in A-State's history as a Sun Belt member that it has played three straight conference road games, although the other time came just last season when the Red Wolves went 2-1 at Georgia State (W), Louisiana-Lafayette?(L) and Idaho (W). The last time A-State went an entire calendar month without playing a home game in Jonesboro was October 2003.
ROAD WARRIORS: Arkansas State has won 15 of its last 18 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, 2-2 a year ago and are 3-0 this season.
BOWL ELIGIBILE: With a 7-3 overall record, A-State is bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive season and eighth time over the last 11 years. Since joining the FBS in 1992, Arkansas State became bowl eligible in nine games or less for the fourth time (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015) in school history. The earliest A-State ever became bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 through eight games.
THROUGH 10: Arkansas State has a winning record (7-3) after 10 games for the fifth time since joining the FBS?in 1992 (2011-15). The Red Wolves' 7-3 record matches the 2012 team for their second best record through 10 games since joining the FBS. The 2011 team was 8-2 through 10 contests.
FIVE ALIVE: Arkansas State has put together five consecutive winning seasons (2011-15) for not only the first time 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.
DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK: Three of Arkansas State's last five victories came after the Red Wolves entered halftime behind on the scoreboard. 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 last season after entering the second half behind, giving them four second-half comeback victories under head coach Blake Anderson.
DOUBLE DIGITS: All seven A-State victories this season have come by at least 10 points and the Red Wolves average margin of victory in its six Sun Belt wins was 17.8 points. Six of A-State's seven wins last season also came by a double-figure margin, meaning 13 of the Red Wolves' 14 wins under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points. The only exception was a 21-14 overtime win over Utah State last season.
FIVE-YEAR WINS TOTAL: Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012, eight more in 2013, seven last year and seven this season, the Red Wolves have recorded 42 victories that are tied for the 28th most in the nation over the last five years. Additionally, A-State's 42 victories are its most over a five year span since winning 42 games between 1984-88. Arkansas State has never won more than 42 games over any five-year period in the program's 101-year history.
STEPPING INTO A STARTING ROLE: Nineteen players have made their first career start at A-State this season (9 vs. USC, 1 vs. Missouri, 7 vs. Missouri State, 1 vs. South Alabama, 1 vs. ULM), including 12 on defense and seven on offense. That is tied for the 10th most in the nation . . . UCF and Kansas have the most with 33 each. The defensive starters included DL Waylon Roberson, Donovan Ransom, Robert Mondie and Jake Swalley, LB's Tajhea Chambers, Chase Robison and Khari Lain, DB's Bo Sentimore, Cody Brown, Blaise Taylor, Justin Clifton and Jamaris Hart. Gaining their first offensive career start were OL Daniel Keith, Brandon Berg, Joseph Bacchus and Austin Moreton, QB?James Tabary and TE Warren Leapheart.
HOME SWEET HOME: Arkansas State has strung together 11 consecutive years with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves are now 50-11 (.819 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 25 of their last 29 home games. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 142-74-1 since it opened in 1974. A-State's six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.
THREE TOP-25: Three of A-State's four non-conference opponents have been ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation at some point this season. Toledo checked in as high as No. 20 at one point on the AP Poll, while A-State began its 2015 campaign with back-to-back games against top-25 teams (then ranked No. 8 USC, No. 21 Missouri) for the first time since 2004 when it faced No. 17 Missouri and No. 4 LSU. 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. USC was the highest ranked opponent Arkansas State had faced since playing at No. 5 Oregon to open the 2012 season.
TWO-MINUTE OFFENSE: The Arkansas State offense has scored in two minutes or less on 28 of its 44 touchdown drive this season for a 63.6 percentage that leads the nation. Baylor has the second highest percentage in the country, scoring in two minutes or less on 61.6 (45 of 73) of its touchdown drives.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 66 of its last 74 games (.891 percentage). A-State went over 300 yards in all 13 games last season and has reached the mark eight times this year, including the last six games in a row.
400-PLUS: Including the last four games in a row and seven games total this season, Arkansas State has posted at least 400 yards total offense in 16 of 23 games under head coach Blake Anderson and offensive coordinator Walt Bell. The Red Wolves have posted over 500 yards total offense four times in 2015, including a season-high 624 yards against Missouri State. Last season, the Red Wolves tallied at least 500 yards total offense in five outings and ranked 20th in the nation in total offense (476.5 ypg).
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: A-State has posted at least 30 points in 39 of its last 57 regular-season games (68 percent) dating back to the 2011 season, including 13 of the last 17 contests. The Red Wolves have won 27 of their last 31 games when scoring at least 30 points.
RUSHING RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has posted at least 200 rushing yards in five of their last six games. The Red Wolves ran for over 200 yards in five straight games (first time since 1988 when it was an FCS member) prior to posting 148 against ULM their last time out. Additionally, the Red Wolves are averaging 269.7 rushing yards per game over their last six outings and have piled up 18 rushing touchdowns over the same span.
