UCA at A-State in-depth preview
UCA at A-STATE
2:30 p.m. Saturday, Jonesboro
LIVE STATS: AStateStats.com
LIVE GAME NOTES: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
THE PRINCIPALS: One week after playing their Sun Belt Conference opener, the Red Wolves return to non-conference action with their first game against Central Arkansas since 2016. The Red Wolves and Bears were originally set to meet Sept. 19 before the game was rescheduled for Oct. 10. This is the first season since 2013 that A-State hasn’t completed the entire non-conference portion of its regular-season schedule before starting Sun Belt play. A-State was receiving votes in both the Associated Press and Coaches Top 25 polls before falling 52-23 last week at Coastal Carolina. Central Arkansas enters the game with a 2-2 record after most recently dropping a 39-28 decision at North Dakota State. Following their 52-23 setback against Coastal Carolina, the Red Wolves stand 13-7 all-time in Sun Belt Conference openers. Despite the setback, they have still won six of their past eight league openers and are 5-2 in such games under head coach Blake Anderson.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : run the Red Wolves record against the Bears to 11-13-2 . . . move its record to 25-7 over its last 32 games played in the month of October . . . give the Red Wolves 16 wins over their last 17 games played against an FCS opponent . . . mark its 10th consecutive Homecoming game victory . . . make it 13-3 over its last 16 home openers . . . give it a .500 or better record after four games for the fourth consecutive season . . . guarantee it at least a .500 non-conference record for the third consecutive season and fourth time under head coach Blake Anderson.
THE A-STATE-CENTRAL ARKANSAS SERIES: Saturday’s game will mark the first meeting between Arkansas State and Central Arkansas since 2016. A-State and UCA have played 25 times since 1916, but will meet this year for just the fifth time since 1947. The Bears hold a 13-10-2 lead in the series after collecting a 28-23 win in Jonesboro in 2016, but the Red Wolves have won three of the four games played in the modern era. A-State defeated UCA 17-7 in 1996, picked up a narrow 36-35 win in 1997 and claimed a 53-24 victory in 2011. The Red Wolves stand 7-6 all-time versus UCA in games played in Jonesboro, including a 101-0 win in 1917 that stands as the largest margin of victory in school history. At the same time, UCA handed A-State its largest margin of defeat with a 95-0 win in Jonesboro in 1937.
A-STATE vs THE SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE: Arkansas State has played nine schools that are current members of the Southland Conference and holds an all-time 59-46-5 record against those teams. Also playing Central Arkansas in 2016 and 2011, the Bears are the only Southland Conference team that A-State has played since 2001 when it faced Nicholls. Arkansas State’s most victories against a current SLC team is 15 versus Lamar.
IN-STATE FOES: Arkansas State is set to play an in-state foe for the first time since facing UAPB in 2017. The Red Wolves have played 10 colleges/universities located in The Natural State, including Little Rock, Arkansas-Monticello, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Lyon College, Hendrix, Ouachita Baptist and Southern Arkansas. A-State’s 25 games against UCA are its most against an in-state opponent, followed closely by Lyon College with 22 meetings.
HOMECOMING HISTORY: Arkansas State is 62-27-3 all-time in Homecoming contests. The Red Wolves have won 16 of their last 17 Homecoming games, including the last nine in a row dating back to the 2003 season. The only setback during that time came 34-24 against Louisville in 2010. Saturday’s game will mark the fourth time A-State has hosted Central Arkansas for its Homecoming game, but the first time since 1947. The Red Wolves also played their Homecoming game against the Bears in 1925 and 1921. This year marks just the fourth time in school history that A-State’s Homecoming game was also its home opener. The previous three times it occurred was 2001, 1924 and 1923.
BY THE NUMBERS...
1 of just two all-time programs to win five Sun Belt Conference championships.
3 consecutive A-State road games to start a season for the first time since 1999.
5 A-State players on a major award watch list (J. Adams, A. Harris, Horst, Grupe, Murray)
5 Sun Belt Conference titles (2011-13, 2015, 2016) over the last nine seasons (2011-19).
7 or more victories each of the last nine seasons (2011-19) -- first time in school history.
9 straight bowl-game appearances (2011-19) - school record & the 14th longest active streak in the nation.
9 consecutive Homecoming game victories for Arkansas State.
9 consecutive winning seasons (2011-19) by A-State for the first time in school history.
10th of October is the latest date A-State has played its home opener since 1950.
11 all-time Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards, including four of the last five years.
12 of the last 15 seasons (2005-19) have seen A-State reach bowl eligibility, including the last 9 in a row.
13 A-State victories over its last 16 home openers.
15 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-19).
