A-State at No. 1 Alabama in-depth preview
A-STATE (1-0) at No. 1 Alabama (1-0)
2:30 p.m. Saturday
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
RADIO: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)
LIVE STATS: AStateStats.com
LIVE GAME NOTES: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
THE PRINCIPALS: The Red Wolves claimed a 48-21 home victory last week against Southeast Missouri State, collecting its first season-opening victory since 2014. The preseason Sun Belt Conference favorite in the league’s annual coaches poll, A-State entered the season receiving votes in both Associated Press Top 25 and Coaches Poll for the first time since gaining FBS status in 1992. Alabama picked up a 51-14 season-opening victory over Louisville and will carry a 16-game winning streak in home openers into Saturday’s game. A-State will make its second all-time apperance at Bryant-Denny Stadium, where the Crimson Tide boasts the fourth-best all-time home winning percentage in FBS at .827 (259-53-3) since the stadium opened in 1929.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : give the Red Wolves their first 2-0 start to a season since 2008 . . . mark its second win over a high resource (Power 5) conference team since moving to FBS status in 1992, and its first since defeating Texas A&M in 2008 while the Aggies were a member of the Big 12 Conference . . . give the Red Wolves their first win over an SEC opponent . . . mark the third time A-State has defeated a top-25 opponent over the last six seasons . . . snap Alabama’s 16-game winning streak in home openers.
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, an 18-year coaching veteran at the NCAA FBS level who also coached in an NJCAA National Championship game, was named the Red Wolves’ 30th all-time head football coach on Dec. 19, 2013. Anderson led the Red Wolves to Sun Belt Conference championships in 2015 and 2016, as well as four consecutive winning seasons and bowl-game appearances (2017 Camellia Bowl, 2016 Cure Bowl, 2015 New Orleans Bowl, 2014 GoDaddy Bowl) during his first four seasons leading the program. Under his direction, the Red Wolves have set nine new single-season school records for average yards total offense (494.8 yards per game in 2017), first downs (322 in 2017), first downs passing (190 in 2017), passing yards (4,106 in 2017), passing touchdowns (38 in 2017), points scored (520 in 2015), touchdowns scored (69 in 2015), total offense (6,174 yards in 2014) and total plays (1,024 in 2014). During his first four years at the helm of the program, he has seen 41 of his players earn 64 All-Sun Belt Conference selections -- the most in the league over that span.
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).
FIVE YEARS RUNNING: Despite A-State being just one game into the 2018 season, Blake Anderson is already just the second head coach in Arkansas State history to win 32 or more games over his first five seasons at the school. He needs one more win to hold the most victories by any A-State coach over his first five seasons at the school. Additionally, he is just the third head coach at A-State to direct the program to 32 wins in 52 or fewer games -- Bennie Ellender reached 32 victories in 52 games from 1963-68, while Bill Davidson claimed 32 wins over his first 51 games between 1971-75.
DOUBLE DIGITS: Including the Red Wolves’ 2018 season opener, 30 of the Red Wolves’ 32 victories under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points. The only exceptions were a 21-14 overtime win over Utah State in 2014 and a 27-26 victory over Georgia Southern in 2016.
CLIMBING THE LADDER: Blake Anderson has led the Red Wolves to a pair of Sun Belt titles and collected 26 league wins along the way, which are the fifth most ever by any of the conference’s all-time head coaches. Anderson has the opportunity to climb as high as second on that list this season.
