Texas State at A-State in-depth preview

Texas State at A-State in-depth preview

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Texas State (3-8, 2-5) at A-State (8-3, 7-0)
2 p.m. Saturday
Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro

RADIO: 92.7 FM Conway, 107.9 FM Jonesboro
TV: ESPN3
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 have claimed at least a share of the 2015 Sun Belt Conference championship and can win the title outright with a victory over Texas State. A-State will enter Saturday's game tied for the nation's sixth longest winning streak and holding an 8-3 overall record and 7-0 mark in Sun Belt play. Dating back to last season, the Red Wolves have won eight consecutive Sun Belt games to tie for the third longest winning streak in the nation. Texas State, looking for its first road win this season, holds 3-8 overall record and 2-5 mark in conference play. The Bobcats three victories have been scattered throughout the season, their most recent coming two games ago (Nov. 19) at home against ULM. The victory over the Warhawks snapped a three-game skid for Texas State, but the Bobcats couldn't make it two victories in a row after falling 38-31 at Idaho their last time out (Nov. 28).

AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : give A-State an outright Sun Belt Conference championship, making it just the second program in league history with three outright titles (North Texas in 2002, 2003 and 2004) . . . give the Red Wolves their second all-time undefeated Sun Belt Conference record and make them one of two all-time Sun Belt programs to post multiple undefeated seasons (2015 and 2011) in league play (North Texas accomplished the feat in 2002, 2003 and 2004) . . . make it the only Sun Belt program to ever go 8-0 in league play during multiple seasons (2015 and 2011) . . . give the Red Wolves their third most victories ever as an FBS member and nine or more wins for the eighth time in school history . . . give it 44 victories since 2011, extending the total that is already the most in school history over a five-year span . . . give it eight consecutive victories for the first time since the 2012 season . . . give the Red Wolves an 9-3 or better overall record through 12 games for the first time since 2012 and third time ever as an FBS member . . . give it 33 victories over its last 39 Sun Belt Conference games . . . improve its record over the last five seasons to 44-20.

SENIOR DAY: The Red Wolves will hold their annual Senior Day Saturday, recognizing their senior class for their contributions to Arkansas State University and the football program. This year's 16 seniors are Austin Copeland, Luke Ferguson, Charleston Girley, Michael Gordon, Darion Griswold, Kyle Harris, Rocky Hayes, Tres Houston, Fredi Knighten, Booker Mays, J.D. McKissic, Robert Mondie, Steven Stevens, Chris Stone, Tyler Trosin and Raziel Velgis.

THE ARKANSAS STATE - TEXAS STATE SERIES: Saturday's game will mark just the third meeting ever between Arkansas State and Texas State as they are set to continue their Sun Belt Conference series that began in 2013. The initial meeting saw the Red Wolves claim a 38-21 victory in Jonesboro, while the Bobcats picked up a 45-27 home win last year to even the series.

BY THE NUMBERS . . .
· 0.7 career sacks p/g by Ja'Von Rolland-Jones is the 3rd highest average in the nation among active players.
· 1 touchdown reception needed by Tres Houston to break the single-season school record (10).

· 1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 22 of 24 games under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
· 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 straight bowl game appearances (2011-14), including back-to-back GoDaddy Bowl wins in 2013 and 2014.
· 4 receptions needed by J.D. McKissic for the 23rd most in NCAA?FBS?history.
· 4 Sun Belt Conference championships (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015) over the last five seasons.
· 5 A-State players named a Sun Belt Player of the Week (Brown, Gordon, Knighten, McKissic, Taylor).
5 consecutive winning seasons (2011-15) by A-State (last time 1949-53).
· 5 head coaches over the last 6 years (Steve Roberts, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Bryan Harsin, Blake Anderson).
· 6 of last seven games A-State has rushed for at least 200 yards.
· 6 school records held by J.D. McKissic, including single-game (15), season (103) & career receptions (285).
· 6 special teams statistical categories A-State ranks among the top 51 teams in the nation.
· 7 defensive touchdowns this season by A-State are tied for the most in the nation.
· 7 game winning streak by A-State is tied for the sixth longest in the nation.
· 7 or more victories each of the last five seasons (2011-15) -- first time in school history.
· 8 consecutive Sun Belt wins are tied for the nation's third longest conference winning streak.
· 8 wins ties the 2012 team for A-State's second most ever as an FBS?member through 11 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.
· 10 consecutive games with at least one interception -- A-State's longest streak since 1985.
· 10 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 13 years.
· 11 career 100-yard rushing games by Michael Gordon.
· 11 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-15).
· 13 career runs covering at least 40 yards by Michael Gordon.
· 14 of A-State's 15 victories under HC?Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.
· 15 victories under Blake Anderson, making him 1st HC?in A-State history w/15+ wins 1st two seasons.
· 16 wins by A-State over its last 19 Sun Belt Conference road games.
· 16 players named to a Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team by at least one college football publication.
· 16 seniors on the A-State roster who will be recognized prior to kickoff as part of A-State's "Senior Day."
· 17 statistical categories inwhich A-State ranks among the top three teams in the Sun Belt Conference.
· 24 interceptions are the most in the nation and most by an A-State team since 1970 (24).
· 27.9 career kickoff return average by J.D. McKissic is the 23rd highest NCAA?FBS?history.
· 28 punts inside the opponent's 20 by Luke Ferguson -- the most in the Sun Belt Conference.
· 29 "top-10" school records held by Fredi Knighten.
· 30 or more points scored by A-State in 40 of its last 58 regular-season games (69 percent).
· 31 turnovers gained by A-State are tied for the most in the nation.
· 32 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last five seasons (32-6 league record).
· 41 points needed by A-State to break its own Sun Belt record for points in a season.

