GoDaddy Bowl: A-State takes on Toledo in series that continues next two seasons
ARKANSAS STATE (7-5) vs. TOLEDO (8-4)
Jr RB MICHAEL GORDON
WHEN: 8 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
RADIO: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (93.3 FM Little Rock, 107.9 FM Jonesboro
THE PRINCIPALS: Arkansas State finished the regular season with a 7-5 record for the second consecutive year and will make an unprecedented fourth consecutive appearance in the GoDaddy Bowl. The Red Wolves put together their fourth straight winning season and ended its league schedule with a 5-3 Sun Belt Conference mark, running their conference record over the last four years to 25-6. Toledo completed the regular season with an 8-4 overall record and as the Mid-American Conference's West Division co-champions along with Northern Illinois as both teams posted a 7-1 league mark. The Rockets last competed in Mobile for a bowl game in 2005 when it was known as the GMAC Bowl and defeated UTEP 45-13.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : give it three GoDaddy Bowl victories, which would be the most in the contest's history . . . improve its record to 3-1 all-time in the GoDaddy Bowl Game . . . mark the first time in school history to win a bowl game in three consecutive seasons . . . improve its all-time bowl record to 5-6-1 . . . give it at least eight victories for the fourth consecutive year and 14th time in school history . . . run its record to 36-16 over the last four seasons . . . mark its first victory over Toledo in three all-time meetings . . . give head coach Blake Anderson eight victories, which would be the third most in A-State history for a first-year head coach at the school.
THE A-STATE - TOLEDO SERIES: The 2015 GoDaddy Bowl will mark the third all-time meeting between Arkansas State and Toledo, but the first since 1992. The Rockets hold a 2-0 lead in the series, capturing home victories in both 1990 (43-28) and 1992 (49-0).
THREE MEETINGS IN THREE SEASONS: A-State has announced a home-and-home series with Toledo over the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The series' initial game will be played next year at Toledo's Glass Bowl stadium, while the return game is set for 2016 in Jonesboro.
MIRROR IMAGES: Statistically speaking, Arkansas State and Toledo are very similar in a number of categories. ?In fact, the two teams are separated by no more than eight places in the national rankings in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense and total defense.
A-STATE TOLEDO DIFFERENCE
SCORING OFFENSE 36.1 ppg 34.3 ppg 1.8 ppg
SCORING DEFENSE 27.8 ppg 29.3 ppg 1.5 ppg
TOTAL OFFENSE 477.2 ypg 486.3 ypg 9.1 ypg
TOTAL DEFENSE 411.2 ypg 402.9 ypg 8.3 ypg
A-STATE vs. THE MAC: Including Toledo, Arkansas State has faced nine current members of the Mid-American Conference. The Red Wolves are 8-13 all-time against current members of the league, but eight of those games have been played against Northern Illinois. A-State is 1-7 against the Huskies and a combined 7-6 against Akron?(1-1), Ball State (1-0) Bowling Green (0-1), Central Michigan (1-0), Eastern Michigan (2-1), Kent State (1-0), Toledo (0-2) and Western Michigan (1-1). The last time A-State played a MAC?team was the 2014 GoDaddy Bowl, when it defeated Ball State 23-20.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: With a 7-5 overall record, A-State was bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season and seventh time over the last 10 years. Arkansas State became bowl eligible after nine games for just the third time (2011, 2012 and 2014). The earliest Arkansas State has ever been bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 after eight games.
FOUR-YEAR WINS TOTAL: Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012, eight more in 2013 and seven this year, the Red Wolves have recorded 35 victories that are tied for the 26th most in the nation over the last four years.
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, a 13-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. Working on head coach Larry Fedora's staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at both North Carolina and Southern Miss over the previous four seasons, Anderson's dynamic offense helped lead the two programs to 34 victories, three bowl game appearances and two conference or divisional titles. Along the way, his potent offense was responsible for breaking both schools' total offense records while also ranking among the most productive teams in the nation. The Hubbard, Texas, native came to A-State after spending the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at North Carolina.
OUT OF THE GATE: Blake Anderson is A-State's 30th all-time head coach, but became just the 11th to claim a victory in his first ever game at the school. Last season Bryan Harsin became the first A-State head coach to win his initial game since Larry Lacewell in 1979, snapping a streak of seven head coaches to drop their debuts. A-State's head coaches to win their first game at the school include Anderson, Harsin, Lacewell, Bill Davidson (1971), Gene Harlow (1955), Glen Harmeson (1954), Bill Adams (1939), Jack Dale (1931), Bill Stanley (1924), Foy Hammons (1919) and Clint Young (1913).