Coach (School), Wins
Larry Blakeney (Troy), 52
Rick Stockstill (Middle Tennessee), 32
Rickey Bustle (Louisiana), 31
Darrell Dickey (North Texas), 29
Scott Satterfield (Appalachian State), 27
Blake Anderson (Arkansas State), 26
THE ARKANSAS STATE - ALABAMA SERIES: Arkansas State and Alabama have met twice before with Alabama claiming 34-7 victory in 1982 and, most recently, a 35-0 win in 2008 when the Crimson Tide was ranked No. 2 in the nation. While the two squads will meet for the third time, Saturday’s game will be just the second between the two teams at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The 1982 game was played at Birmingham’s Legion Field with Larry Lacewell serving as A-State’s head coach and Bear Bryant leading the Crimson Tide. Both attended Fordyce (Ark.) High School and Lacewell served as a graduate assistant coach at Alabama under Bryant during the 1959 season. Announced prior to this season, a new “Larry Lacewell Award” has been created that will feature the names of future A-State Football MVP’s. Lacewell, Arkansas State’s all-time leader in coaching victories, led the program to the 1986 national championship game.
A-STATE vs. SEC: The Crimson Tide will be Arkansas State’s sixth SEC opponent over the last six seasons after facing Auburn in both 2016 and 2013, Missouri in both 2015 and 2013 and Tennessee in 2014. Although A-State has never defeated a team while it was a member of the SEC, it has picked up victories over two current schools prior to them joining the league. The Red Wolves defeated Ole Miss 10-0 in 1915 and also tied the Rebels twice. A-State defeated Texas A&M in 2008 as well while the Aggies were a member of the Big 12 Conference. A-State has played Ole Miss 23 times, more than any other current SEC member.
TAKING ON THE CHAMP: Arkansas State will play a defending national champion for the first time since 2004 when it played then-ranked No. 4 LSU following its 2003 title season. Like Alabama, A-State also played LSU in the second game of its 2004 season.
ALABAMA RED WOLVES: The Red Wolves have seven players on their roster from the state of Alabama, the third most among all states outside of Arkansas. A-State has 13 players on its roster from the state of Texas and eight from Missouri. Out of the seven players from Alabama, six of them are listed on A-State’s current depth chart and all but one have started at least one career game.
Derrick Bean (Pinson, Ala.)
Caleb Bonner (Reform, Ala.)
Lanard Bonner (Birmingham, Ala.)
Brandon Byner (Bessemer, Ala.)
BJ Edmonds (Mobile, Ala.)
Trent Ellis-Brewer (Daphne, Ala.)
Griffin Riggs (Auburn, Ala.)
FOR STARTERS: The Red Wolves defeated Southeast Missouri State 48-21 last week to claim its first season-opening victory since picking up a 37-10 win over Montana State in 2014, Blake Anderson’s first year at A-State. Since moving to FBS status in 1992, the Red Wolves have now posted a 6-21 record in season openers. In addition to its season-openings wins this year and in 2014, Arkansas State also began the 2013 (62-11 vs. UAPB), 2008 (18-14 at Texas A&M), 2006 (14-6 vs. Army) and 1995 (21-17 vs. Utah State) seasons with wins. The last time A-State started a season with back-to-back wins was 2008, when it defeated Texas A&M and Texas Southern in its first two outings.
HOME OPENERS: With its win over Southeast Missouri State, Arkansas State has now won its first game at Centennial Bank Stadium 12 of the last 14 seasons dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves stand 32-13 all-time in home openers at the stadium and are also 18-8 in such games since moving to FBS status in 1992.
TAKING ON THE TOP 25: Arkansas State is set to play a top-25 ranked opponent at the time of the game for the first time since going on the road to defeat No. 25 Troy in 2016. The Red Wolves only other victory over a top-25 team since joining the FBS in 1992 came against No. 25 Kent State in the 2013 GoDaddy Bowl.
HOME SWEET HOME: Arkansas State has strung together 13 consecutive years (2005-17) with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves are now 60-14 (.811 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 35 of their last 42 home games. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 152-77-1 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.
WATCH ME, WATCH ME: Arkansas State has six different players on at least one major watch list for the 2018 season, including four who play on the offensive side, two on defense and one on special teams. All combined, A-State has a player on 13 different major watch lists.