FINDING THE END ZONE: Sophomore running back Johnston White has recorded a team and career-best 12 rushing touchdowns this season, giving him 18 running scores during his career. He has scored at least one rushing touchdown in six consecutive games, and he has scored multiple rushing touchdowns in four games this season. White's 12 running scores this season are tied for eighth most in school history, and he needs three more rushing touchdowns to tie the 10th most in school history for a career.
WAND MAKING EARLY IMPACT: Running back Warren Wand has rushed for 596 yards, the second most on the team, and is averaging 6.3 yards per carry as a true freshman. His 596 yards are the most by a true freshman at A-State since Lamont Zachery ran for 846 yards in 1996. Wand has rushed for at least 50 yards in six games, including a career-high 119 against Georgia State.
OVER 2,000: This season, senior running back Michael Gordon became the 12th player in school history to record over 2,000 career rushing yards. Gordon has rushed for a team-high 832 yards this season, pushing his career total to 2,731. Currently A-State's seventh all-time leading rusher, Gordon needs an additional 204 rushing yards to become the school's sixth all-time career leader. Gordon is also ranked fifth all-time in rushing touchdowns at A-State with 30 to his credit. He has scored at least one rushing TD in 16 career games, 2+ TDs in seven contests, 3+ TDs in five outings and a career-high five against Idaho as a junior.
GROWING NUMBERS FOR GRISWOLD: Senior tight end Darion Griswold's 856 career receiving yards are the second most in school history by an A-State tight end behind only Steve Lockhart's 1,216 accumulated between 1968-71. Additionally, Griswold's 63 receptions are the most by an A-State tight end since Lockhart recorded a tight end school-record 79. Lockhart was a 12th round NFL?Draft pick by the New Orleans Saints.
TAKING OVER AT QB: In 14 of his 20 career starts, senior quarterback Fredi Knighten has posted over 200 yards total offense. Knighten has recorded at least 300 yards total offense in eight games the last two seasons. He is one of five players in school history to record over 6,000 yards total offense (6,201).
A FLARE FOR THE DRAMATIC: Senior RB Michael Gordon holds a career 6.6 average per rush, which ranks as the third highest in school history, and has been a part of 20 plays covering at least 30 yards the past four seasons. He has recorded 13 career runs covering at least 40 yards:
92 yd TD vs UAPB (2013); 73 yd TD?vs Appalachian State (2015); 70 yd TD vs ULL?(2014); 68 yd vs ULM (2014); 64 yd TD vs Troy (2013); 59 vs. Idaho (2015); 55 vs. Idaho?(2015); 53 vs GSU?(2014); 50 vs GSU?(2014); 49 yd vs ULM (2014); 44 yd TD vs Idaho (2014); 42 yd TD vs Montana State (2014); 40 yd TD vs Texas State (2013)
Mc-KISS-ic THE SUN BELT RECORD GOODBYE: Senior wide receiver J.D. McKissic broke the Sun Belt Conference record for career receptions during the Red Wolves' game against Idaho, recording four receptions to give him 264 for his career (now 280). He broke the Sun Belt Conference record (262) formerly held by Troy's Jerrel Jernigan (2007-10). McKissic has caught at least one pass in 46 of 47 career games, including the last 11 in a row dating back to last season. He entered the 2014 regular-season finale against New Mexico State with a catch in 35 consecutive games (every game of his career), which was the 12th longest streak in the nation at the time. McKissic's 2,740 receiving yards are the third most in Sun Belt Conference history.
RECEIVING SCHOOL RECORDS: J.D. McKissic has already taken 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 (278). He broke the school record for career receiving yards last time out against ULM, and currently has 2,740 to his credit. McKissic has 10 career receiving touchdowns that rank tied for the eighth most ever by an A-State player. He is the only player in school history to have 70 or more receptions in two different seasons.
OFFENSIVE NCAA ACTIVE CAREER LEADERS: Arkansas State seniors Fredi Knighten, Michael Gordon and J.D. McKissic are all ranked among the top 41 active NCAA career leaders in at least one statistical category. McKissic is ranked second in the nation in career receptions among current players with 280. Only Nelson Spruce of Colorado has more with 289 to his credit.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior running back Michael Gordon was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Student-Athlete of the Week on Oct. 5 after rushing for a career-high 221 yards and season-high three touchdowns against Idaho, leading Arkansas State to a 49-35 victory over the Vandals. Gordon's 221 rushing yards were the second most ever by an A-State player at Centennial Bank Stadium. He ran the ball a career-high 26 times, averaging 8.5 yards per attempt, and recorded three or more rushing touchdowns in a game for the fifth time of his career.
