A-State at Memphis in-depth preview

A-State at Memphis in-depth preview

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A-STATE (0-0) at MEMPHIS (0-0)

7 p.m. Saturday

Liberty Bowl, Memphis

RADIO: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network

TV: ESPN

LIVE STATS: AStateStats.com

LIVE GAME NOTES: twitter.com/AStateGameDay

THE PRINCIPALS: The Red Wolves enter their seventh season under head coach Blake Anderson after completing their 2019 campaign with an 8-5 overall record and ninth consecutive bowl-game appearance.  A-State returns 48 lettermen and 13 starters, highlighted by eight All-Sun Belt selections from a year ago.  Memphis enters its first season under head coach Ryan Silverfield after coming off a 12-2 season that saw the Tigers play in the Cotton Bowl and complete the year ranked No. 17 in both the Associated Press Top 25 and Coaches Poll.

AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . :  mark A-State’s first season-opening victory over an FBS opponent since defeating Texas A&M 18-14 in 2008 . . . give it a season-opening victory for the second time over the last three seasons . . .

move its all-time record against American Athletic Conference members to 3-3 . . . give the Red Wolves’ their third season-opening win under head coach Blake Anderson . . . improve its all-time record against Memphis to 24-29-5.

A-STATE-MEMPHIS SERIES:  Arkansas State has played Memphis more than any other opponent in school history, and Saturday’s game will mark the 59th meeting all-time between the two schools since 1914.  Memphis leads the all-time series 29-23-5, but A-State has won four of the last six meetings.  The two programs last met in 2013 with Memphis collecting a 31-7 home victory.  Including 2020, the Red Wolves and Tigers are slated to play each other eight of the next 10 years (home-and-home 2020-23 & 2026-29).

BY THE NUMBERS...

1 of just two all-time programs to win five Sun Belt Conference championships.

4 consecutive years A-State had a player named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.

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).

6 A-State players named Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference.

7 or more victories each of the last nine seasons (2011-19) -- first time in school history.

9 offensive starters, including all five offensive linemen, returning from the 2019 season.

9 straight bowl-game appearances (2011-19) - school record & the 14th longest active streak in the nation.

9 consecutive winning seasons (2011-19) by A-State for the first time in school history.

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.

15 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-19).

30 or more points scored by A-State in 70 of its last 106 regular-season games (66 percent).

36 all-time Sun Belt wins under Blake Anderson are the second most in league history by any head coach.

47 of the last 50 games the A-State defense has recorded at least one sack.

47 victories under Blake Anderson (2014-19) are the most by an A-State head coach over his first 6 seasons.

48 of the last 55 games with at least 5.0 tackles for loss by the A-State defense.

56 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last nine (2011-19) seasons (56-17 league record).

58 previous A-State games played against Memphis, the most of any opponent in school history.

61.7 winning pct. (79-49) from 2010-19 for A-State was the 2nd highest in program history for any decade.

75 victories by A-State over the last nine seasons (2011-19) ranks tied for the 24th most in the nation.

88 all-time Sun Belt victories by A-State -- the most in the history of the league by any program.

140 consecutive passes by Logan Bonner without an interception, the sixth longest streak in FBS.

300 or more yards total offense in 107 of last 128 games (84%), including all but five under Blake Anderson.

400 or more yards total offense in 53 of 77 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).

SIX YEARS RUNNING:  Blake Anderson is the only head coach in Arkansas State history to win 47 or more games over his first six years at the school.  Additionally, he is one of just three head coaches at A-State to  ever direct the program to at least 47 wins in 76 or fewer games -- Forrest England also won 47 games over the same span between 1946-53 and Bennie Ellender won 52 times over his first 76 games between 1963-70.

DOUBLE DIGITS:  Including three victories last season, 38 of the Red Wolves’ 47 wins under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points.  At the same time five of their nine single-digit victories under Anderson were posted last season.  That was the program’s most single-digit wins in one year since the 1982 season when it also had five.  Arkansas State has outscored its opponents 1,967-969 in the 47 wins under Anderson for a 21.2-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.