· 42.4 career punting average by Luke Ferguson is the second highest in school history.
· 43 victories by A-State over the last five seasons ranks tied for the 23rd most in the nation.
· 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).
· 63.2 percent of A-State's touchdown drives have taken 2 minutes or less (2nd highest % in the nation).
· 88 rushing yards needed by Michael Gordon for his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season.
· 285 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 67 of last 75 games (89 pct.), including all but 2 games under Blake Anderson.
· 400 or more yards total offense averaged last six seasons (2010-15).
· 610 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. Prior to guiding A-State to its Sun Belt Conference championship this year, he led A-State to its fourth consecutive winning season and bowl-game appearance his first season at the helm in 2014. The Red Wolves broke 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) in 2014, and are pace to break numerous A-State records this year. Despite injuries forcing Anderson to use a different starting lineup in every regular-season game a year ago, 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.

TWO YEARS RUNNING: Now with 15 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 (24 games between 1963-65) and Gene Harlow (24 games between 1955-57) as the fastest coach in A-State history to reach wins 15 victories. A victory Saturday against Texas State would make Anderson the first head coach in school history to reach 16 wins in 25 or less games.

A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 32 of its last 38 Sun Belt Conference games (.842 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the conference to 65-42. 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 (2 points) and Coaches (7 points) 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.

SUN BELT CHAMPIONS: Arkansas State has claimed its fourth Sun Belt Conference championship over the last five seasons (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015), giving the football program 11 league championships all-time. A-State won the Southland Conference seven times (1986, 1985, 1978, 1975, 1970, 1969, 1968). A-State is one of three programs to ever win at least four Sun Belt Conference championships, joining North Texas (4) and Troy (5). Arkansas State also won the 2005 Sun Belt Conference title, but it was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions.

BOWL ELIGIBILE: With an 8-3 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.

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.

RETURNING FROM THE ROAD: A-State concluded a three-game road stretch last week that covered the entire month of November. It marked just the second time in A-State's history as a Sun Belt member that it 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 16 of its last 19 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 2011, 2012 and 2015, 2-1 in 2013 and 2-2 a year ago.

THROUGH 11: Arkansas State has a winning record (8-3) after 11 games for the ninth time since joining the FBS?in 1992 (1995, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011-15). The Red Wolves' 8-3 record matches the 2012 team for their second best record through 11 games since joining the FBS. The 2011 team was 9-2 through 11 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 victories this season 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 eight A-State victories this season have come by at least 10 points and the Red Wolves average margin of victory in its seven Sun Belt wins was 18.7 points. Six of A-State's seven wins last season also came by a double-figure margin, meaning 14 of the Red Wolves' 15 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 eight this season, the Red Wolves have recorded 43 victories that are tied for the 23rd most in the nation over the last five years. Additionally, A-State's 43 victories are its most over a five year span in the program's 101-year history.

STEPPING INTO A STARTING ROLE: Twenty 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, 1 vs. NMSU), including 13 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, Chase Robison, Robert Mondie and Jake Swalley, LB's Tajhea Chambers, Austin Copeland 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.

OFFENSIVE NOTES
KNIGHTEN NAMED PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
Senior QB Fredi Knighten was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Student-Athlete of the Week after racking up a season-high 367 passing yards while accounting for three touchdowns in A-State's 52-28 victory at New Mexico State last Saturday. He added 33 rushing yards to post a season-best 400 yards of total offense and finished just 49 yards shy of equaling his career-high in the category. He averaged 15.9 years per completion and threw two touchdown passes to move his season total to 17, the fifth most in school history. Knighten had a 75-yard touchdown completion, the longest play of the season by A-State, and added a rushing touchdown later in the game.