FAST START: Out of 30 all-time head coaches at Arkansas State, Blake Anderson has become one of just four to win at least seven games 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 are Bryan Harsin (2013), Gus Malzahn (2012) and Hugh Freeze (2011).
BOWL HISTORY: Not including this year's GoDaddy Bowl, Arkansas State has played in 11 bowl games all-time and holds a 4-6-1 record in those contests. A-State holds a 2-1 record in the last three GoDaddy Bowl games, falling 38-20 against Northern Illinois in 2012 before defeating Kent State 17-13 (then ranked No. 25 in the nation) in 2013 and Ball State 23-20 last year. A-State dropped a 31-19 decision versus Southern Miss in the 2005 New Orleans Bowl, which was the first time since 1970 that the Red Wolves played in a bowl game. Arkansas State played in seven bowl games from 1951-70, including the Pecan Bowl (1970, 1969, 1968), Tangerine Bowl (1954, 1952) and Refrigerator Bowl (1952, 1951). ?The Tangerine Bowl was played in Orlando, Fla., and is now known as the Citrus Bowl. The Pecan Bowl was played in Arlington, Texas, and the Refrigerator Bowl in Evansville, Ind.
FAMILIAR TERRITORY: Arkansas State is playing in the GoDaddy Bowl for an unprecedented fourth straight year in the game's history. In fact, A-State is the only team to play in the GoDaddy Bowl more than twice. The Red Wolves' two victories in the GoDaddy Bowl ties the most in the game's history along with Marshall (2-0), Southern Miss (2-0) and Tulsa (2-0).
A-STATE TURF: Not only is Arkansas State playing in its fourth consecutive GoDaddy Bowl, the Red Wolves will be playing at Ladd-Peebles Stadium for the fifth time over the last four seasons. A-State holds a 2-1 record in its two GoDaddy appearances and also claimed a 17-16 victory over South Alabama last season in Mobile to give them a 3-1 record at the stadium.
ALABAMA RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has 17 players on its roster from the state of Alabama, including 11 listed on its depth chart and seven expected to start in the GoDaddy Bowl. The 17 players on the Red Wolves' roster from the Alabama are the most among all states outside of Arkansas.
MOST SUCCESSFUL CLASS IN FBS HISTORY: Arkansas State has 14 seniors on its roster, including 11 who will conclude their careers at the school with at least 35 victories that stands as the most in the Red Wolves' FBS history. The 35 wins are also the second most in school history all-time, just two wins shy of the 37 victories posted between 1984-87 when A-State was an FCS member. Those 11 seniors on this year's team will also be the first players in school history to ever compete in a bowl game all four years of their career.
ALL-SUN BELT: A-State placed 11 players (tied the second most in the league), including three first-team selections, on the All-Sun Belt Conference Team. The Red Wolves saw at least 10 players named all-conference for the fifth consecutive year and eighth time overall since the league's inaugural football season in 2001. A-State's All-Sun Belt selections can be seen on page two of the game notes package.
NUMBER 100: Arkansas State claimed its 100th all-time win as an FBS member (joined in 1992) in the regular-season finale against New Mexico State. The Red Wolves actually hold 110 on-field victories as an FBS member, but 10 wins were later vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
STRONG IN THE SECOND: Dating back to last season, nine of Arkansas State's last 15 victories have come when it was either tied or trailing at some point during the third quarter. Three of A-State's seven victories this season have come under the circumstances, while its six last year were its most ever since returning to NCAA Division I-A (now FBS) status in 1992.
FINISHING IN THE FOURTH: Arkansas State has outscored its opponents 132-76 in the fourth quarter this season for a +56-point scoring margin. The Red Wolves have at least matched their opponents fourth-quarter scoring output in all but one game and have outscored eight teams in the quarter. The A-State defense has also kept the opposing offense off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter in four games.
STARTING FRESH: The Red Wolves have had a new starting lineup on offense or defense in every game this season. In fact, A-State has used eight different offensive starting lineups and 12 on defense. They have had 19 players make their first career start this season, which ties the third most in the nation with Oklahoma State -- Vanderbilt is first with 26 and Southern?Miss second with 22.