16 A-State players made their first career start with the Red Wolves over the first three games.
16 victories over its last 17 games played against an FCS opponent.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 71 of its last 109 regular-season games (65 percent).
36 all-time Sun Belt wins under Blake Anderson are the second most in league history by any head coach.
48 victories under Blake Anderson (2014-20) are the most by an A-State head coach over his first 7 seasons.
49 of the last 53 games the A-State defense has recorded at least one sack.
51 of the last 58 games with at least 5.0 tackles for loss by the A-State defense.
56 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last 10 (2011-20) seasons (56-18 league record).
61.7 winning pct. (79-49) from 2010-19 for A-State was the 2nd highest in program history for any decade.
76 victories by A-State over the last 10 seasons (2011-20) ranks tied for the 25th most in the nation.
88 all-time Sun Belt victories by A-State -- the most in the history of the league by any program.
300 or more yards total offense in 110 of last 131 games (84%), including all but five under Blake Anderson.
400 or more yards total offense in 55 of 80 games (69%) during the Blake Anderson era.
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, a 19-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 coach on Dec. 19, 2013. Anderson led the Red Wolves to Sun Belt Conference championships in 2015 and 2016, as well as six consecutive winning seasons and six bowl-game appearances (2019 and 2017 Camellia Bowl, 2018 Arizona Bowl, 2016 Cure Bowl, 2015 New Orleans Bowl, 2014 GoDaddy Bowl) during his first six years leading the program. Under his direction, the Red Wolves have set 12 new single-season records, including average yards total offense (494.8 ypg in 2017), total offense (6,174 yards in 2014) and points scored (520 in 2015). Following the 2019 season, Anderson received the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award and was named the Grant Teaff Coach of the Year, presented annually by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
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 in his first season (2014) 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).
SEVEN YEARS RUNNING: Blake Anderson is the only head coach in Arkansas State history to win 48 or more games over his first seven years at the school. Additionally, he is one of just three head coaches at A-State to ever direct the program to at least 48 wins in 79 or fewer games -- Forrest England won 49 games over the same span tween 1946-53 and Bennie Ellender won 52 times over his 76 games total games between 1963-70.
DOUBLE DIGITS: Thirty-eight (38) of the Red Wolves’ 48 wins under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points. At the same time five of their 10 single-digit victories under Anderson have been posted over the Red Wolves’ last eight outings dating back to last season. Last season, A-State collected the program’s most single-digit wins (5) in one year since the 1982 season when it also had five. Arkansas State has outscored its opponents 2,002-1,001 in the 48 wins under Anderson for a 20.9-point average scoring difference.
CLIMBING THE LADDER: Blake Anderson has led the Red Wolves to a pair of Sun Belt titles and collected 36 league wins along the way, which are the second most ever by any of the conference’s all-time head coaches.
CHANGE OF PLANS: Arkansas State didn’t announce Central Arkansas and Kansas State as additions to its 2020 schedule until Aug. 7 and Aug. 12, respectively. The Red Wolves were originally slated to play a home game against Howard on Sept. 12 and a road game at Michigan on Sept. 19 before the two contests were canceled. A-State’s original schedule called for it to alternate road and home games throughout the regular season for the first time in school history.
A-STATE vs FCS: Arkansas State is playing an FCS member for the 10th consecutive season and 12th time over the last 13 years. Dating back to the 2002 campaign, the Red Wolves have won 15 of their last 16 games against FCS foes. A-State has posted 811 points to its FCS opponents’ 175 during those 16 contests for an average margin of 39.8 points per game. The Red Wolves’ lone setback during that time came in 2016, 28-23 against Central Arkansas of the Southland Conference.
HOME OPENERS: While Arkansas State dropped its home (and season) opener 37-30 against SMU in 2019, it has still won its ﬁrst home game played in 12 of the last 15 seasons dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves stand 32-14 all-time in home openers at Centennial Bank Stadium and are also 18-9 in such games since moving to FBS status in 1992. The last time A-State played its home opener on a date later than Oct. 10 was in 1950 (Oct. 14).
THREE ROAD OUTINGS START 2020 SEASON: Arkansas State played its first three games on the road this season for the first time since 1999. Records also indicate that in addition to 1999, the 2020 season marks just the second time in school history that A-State played its first three games on the road.
ON THIS DATE: Dating back to 1924, Arkansas State holds a 2-4-3 record when playing on Oct. 10. The Red Wolves’ first Oct. 10 game on record was actually played against Central Arkansas in Jonesboro in 1924 and saw the Bears claim a 14-0 win. A-State hasn’t played on the date since falling 52-14 at home against Idaho. Just two of Arkansas State’s previous nine Oct. 10 games were played on the road. The Red Wolves have dropped their last two games played on the date with their last win coming 14-3 against Louisiana in 1981.