TWO-MINUTE OFFENSE: The Arkansas State offense has scored in two minutes or less on 31 of its 49 touchdown drive this season for a 63.2 percentage that is the second highest in the nation. Hawai'i is the national leader, scoring in two minutes or less on 65.4 (17 of 26) of its touchdown drives, while Baylor is third (47 of 76 for 61.8 percent).

300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 67 of its last 75 games (.893 percentage). A-State went over 300 yards in all 13 games last season and has reached the mark nine times this year, including the last seven games in a row.

400-PLUS: Including the last five games in a row and eight games total this season, Arkansas State has posted at least 400 yards total offense in 17 of 24 games (.708) under offensive coordinator Walt Bell. The Red Wolves have posted over 500 yards total offense five 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 as well 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 40 of its last 58 regular-season games (69 percent) dating back to the 2011 season, including 14 of the last 18 contests. The Red Wolves have won 28 of their last 32 games when scoring at least 30 points.

RUSHING RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has posted at least 200 rushing yards in six of their last seven 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. Additionally, the Red Wolves are averaging 265.1 rushing yards per game over their last seven outings and have piled up 20 rushing touchdowns over the same span.

FINDING THE END ZONE: Sophomore running back Johnston White has recorded a team and career-best 13 rushing touchdowns this season, giving him 19 running scores during his career. He has scored at least one rushing touchdown in seven consecutive games, and he has scored multiple rushing touchdowns in four games this season. White's 13 running scores this season are tied for the seventh most in school history, and he needs two 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 610 yards, the second most on the team, and is averaging 6.2 yards per carry as a true freshman. His 610 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 912 yards this season, pushing his career total to 2,806. Currently A-State's seventh all-time leading rusher, Gordon needs an additional 130 rushing yards to become the school's sixth all-time career leader. Gordon is also ranked tied for fourth all-time in rushing touchdowns at A-State with 31 to his credit. ?He has scored at least one rushing TD in 17 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 863 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 64 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 15 of his 21 career starts, senior quarterback Fredi Knighten has posted over 200 yards total offense. Knighten has recorded at least 300 yards total offense in nine games the last two seasons. ?He is one of five players in school history to record over 6,000 yards total offense (6,601).

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 285). 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 47 of 48 career games, including the last 12 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 2,793 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 (285). He broke the school record for career receiving yards during the ULM game, and currently has 2,793 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 285. 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.

DEFENSIVE NOTES
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 11 games this year. Their pass defense efficiency this season is 114.37, which is the best in the league and currently ranked 30th in the nation. The Red Wolves have 24 interceptions (most in the nation) and are allowing just a 52.2 completion percentage (14th in the nation).

PLAYING IN THE BACKFIELD: Sophomore defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones has recorded at least a half TFL?in eight of 11 games this season and 12 of his last 15 contests dating back to last year. He also has a team-high 8.0 sacks this season, as well as a team-high 16.5 for his career. He has tallied at least a half sack in 11 of his last 16 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 13th in the nation. He completed the Idaho game on Oct. 3 with a career-high two interceptions. He is currently ranked 45th 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 72, which is also the 21st most in the Sun Belt Conference. With an expanded role this season, Lain has already posted 66 more tackles than he had a year ago.

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 24 interceptions over their last 10 games. A-State posted a season-high four interceptions at ULM, and it has recorded at least three in six games this season. The last time A-State recorded an interception in at least 10 straight games during the same season was 1985 when it did so in 10 consecutive as well. The Red Wolves are ranked first in the nation this season in total interceptions. Additionally, their 24 interceptions are the most by an A-State team since the 1970 squad picked off 24 and the second most in Sun Belt Conference history.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Junior safety Cody Brown was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week on Oct. 26 after tying his then-career high seven tackles, posting one pass break-up and returning his third interception of the season 30 yards for a touchdown during Arkansas State's 37-27 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
TAYLOR NAMED SUN BELT PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
Sophomore corner Blaise Taylor had a career-long 73 yard punt return for a touchdown and recorded a career-best 111 total punt return yards against New Mexico State, earning Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week honors. He became the sixth player in Sun Belt Conference history to return multiple punts for a touchdown during a career and his 111 total yards were not only the third most in school history for a single game, they tied the most by an SBC player and the ninth most in the nation this season. His 73-yard return was the second longest by a Sun Belt player this year and the longest by an A-State player since Kevin Jones had an 89-yard return against Memphis in 2007. Taylor, who also recorded his first career interception during the contest, averaged 27.8 yards per punt return yards in the game.

ON A ROLL: Junior kicker J.D. Houston has made 9-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.


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