NEW FACES: Arkansas State has seen 31 total players, including 14 true freshmen and nine redshirt freshmen, achieve their first game experience this season at A-State. Six of those true freshmen are listed on the two-deep, including defensive lineman Chuks Ota and defensive end Caleb Caston -- the only two to start a game this year.
OFFENSIVE TEAM NOTES
SECOND HALF SURGE: All seven Arkansas State victories this season have seen it score at least 21 points in the second half, and the Red Wolves have put up more points in the second half than the first in five of them. The Red Wolves have posted at least 17 second half points in eight games this year, including seven of the last nine. Including overtime, A-State has put up 238 second-half points in comparison to 195 in the first. The Red Wolves have outscored their opponents 99-76 in the third quarter and 132-76 in the fourth.
QUICK STARTS: While the Red Wolves were held scoreless in the first half against both Utah State and ULM, that comes in stark contrast to their quick starts in nine of their other 10 games when they scored a touchdown on one of their first three possessions. The Red Wolves have scored a touchdown on one of their first two possessions in eight contests.
EXPLOSIVE PLAYS: Arkansas State averaged 5.6 explosive plays this season, recording 67 that covered at least 20 yards. That total includes 32 plays of at least 30 yards, 23 of at least 40 yards and 11 of at least 50 yards. The Red Wolves had a season-high 10 explosive plays against New Mexico State followed by seven against four other teams. A-State averaged 6.0 yards per play during the regular season, ranking as the 40th highest average in the nation. Additionally, 48 percent of all A-State's scoring drives have taken two minutes or less.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 57 of its last 63 games. A-State went over 300 in each of its first 12 games this season, including a season-high 764 versus New Mexico State.
400-PLUS: Arkansas State has recorded at least 400 yards total offense in eight games this season, including seven of the last eight. Additionally, the Red Wolves have recorded at least 500 yards total offense in five games this year. A-State is averaging 477.2 yards total offense per game, which ranks 20th in the nation and is the fifth highest average in Sun Belt history.
BREAKING RECORDS: Not only did Arkansas State break the Sun Belt Conference and school records for total offense in a game with 764 yards (7th highest total in the nation this season) against New Mexico State in its regular-season finale, it needs 342 more yards to break the school record for total offense in a season. It also needs 274 yards to become just the third team in SBC history to record 6,000 in a season.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: A-State has posted at least 30 points in 32 of its last 47 regular-season games (68 percent) dating back to the 2011 season, including six of the last seven. The Red Wolves have won 20 of their last 23 games when scoring at least 30 points.
FINDING THE END ZONE: A-State has scored a school-record 59 touchdowns this season and is five shy of the Sun Belt Conference record (set this year by Georgia Southern). The Red Wolves have also scored 433 points this year, leaving it 23 and 36 shy of the school and Sun?Belt records, respectively.
MORE OPPORTUNITIES: Among all teams that have played no more than 12 games, Arkansas State's 961 plays are the seventh most in the nation. A-State has at least matched its opponent's total plays in eight games. A-State's fast paced offense is partially responsible for the differential, but the defense has done a good job getting off the field in third-and-fourth down situations as well, ranking among the top 29 teams in the nation in conversion percentage defense in both categories. Additionally, the Red Wolves' 961 plays are just 55 shy of the school record -- A-State is averaging 80.1 plays per game this season.
RUSHING RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has recorded 2,748 rushing yards this season for its most ever as an FBS?member and its most at any level since recording 3,308 in 1989 (FCS). The Red Wolves' rushing total is also the eighth highest in Sun Belt Conference history. They need 252 more rushing yards to become the third team in SBC?history to record 3,000 in a season. A-State, which has rushed for at least 200 yards in six games (5-1 record), is averaging 229.0 rushing yards per game that ranks 23rd in the nation. Additionally, the Red Wolves have rec
orded 35 rushing touchdowns for their most ever as an FBS member and fifth most (tied) in school history.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Arkansas State has completed at least one pass to 21 players -- nine more than all of last season. Seventeen of those players have multiple receptions, including Tres Houston with a team-high 51. The 21 players with a reception are the most ever by A-State since joining the FBS in 1992. The next closest was 19 in 2006.
LEARNING EXPERIENCE: Arkansas State's collective offensive line entered the 2014 season with the nation's third fewest combined starts in the nation. The Red Wolves returned just two offensive lineman with starting experience, including sophomore Colton Jackson and senior Alan Wright. The 22 combined starts entering the year were the fewest behind just Tennessee (six) and Ohio State (20). Following A-State was San Jose State with 23 and Army with 24.