SHUT ‘EM DOWN: The Arkansas State defense, which hasn't allowed its opponents to score in four of the last six quarters, has been particularly stingy in the second half recently. The Red Wolves have allowed just 13 second-half points over their last three games and 57 in the final two quarters for all Sun Belt games (an average of 9.5 per game).
LOCK IT DOWN: Even while A-State's pass defense efficiency ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference last season at 122.3, the Red Wolves have shown improvement on that number through their first 10 games this year. Their pass defense efficiency this season is 110.9, which is the best in the league and currently ranked 20th in the nation. The Red Wolves have 21 interceptions (most in the nation) and are allowing just a 51.0 completion percentage (10th in the nation).
PLAYING IN THE BACKFIELD: Sophomore defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones has recorded at least a half TFL in seven of 10 games this season and 11 of his last 15 contests dating back to last year. He also has a team-high 6.5 sacks this season, as well as a team-high 15.0 for his career. He has tallied at least a half sack in 10 of his last 15 games.
YO, ROCKY: Senior cornerback Rocky Hayes entered this season with three interceptions recorded over the previous two years he spent in the defensive backfield, but already has a team-leading five this season that ranks tied for second in the Sun Belt and tied for 11th in the nation. He completed the Idaho game on Oct. 3 with a career-high two interceptions. He is currently ranked 39th in the nation in career passes defended (28) among active players.
THE FAST LAIN: Sophomore linebacker Khari Lain leads the Red Wolves in tackles through the first nine games with 68, which is also the 12th most in the Sun Belt Conference. With an expanded role this season, Lain has already posted 62 more tackles than he had a year ago (6).
DEFENSIVE NCAA ACTIVE CAREER LEADERS: Arkansas State's Rocky Hayes and Ja'Von Rolland-Jones are both ranked among the top-50 active NCAA leaders in one statistical category. Rolland-Jones, ranked 41st in sacks, is one of just two sophomores among the top-50 leaders in the stat.
PICK IT OFF: While the Red Wolves were unable to record a turnover gained against USC, they have come back to record 21 interceptions over their last eight games. A-State posted a season-high four interceptions their last time out at ULM, and it has recorded at least three in five games this season. The last time A-State recorded an interception in at least nine straight games during the same season was 2003 when it did so in nine consecutive as well. The Red Wolves are ranked first in the nation this season in total interceptions. Additionally, their 21 interceptions are the most by an A-State team since the 1985 squad picked off 23.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
ON A ROLL: Junior kicker J.D. Houston has made nine-of-10 field goals this season, including a run of nine consecutive that was the sixth longest streak in school history. He made a career-high four field goals against Appalachian State to tie the fourth most in school history for a single game. ?He also finished the contest with 16 points by kicking that rank as the fifth most in A-State history.
BLOCK PARTY: Junior defensive end Chris Odom recorded his first two career blocks during the 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. Entering the game, the Red Wolves had one block all season. Now with three total blocks, they have one more than they had all last season.
COVERED UP: The Red Wolves were one of the top teams in both kickoff and punt coverage a year ago, ranking No. 4 in the nation in kickoff return defense (16.31 ypr) and No. 9 in punt return defense (3.10 ypr). Their first nine games of the 2015 season saw them allow just 18.7 yards per kick return, which is the 21st best average in the nation. Additionally, they are averaging 40.3 net yards per punt to rank 18th in the country.
PRECISION PUNTING: Not only is senior punter Luke Ferguson averaging 42.9 yards per punt, he has recorded 26 punts (43 percent) inside the 20 that lead the Sun Belt Conference. ?Ferguson has posted at least one punt inside the opponent's 20 every game this season, including a career-high five against ULM. He finished last season with 22 punts inside the 20 and now has 56 for his career.
ON THE RETURN: Sophomore cornerback Blaise Taylor recorded a season-high 60 punt return yards versus Georgia State on two attempts, including one that went for a season-best 53 yards. A preseason All-Sun Belt Conference return specialist, Taylor holds a punt return average of 9.5 yards per attempt, which ranks 26th in the nation.
NATIONAL RANKINGS: Arkansas State's special teams units have become one of the best-rounded in the nation, ranking among the top 51 teams in the country in six different statistical categories:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior wide receiver J.D. McKissic was named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Student-Athlete of the Week on Nov. 30 after recording a school-record 211 kickoff return yards, including a 92-yard return for a touchdown, during A-State's game against Toledo. His 211 yards were the second most (now third most) in the nation this season and the fifth most ever by a Sun Belt Conference player. McKissic's 92-yard return was the 10th longest in school history and the first return for a touchdown by an A-State player since he accomplished the feat on a 98-yard return versus Idaho in 2013. He became the 10th player in Sun Belt history to post two kickoff return touchdowns in a career.