Coach (School) Wins

Larry Blakeney (Troy) 52

Blake Anderson (Arkansas State) 36

Scott Satterfield (App State) 34

A-STATE vs AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE:  Arkansas State holds an all-time 29-38-5 record against current members of the American Athletic Conference.  While the Red Wolves are set to face a team competing as a member of the league at the time of the game for just the sixth time in school history, this will be the fifth consecutive season they have played an AAC foe.  Their five previous games against the AAC came in 2013 (L 31-7 at Memphis), 2016 (W 31-13 vs UCF in the Cure Bowl), 2017 (L 44-21 at SMU), 2018 (W 29-20 at Tulsa) and 2019 (L 37-30 vs SMU).  A-State has also played the following current AAC teams, although they weren’t members of the league at the time of the games:  Cincinnati (1-1), East Carolina (0-2) and Navy (0-1).

FOR STARTERS:  Since moving to FBS status in 1992, the Red Wolves have posted a 6-22 record in season openers.  The Red Wolves’s most recent season-opening victory came in 2018 when they topped Southeast Missouri State by a 48-21 score.  Their six season-opening victories since moving to FBS status include:

2018 vs Southeast Missouri State ( W, 48-21)

2014 vs Montana State (W, 37-10)

2013 vs UAPB (W, 62-11)

2008 at Texas A&M (W, 18-14)

2006 vs Army (W, 14-6)

1995 vs Utah State (W, 21-17)

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

PRESEASON ALL-SUN BELT:  Including three first-team and three second-team selections, A-State placed six players on the Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team.  Representing the Red Wolves on the first team were senior offensive lineman Jarrett Horst, senior wide receiver Jonathan Adams Jr. and junior kicker Blake Grupe.  A-State’s second-team choices included senior offensive lineman Jacob Still, senior defensive lineman Forrest Merrill and junior safety Antonio Fletcher.  The Red Wolves’ six selections tied Coastal Carolina for the third most in the conference, while Appalachian State placed a league-high 10 different players on the preseason team.  Louisiana followed with nine players appearing on the team and 10 total selections.

BOWL ELIGIBLE:  Arkansas State has obtained bowl eligibility status each of the last nine years (2011-19) and 12 times over the last 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.

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 have 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.

A-STATE vs THE SUN BELT:  Arkansas State has won 56 of its last 71 Sun Belt Conference games (.789 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 88-51.  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.

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.

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 will kick off its 106th season of football Sept. 5 against Memphis at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.  A-State holds a 481-492-37 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).

OFFENSIVE NOTES

300-PLUS:  Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards total offense in 116 of its last 128 games (.906 percentage).  A-State has produced 300 yards in 71 of 77 games during the Blake Anderson era.

400-PLUS:  Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 53 times over its last 77 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 17 of their last 20 games.

LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD:  The Red Wolves have posted at least 30 points in 70 of their last 106 regular-season games (66 percent) dating back to the 2011 season.  The Red Wolves have won 55 of their last 64 games when scoring at least 30 points.

DEFENSIVE NOTES

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 48 of their last 55 games.  A-State has ranked among the top 13 teams in the nation three of the last four seasons (2016-19) in tackles for loss.

GETTING TO THE QB:  A-State has ranked among the top 27 teams in the nation in sacks four of the last six years (2014-19), posting a combined 202 sacks over that span.  The Red Wolves have recorded at least one sack in 47 of their last 50 games dating back to the 2016 season.

PICK IT OFF:  Arkansas State posted at least one interception in nine games last year, continuing to be an opportunistic defense over the last six seasons (2014-19) when the ball has been put in the air.  During that time span, A-State has intercepted 91 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 63 of its last 77 games dating back to the 2014 season.  The Red Wolves have ranked among the top 30 teams in the nation in turnovers gained three of the last six years (2014-19), and their combined 147 forced turnovers over that span are tied for the 10th 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 last 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 last six seasons.

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