OFFENSIVE INDIVIDUAL NOTES
TAKING OVER AT QB: In 10 of his first 12 career starts (all this season), junior quarterback Fredi Knighten has posted over 200 yards total offense. Knighten has recorded at least 300 yards total offense in six of the last eight games, including a career-high 449 last game versus New Mexico State. He is ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference and 13th in the nation with 304.1 yards total offense per game.
TAKING RESPONSIBILITY: Dual-threat quarterback Fredi Knighten has accounted for 31 touchdowns (19 pass, 11 rush, 1 receiving) for the fifth most in Sun Belt history (record is 36 by Middle Tennessee's Dwight Dasher in 2009). The junior is ranked 17th in the nation in average points responsible for (16.0 ppg). He also needs one more passing touchdown to become just the second player in school history with 20 in a season and his 11 rushing touchdowns are only one shy of the eighth most in school history.
AMONG THE BEST: Junior quarterback Fredi Knighten has put together one of the best seasons ever by an A-State quarterback, ranking third in school history and fourth in Sun Belt history for total offense in a season with 3,649 yards to his credit. He needs just 132 yards total offense for the second most in school history and 351 to become the third player in Sun Belt history with 4,000 yards in a season.
QUARTERBACK KEEPER: Junior quarterback Fredi Knighten has 775 rushing yards for a 64.6 average per game, which are both the highest by an A-State quarterback Since Roy Johnson ran for 782 yards and a 71.1 average per game in 1991. The second highest rushing total by an A-State quarterback since Johnson was 588 yards by Ryan Aplin in 2011.
LOOKING TO PASS: While Fredi Knighten has already posted the most rushing yards by an A-State quarterback during the Red Wolves' FBS era, he has been equally dangerous in the passing game. His 246 completions and 2,874 passing yards are both the fourth most in school history, while his 61.3 completion percentage is the sixth highest. He needs just 126 more passing yards to become the second player in A-State history with 3,000 in a season and four more completions would make him the second player with 250 in a year as well.
A FLARE FOR THE DRAMATIC: Junior RB Michael Gordon is responsible for two of the three longest plays this season by an A-State player, and he has been a part of 11 plays covering at least 30 yards. Gordon is averaging 7.1 yards per rushing attempt, which is ranked sixth in the nation. He has recorded nine career runs covering at least 40 yards, including seven this season:
92 yd TD vs UAPB (2013); 70 yd TD vs ULL (2014); 68 yd vs ULM (2014); 64 yd TD vs Troy (2013); 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)
ANOTHER 100: Arkansas State junior running back Michael Gordon has recorded five 100-yard rushing games this season, giving him nine total for his career. Over the last eight games, Gordon is averaging 122.4 rushing yards per game. His 106.4 yards per game for the entire season ranks fourth in the Sun Belt Conference and 27th in the nation.
REACHING 1,000: Despite missing more than two full games with an injury, junior running back Michael Gordon has rushed for 1,064 yards this season to become the 15th player in school history to reach the 1,000-yard milestone. With 1,863 career rushing yards, he needs just 137 more to become the 12th player in school history to record 2,000 in a career. Additionally, he has 23 career rushing touchdowns and 13 this season that both rank as the seventh most in school history.
WALK-ON 100: Redshirt freshman and walk-on running back Johnston?White has started three games and also performed well in a back-up role this season with 498 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns that both rank third on the team. He has posted two 100-yard rushing games this season, including 100 yards against Utah State and a career-high 110 against New Mexico State.
HOUSTON, WE DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM: Junior wide receiver Tres Houston ranks first on the team in receptions (51), second in receiving yards (607) and tied for second in receiving touchdowns (3). Stepping into a starting role this season, Houston's numbers have risen significantly after he posted eight receptions for 44 yards all of last season. Ranking 10th in the Sun Belt Conference in receptions, he needs just two more to take over 10th place in school history for a single season.
MAKE IT COUNT: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Dijon Paschal has emerged as one of the most dangerous receiving threats in the Sun Belt Conference this season, averaging 17.4 yards per reception that is the highest in the league among the top-10 leaders in receiving yards. Among all players in the nation that have at least 600 receiving yards, Paschal's 17.4 average is the 26th highest in the nation. He leads A-State in receiving yards (642) and ranks 10th in the Sun Belt in the stat.