RED WOLVES OCTOBER: Arkansas State holds a 24-7 record over its last 31 games played in the month of October. A-State had won 11 games in a row during the month prior to falling to Appalachian State on Oct. 9, 2018.
FOR STARTERS: Sixteen (16) A-State players made their first career start with the Red Wolves over the team’s first three games of the season. The total includes six offensive and 10 defensive players.
OFFENSE (6): Brandon Bowling (WR), Dahu Green (WR), Jamal Jones (RB), Ethan Miner (OL), Wyatt Luebke (OL), Roshauud Paul (WR)
DEFENSE (10): Elery Alexander (S), Taylon Doss (CB), Jaden Harris (LB), Tahj Herring-Wilson (CB), Fred Hervey (LB), Amir Howard (S), Noel Iwuchukwu (DL), Samy Johnson (CB), Justin Rice (LB), Vidal Scott (DL)
IMMEDIATE IMPACT: Twenty-five (25) A-State players have earned their first playing time with the Red Wolves this season, including 10 true freshmen, seven FBS transfers and six junior-college transfers who are all new additions to the Red Wolves’ roster in 2020.
TRUE FRESHMEN (10): Jack Bullard (DS), Taylon Doss (CB), Antwon Fegans (S), Kenneth Harris (CB), Elliott Nimrod (K), Lincoln Pare (RB), Corey Rucker (WR), Javar Strong (S), Trevian Thomas (S), Israel Whitmore (LB)
FBS TRANSFER (7): Giles Amos (Sr., TE), Ryan Hanson (R-Fr./P), Javan Hawes (Jr./WR), Tahj Herring-Wilson (CB), Roshauud Paul (Jr./WR), Justin Rice (Sr./LB), Kennan Solomon (Jr./DL)
JC TRANSFER (6): Avery Demmons (Jr./OL), Booker Ficklin (Jr./CB), CJ Harris (R-Fr./DB), Fred Hervey (Jr./LB), Quinton Lee (DL), Vidal Scott (Jr./DL)
A-STATE vs THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 56 of its last 72 Sun Belt Conference games (.778 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 88-52. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 27. A-State has defeated every team in the conference since the football league was formed in 2001. Along with ULM and Louisiana, A-State is one of three teams that have been a part of the conference since its inaugural football season.
ROAD WARRIORS: Arkansas State has won 27 of its last 37 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 to Western Kentucky in its last regular-season game of 2013.
THE NOMINEES ARE...: As selected by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), the four nominees for the Reveal Suits National Team of the Week included Arkansas State after the Red Wolves defeated Kansas State 35-31 in Manhattan on Sept. 12. Fellow Sun Belt member Louisiana earned the weekly award after defeating No. 23 Iowa State 31-14 in Ames.
POWER PLAY: With its 35-31 road win over Kansas State, the Red Wolves collected their first win over a Power 5 conference opponent since defeating Texas A&M 18-14 in 2008. It also marked their second win over a Power 5 team since moving to FBS status in 1992. In the process, A-State handed Kansas State its first defeat in a home opener since a loss to North Dakota State in 2013. The Red Wolves’ victory also marked just the eighth time an opponent had defeated K-State over the Wildcats last 84 regular-season non-conference home games.
WATCH ME, WATCH ME: A-State has five players on at least one major watch list for the 2020 season, including four offensive players and one specialist.
BILETNIKOFF: Jonathan Adams, Sr., WR
WUERFFEL: Andre Harris Jr., Jr., OL
OUTLAND: Jarrett Horst, Jr., OL
LOU GROZA: Blake Grupe, Jr., K
DOAK WALKER: Marcel Murray, Jr., RB
BOWL ELIGIBLE: Arkansas State has obtained bowl eligibility status each of the previous nine years (2011-19) and 12 times over the previous 15 seasons. Arkansas State has become bowl eligible in 10 games or less each of those seasons. Since moving to FBS status in 1992, 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 15 consecutive years (2005-19) with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves are now 68-17 (.800 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 43 of their last 53 home outings. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 160-80-1 since it opened in 1974. A-State’s six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985. The 2011 season also marked the last time the Red Wolves went undefeated at Centennial Bank Stadium.
BOWL STREAK: Arkansas State has made a school-record nine consecutive bowl-game appearances (2011-19), which is the third longest streak in the Group of 5 and ranks 14th in the nation among all FBS programs.