LANARD BONNER (1): Outland
JUSTIN CLIFTON (3): Nagurski, Thorpe, Wuerffel
CODY GRACE (1): Ray Guy
JUSTICE HANSEN (8): Walter Camp, Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Wuerffel, Golden Arm, Manning, CFPA National Performer of the Year, Senior Bowl
RONHEEN BINGHAM (1): Senior Bowl
WARREN WAND (1): Doak Walker
PRESEASON ALL-SUN BELT: Senior quarterback Justice Hansen was tabbed the 2018 Preseason Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year and was one of nine Red Wolves, including six first-team selections, named to the league’s Preseason All-Conference Football Team. A-State’s nine players earning the recognition were the second most in the conference behind only Troy, which had 10 players and 11 total selections on the lineup. Including Hansen, Warren Wand (Sr., RB), Justin McInnis (Sr., WR), Lanard Bonner (Sr., OL), Ronheen Bingham (Sr., DE) and Justin Clifton (Sr., DB), the Red Wolves’ six first-team picks tied Troy for the most in the conference. Earning a place on this year’s Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team for A-State were B.J. Edmonds (Jr., DB), Cody Grace (Jr., P) and Jacob Still (So., OL).
BOWL ELIGIBLE: Arkansas State has obtained bowl-eligible status each of the last seven years (2011-17) and 10 times over the last 13 seasons. Since joining the FBS in 1992, Arkansas State has become bowl eligible in nine games or less five times (2011, ‘12, ‘14, ‘15, ‘17). The earliest A-State ever became bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 through eight games.
SEVEN STRAIGHT: Arkansas State has secured a winning record in a school-record seven consecutive seasons (2011-17). The next longest streak was six straight seasons from 1912-17. The Red Wolves have piled up 59 victories from 2011-17 for its most over a seven-year span in the program’s 103-year history.
SUN BELT CHAMPS (5 of 7): Arkansas State is the only FBS program in the nation to win five conference championships over the last seven years. The Red Wolves most recently claimed the 2016 Sun Belt Conference championship, giving it back-to-back titles with a combined 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 all-time SBC titles.
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 46 of its last 55 Sun Belt Conference games (.836 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 78-45. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 25. A-State has 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 its inaugural football season.
104TH SEASON: Arkansas State kicked off its 104th season of football Sept. 1 at home against Southeast Missouri State. A-State holds a 466-481-37 record since the inaugural season and has played in 15 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.
JUSTICE SERVED: Senior quarterback Justice Hansen was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, recognizing his record-setting performance against Southeast Missouri State. He set a school record with six touchdown passes and finished the night 26-of-36 passing with 423 yards. All six touchdowns went to different receivers, and he became the first Sun Belt quarterback to toss six or more touchdown passes since Giovanni Vizza of North Texas had eight against Navy on Nov. 10, 2007.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 92 of its last 103 games (89 percentage). A-State has produced 300 yards in 47 of 52 games under head coach Blake Anderson, including the last 13 in a row.
300-PLUS YDS OFFENSE
2014 season 13 of 13 games
2015 season 11 of 13 games
2016 season 10 of 13 games
2017 season 12 of 12 games
2018 season 1 of 1 games
TOTALS 47 of 52 games
400-PLUS: Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 34 times over its last 52 games (65 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach. The Red Wolves went over 400 yards in nine of its 12 games last season. A-State averaged a school-record 494.8 yards per game, which ranked 10th in the nation last season.
400-PLUS YDS OFFENSE UNDER ANDERSON
2014 season 9 of 13 games
2015 season 9 of 13 games
2016 season 5 of 13 games
2017 season 10 of 12 games
2018 season 1 of 1 games
TOTALS 34 of 52 games
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including 14 of the last 18 contests, the Red Wolves have now posted at least 30 points in 55 of their last 83 regular-season games (66 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 43 of their last 48 games when scoring at least 30 points.
QUARTERLY REPORT: Last season, A-State scored at least three points in 40 of 48 quarters for an .833 percentage that was the highest under head coach Blake Anderson. A-State’s second highest percentage of quarters scored under Anderson came in 2014, when it put points on the board in 43 of 52 quarters for an .827 percentage. The Red Wolves scored in three quarters during their 2018 season opener.