RECEIVING RECORDS: Just a junior, J.D. McKissic is already taking 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 (230). He is ranked third for career receiving yards with 2,202 to his credit and has nine receiving touchdowns that rank tied for ninth. He is the only player in school history to have 70 or more receptions in two different seasons.
DEFENSIVE TEAM NOTES
LOCK IT DOWN: Arkansas State is not only ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference in fourth down percentage defense and third in third down situations, they are among the nation's leaders in both categories. A-State is ranked 18th and 29th in the nation in 3rd and 4th downs percentage defense, respectively. They have just a .344 conversion percentage on third downs and a .409 percentage on fourth downs.
FORCING TURNOVERS: Arkansas State recorded a season-high eight turnovers gained versus Idaho and now has 27 total for the season that ranks 18th in the nation. The Red Wolves have recorded nine interceptions and eight fumble recoveries over the last five games. One of the fumbles recovered was returned a school-record 93 yards by junior corner Rocky Hayes for a touchdown, while corner Artez Brown had a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown and corner Andrew Tryon had a 46-yard touchdown on a pick return.
WINNING THE TURNOVER BATTLE: Arkansas State has won or tied the turnover battle in nine games this season, ranking tied for second in the Sun Belt Conference and 27th in the nation in turnover margin at +7. A-State has 15 interceptions (29th in the nation) and 12 fumble recoveries (25th in the nation) for 27 forced turnovers that are its most since posting 29 in 2011.
SCORING DEFENSE: Arkansas State has held five opponents to 14 points or less this season. The last time A-State held five or more opponents to 14 points or less in a season was 1986 when it did so 10 times. The Red Wolves have won 17 consecutive games when holding an opponent to 17 point or less.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK: Arkansas State recorded a combined 36 sacks during the regular season, giving it a 3.0 average per game that ranks 12th in the nation. The Red Wolves had six sacks against Montana State, which were its most since posting the same number against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in its 2013 season opener. Through 12 games, A-State has already passed its total (26) for all of last season. The last time the Red Wolves had more than 36 sacks in a season was 2002 when it had 39. A-State's 36 sacks are just two shy of the fourth most in Sun Belt Conference history as well.
PLAYING BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE: Twenty-seven players have combined to record 82 tackles for loss over the first 12 games of the season, giving the Red Wolves a 6.8 average per game that ranks 28th in the nation. A-State has surpassed its total (71) for last season, and the last time the Red Wolves had more than 82 tackles for loss in a season was 2011 when it had 99.
PICK IT OFF: Seven A-State players have combined for 15 interceptions this season, and the Red Wolves have picked off at least one pass in nine of their last 13 games dating back to the 2014 GoDaddy Bowl. The Red Wolves' 15 interceptions are the most in the Sun Belt Conference and rank as the 18th most in the nation. A-State had a season-high four interceptions versus Idaho and three a week later against South Alabama.
PROFICIENT PASS DEFENSE: Arkansas State leads the Sun Belt Conference in pass defense efficiency and ranks among the top 50 teams in the nation in completion percentage defense, pass yards allowed, pass touchdowns allowed and interceptions. The Red Wolves gave up over 300 yards passing just twice this season, while holding five teams to no more than 206 yards through the air.
UNDER 100: A-State has held three teams, including Georgia State, ULM and Montana State, to under 100 yards rushing this season. The Red Wolves have allowed a player from five teams this year to rush for over 100 yards individually.
LOADED SECONDARY: Arkansas State's secondary has combined to start 157 career games, which is among at least the six highest in the nation. A-State's players in the defensive backfield with starting experience include Sterling Young, Chris Humes, Money Hunter, Artez Brown, Andrew Tryon, Rocky Hayes, Frankie Jackson, Sterling Wright and Charleston?Girley.
DEFENSIVE INDIVIDUAL NOTES
AMONG THE LEAGUE LEADERS: Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee leads the team and is ranked eighth in the Sun Belt Conference in tackles, averaging 8.0 per game. Lee is also ranked 11th in the nation in solo tackles this season, averaging 6.2 per game (70 total). His 96 total tackles are 10 more than the Red Wolves' second leading tackler Xavier Woodson, who is ranked 17th in conference.
ANOTHER 100: Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee has 96 tackles this season, leaving him just four shy of becoming the first A-State player since Mike Morris (1980-82) to post at least 100 stops in three straight seasons. Lee, who has recorded a double-figure stops total in 14 games during his career (including the last three in a row), ranked 12th in the nation last season in tackles with a career-high 134 to his credit. He enters the GoDaddy Bowl needing four tackles for the second most in Sun Belt Conference history and 19 to break the record.