DECADE BY DECADE: The Red Wolves won 79 games from 2010-19, which were the most in a decade in a program history. Five of A-State’s all-time 12 conference titles also came during the 2010s. The Red Wolves .617 winning percentage (79-49) last decade was the second highest for a decade in program history. Arkansas State had a .627 winning percentage (66-39-1) from 1970-79, including two 11-0 seasons (1970-75). The program’s third best winning percentage (.609) for a single decade came from 1960-69 (54-34-4). A-State had nine winning seasons last decade, by far the most for a decade in program history. The previous record for winning seasons in a decade was six in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
NON-CONFERENCE HISTORY: In 2019, Arkansas State produced a .500 or better non-conference record for the second consecutive season, third time under head coach Blake Anderson and fifth time over the last nine seasons, but just the sixth time since moving to FBS status in 1992 (1995, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2019). A-State posted a winning non-conference record (3-1) in 2018 for the first time since 1995 (3-2).
NINE STRAIGHT: Arkansas State has secured a winning record in a school-record nine consecutive seasons (2011-19). The next longest streak was six straight seasons from 1912-17. The Red Wolves piled up 75 victories from 2011-19 for its most over a nine-year span in the program’s 106-year history.
ELITE COMPANY: Arkansas State is one of just four teams in the nation to win at least five conference titles and appear in nine bowl games since 2011, joining Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma. The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt title in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 and hold the 14th longest active streak in the nation for bowl game appearances with nine.
106TH SEASON: Arkansas State kicked off its 106th season of football Sept. 5 against Memphis at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. A-State holds a 482-494-37 record since the inaugural season and has played in 17 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.
SUN BELT CHAMPS (5 of 9): The Red Wolves most recently won back-to-back Sun Belt titles in 2015 and 2016, compiling a 15-1 league record over that span. A-State also won the league title 2011-13, making it one of just two programs in league history with at least five SBC titles. The other is Troy (2017, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006).
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards total offense in 119 of its last 131 games (.908 percentage). A-State has produced 300 yards in 74 of 80 games during the Blake Anderson era.
400-PLUS: Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 55 times over its last 80 games (69 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach. The Red Wolves have posted 400 or more yards total offense in 19 of their last 23 games.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: The Red Wolves have posted at least 30 points in 71 of their last 109 regular-season games (65 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 56 of their last 65 games when scoring at least 30 points.
TOUCHDOWN STRIKE: Junior quarterback Logan Bonner has thrown at least one touchdown pass every game this season and in six of seven games as a starter, including five outings with multiple touchdown passes. During his seven starts since 2019, he has posted 15 touchdown passes and has 17 for his career. He has completed at least one touchdown pass to seven different receivers, including Omar Bayless (7), Kirk Merritt (3), Jonathan Adams (3), TW Ayers (1), Brandon Bowling (1) Dahu Green (1) and Christian Booker (1).
TOUCHDOWN STRIKE (PART II): Including the last two games this season, sophomore quarterback Layne Hatcher has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 12 of 14 career games. Additionally, he has thrown at least two touchdowns in 10 outings and has 30 career touchdown strikes, which are the seventh most in school history. He has thrown at least one touchdown to six different receivers, including Omar Bayless (11), Kirk Merritt (9), Jonathan Adams (5), Brandon Bowling (3) Giles Amos (1) and Reed Tyler (1).
BIG DAY FOR BOWLING: Senior wide receiver Brandon Bowling put together his first career 100-yard receiving performance with 115 yards and a career-best two touchdowns on seven receptions against Coastal Carolina. He hauled in the two longest receptions of his career, one going for 44 yards and the other covering 35. He entered the game with two receptions for 35 yards on the season.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: A-State has 15 players who have recorded at least one reception this season. Through just three games, that is already the same amount of players who caught a pass for the Red Wolves for all of last season. The Red Wolves have seen at least nine players catch a pass in all three games this year, including a season-high 10 each of the last two games. A-State has seven players with at least five catches this year, while it had eight players with at least five for all of last season.
ON A ROLL: Senior wide receiver Jonathan Adams Jr. has posted at least six catches in each of A-State’s first three games and his 6.7 receptions (20 total) per game ranks 14th in the nation. Dating back to the 2017 season, the Jonesboro, Ark., native has caught multiple passes in 18 consecutive games. He has 107 career receptions that are 14 shy of the 10th most in school history.
IN THE NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT: Biletnikoff Award Watch List member Jonathan Adams Jr. put together one of his best career games on a huge stage during the Red Wolves’ 35-31 win at Kansas State. He was catapulted into the national spotlight, garnering interviews from media members such as Reggie Bush with FOX and multiple national awards. Following his performance that included eight catches for 98 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, he was named the national Player of the Week by the Maxwell Award and 247Sports and Offensive Player of the Week by Athlon Sports and the Frisco Bowl. He was also tabbed the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week.