HITTING THE MARK: Junior quarterback Justice Hansen has thrown at least one passing touchdown in 18 consecutive games and two or more touchdown passes in 14 of his last 15 outings. He has thrown multiple scoring passes in 18 career games. The former Oklahoma transfer has thrown for at least 200 yards 20 times, 300 ten times and 400 five times during his three-year career at A-State. Dating back to the 2015 season, Hansen has passed for at least 200 yards his last 14 games and in 18 of his last 20.
ECLIPSING 2,000: Running back Warren Wand has pushed his career rushing total to 2,335 yards, making him one of 14 players in A-State history to post 2,000 in a career. He recorded 709 yards in 2015 for the most by a true freshman at A-State since Lamont Zachery ran for 846 in 1996.
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 29 of its last 30 games. A-State posted a season-high 13 tackles for loss in 2017 versus Texas State and has now recorded at least 10 in five of the last eight games.
A-STATE TFL NATIONAL RANKINGS
Yr. Avg. Rank
2016 9.6 1st
2017 8.3 6th
2018 11.0 8th
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK: A-State has ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation in sacks four of the last five years, including the last three in a row (2016-18) when it posted a combined 82 sacks over that span. The Red Wolves have recorded at least one sack in 25 consecutive games dating back to the 2016 season.
A-STATE SACKS NATIONAL RANKINGS
Yr. Avg. Rank
2014 2.9 17th
2015 2.4 41st
2016 3.3 6th
2017 2.9 19th
2018 4.0 13th
UNDER 300: Arkansas State held five opponents under 300 yards total offense each of the previous two years (2016-17), matching its combined total for the two seasons prior to that (2014-15). Dating back to the 2016 campaign, the Red Wolves have held 10 of their last 17 opponents to under 300 yards total offense.
PLAYING THE PERCENTAGES: A-State has consistently put up strong defensive numbers in third and fourth-down situations over the last five seasons (2014-18), ranking no worse than 36th nationally in either category every year. The Red Wolves’ best third-down ranking (for a full season) came in 2015 at No. 19, while they finished among the top 10 teams on fourth down each of the last two seasons (2016-17).
A-STATE 3RD/4TH DOWN DEFENSE NATIONAL RANK
Yr 3rd% Rank 4th% Rank
2014 .359 27th .435 36th
2015 .335 19th .333 11th
2016 .356 30th .250 4th
2017 .330 21st .364 9th
2018 .143 7th .000 1st
PICK IT OFF: A-State has proved to be an opportunistic defense the previous four seasons (2014-17) when the ball has been put in the air, intercepting a combined 67 passes over that time that ranked as the fourth most in the nation over that span. The only teams with more interceptions were San Diego State (77), Louisville (71) and Ohio State (71).
A-STATE INTERCEPTIONS NATIONAL RANK
Yr No. Rank
2014 16 15th
2015 26 1st
2016 .11 58th
2017 14 32nd
Totals 67 4th
FORCING TURNOVERS: Arkansas State has recorded at least one turnover gained in 43 of 52 games (83 percent) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen. The Red Wolves have ranked among the top 29 teams in turnovers gained three of the previous four years as well (2014-17), and their combined 108 forced turnovers over that span were the fifth most in the nation.
A-STATE TURNOVERS GAINED NATIONAL RANK
Yr Turnovers Gained Rank
2014 28 21st
2015 34 2nd
2016 22 46th
2017 24 29th
Totals 108 5th
DEFENSE IS THE BEST OFFENSE: Arkansas State has ranked among the top 21 teams in the nation in defensive touchdowns each of the previous four seasons (2014-17) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen. In fact, the 2015 season saw the Red Wolves record an FBS-high eight touchdowns. The Red Wolves had 19 total defensive touchdowns over the previous four seasons (2014-17).
A-STATE DEFENSIVE TOUCHDOWNS NATIONAL RANK
Yr No. Rank
2014 4 14th
2015 8 1st
2016 4 8th
2017 3 21st