RARE COMPANY: Sophomore linebacker Xavier Woodson is one of just two players in the Sun Belt Conference ranked among the league's top 17 players in tackles for loss?(9.0), sacks (4.0) and tackles (86). He has posted a double-figure tackles total three times this season and four times during his career, including a career-high 14 versus Louisiana-Lafayette.
LEAVE NO STONE UNBLOCKED: Junior defensive end Chris Stone has recorded at least a half-sack in eight of 12 outings this season, giving him 7.5 on the year that ranks sixth in the Sun Belt Conference. Additionally, he has at least one tackle for loss in nine of 12 games this year for a 9.5 total that ranks 12th in the Sun Belt. Last season, he posted a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss that ranked 11th in the league. He entered the season with four career sacks, already topping that total over A-State's first 12 games this season.
TRY-THIS-ON FOR SIZE: Andrew Tryon established himself as one of the top defensive backs in the Sun Belt Conference this season, posting nine pass break ups and two interceptions to rank second in the league in passes defended. He also recorded a career-best 62 tackles to rank fourth on the team and tied for 39th in the nation. Tryon finished the 2014 regular season just 22 tackles shy of his career total for the previous three seasons (84).
NOSE FOR THE BALL: Senior safety Sterling Young, a four-year starter in A-State's secondary, has proved himself as one of the team's top ball hawks over his career. The senior standout who has started 44 consecutive games has posted 13 combined interceptions (7) and fumble recoveries (6) over his career.
ACTIVE ARTEZ: Senior corner Artez Brown is the only player in the Sun Belt Conference ranked among the top seven players in both passes defended (7th) and interceptions (4th), and he has recorded a career-high four interceptions this season which are also tied for the most on the team with linebacker Qushaun Lee.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
COVERED UP: Arkansas State is ranked as one of the top 20 teams in the nation in both kickoff and punt coverage, ranking seventh and 14th respectively. The Red Wolves have allowed just 16.8 yards per kickoff return and 3.6 yards per punt return. A-State is also ranked 29th in the nation in net punting, averaging 39.8 yards that ranks tied for the fourth highest in Sun Belt history.
KICKBACK: Arkansas State is ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference and 32nd in the nation in kickoff return average with 22.5 yards per return that ranks tied for the fourth highest in school history. Although he suffered a season-ending injury in the eighth game of the season, true freshman Daryl Rollins-Davis holds a team-high 425 return yards.
TOUCHDOWN TAYLOR: True freshman Blaise Taylor, who became the first A-State player to return a punt for a touchdown since the 2007 season, was recently named to the All-Sun Belt Conference team as a return specialist. Currently ranked 37th in the nation in punt return average (8.0 ypr), Taylor's 225 punt return yards are the fifth most in school history and he had 104 in one game (vs. Appalachian State) that ranks as the 10th most in the nation this season.
ON THE RETURN: Despite taking over kickoff return duties late in the season and returning just eight kicks, true freshman Blaise Taylor has posted 232 yards that are the second most on the team. He is averaging 29.0 yards per return which whould rank seventh in the nation if he met the minimum number of returns required. Taylor recorded over 100 punt and kickoff return yards combined in each of the last three regular-season games.
BIG BOOT: Junior quarterback and punter Stephen Hogan recorded just 11 punts on the season (10 over the last four games of the season), but made them count. In fact, he broke the school record for average yards per punt (vs. Appalachian State) with a 58.0 average on three attempts. He ended the regular season averaging 45.5 yards per punt, which would have ranked tied for fifth in the nation if he met the minimum number of punts required.
THREE'S COMPANY: A-State saw three different players named the Sun Belt Conference?Special Teams Player of the Week this season. Junior punter and kicker Luke Ferguson was named both the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week and a College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) national Honorable Mention Specialist of the Week for his performance against Montana State. Senior cornerback Artez Brown earned the recognition for his performance against Utah State, most notably for blocking a Utah State field goal attempt to force overtime. True freshman Blaise Taylor earned the honor after returning a punt for a touchdown against Appalachian State.
INSIDE THE 20: Junior punter Luke Ferguson recorded a career-best 22 punts inside the 20-yard line this season for a 1.8 average per game. He placed 42.3 percent of his punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line for the 11th highest percentage in the nation. He pinned the opponent inside its own 20-yard line at least one time in all but two games this season.