A LOSS ON THE PLAY: Dating back to the 2015 season, the Red Wolves have posted at least five stops behind the line of scrimmage in 51 of their last 58 games. A-State has ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation four of the last five seasons (2016-20) in tackles for loss.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK: A-State has ranked among the top 36 teams in the nation in sacks four of the last seven years (2014-20), posting a combined 205 sacks over that span. The Red Wolves have recorded at least one sack in 49 of their last 53 games dating back to the 2016 season.
PICK IT OFF: Dating back to last season, A-State has intercepted at least one pass four of its last five games and continues to be an opportunistic defense over the last seven seasons (2014-20) when the ball has been put in the air. During that time span, A-State has intercepted 93 passes that rank as the ninth most in the nation. Since 2014, San Diego State ranks No. 1 with 105 interceptions.
FORCING TURNOVERS: Arkansas State has recorded at least one turnover gained in 65 of its last 80 games dating back to the 2014 season. The Red Wolves have ranked among the top 30 teams in the nation in turnovers gained four of the last seven years (2014-20), and their combined 151 forced turnovers over that span are tied for the ninth most in the nation.
DEFENSE IS THE BEST OFFENSE: Arkansas State has ranked among the top 21 teams in the nation in defensive touchdowns each of the previous six seasons (2014-19). In fact, the 2015 season saw the Red Wolves record an FBS-high eight touchdowns. The Red Wolves have 25 total defensive touchdowns over the previous six seasons.
TACKLE MACHINE: Senior safety Elery Alexander completed each of the last two games as A-State’s leading tackler, recording nine stops against Kansas State and a career-high 10 against Coastal Carolina. A junior college transfer in 2019, Alexander entered the Kansas State game with 12 career tackles (11 in 2019) at A-State. Alexander currently leads the team with 20 tackles this season, which ranks tied for 16th in the Sun Belt Conference (6.7 tpg).
CAREER NUMBERS: Including its top four leading tacklers against Coastal Carolina, the Red Wolves had nine different players post new career highs for single-game tackles against the Chanticleers. The nine players included Elery Alexander (10), Anthony Switzer (9), Jeffmario Brown (9), Samy Johnson (8), Justin Rice (6), TW Ayers (5), Tahj Herring-Wilson (4), CJ Harris (3) and Taylon Doss (2). The Red Wolves finished the game with 88 tackles, which were their most in a game since recording 95 against South Alabama in their last regular-season game of 2019.
THAT’S A FIRST: Not only did sophomore safety Anthony Switzer record a career-high nine tackles against Coastal Carolina, he collected his first career interception and forced fumble on back-to-back series in the second half.
CREATING NEGATIVE PLAYS: Senior linebacker Justin Rice posted a career-high six tackles against Coastal Carolina to go along with 2.5 tackles for loss, which gave him 5.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage over the last two games. The Fresno State transfer ranks second in the Sun Belt and eighth in the nation in tackles for loss with 1.8 per game.
DEFENSIVE STAND: Arkansas State limited Kansas State to 374 yards total offense (5.4 yards per play) and 91 rushing yards (2.3 yards per attempt). The last time A-State held a Power 5 conference opponent to less than 374 yards total offense was Missouri in 2015, when the Tigers posted 288 yards. K-State’s rushing output was the lowest by an A-State opponent from a Power 5 conference since at least 2000.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Junior kicker Blake Grupe was named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after connecting on his only field goal try and converting all three of his extra point attempts to finish the Red Wolves’ season opener at Memphis with six points. Grupe earned the recognition for the third time of his career, also collecting the honor twice last season as a sophomore.
KICKOFF RETURNS: Junior wide receiver Roshauud Paul has posted seven kickoff returns for 182 yards, giving him a 26.0 average per return that ranks as the 13th highest in the country and second best in the Sun Belt Conference. Paul’s top return this season covered 45 yards at Kansas State. The Red Wolves top kick returner last season, Kirk Merritt, finished the season with 415 yards and a 27.7 average per return that ranked as the fourth highest in school history.
AMONG THE LEAGUE LEADERS: Redshirt freshman punter Ryan Hanson has punted eight times for 335 yards, giving him a 41.9 average that currently ranks as the second best in the Sun Belt Conference. While the season is just three games old, Hanson’s current average ranks tied for the eighth highest in school history. He has also posted three punts inside the opponents 20-yard line, including one in each game.