A-State at Tennessee in-depth preview
A-State (1-0) at Tennessee (1-0)
11 a.m. Saturday
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Radio Network (107.9 FM Jonesboro, 93.3 FM Little Rock)
TV: SEC Network
Live Stats: AStateRedWolves.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
THE PRINCIPALS: A-State picked up a season and home-opening victory over then FCS-ranked No. 19 Montana State last Saturday, running its record to 29-11 over the last four seasons. The Red Wolves' 29 victories over that span are tied for the 19th most in the nation. Tennessee is also off to a 1-0 start after a 38-7 home win over Utah State. The Volunteers won their 20th consecutive home opener, improving their all-time record in such games to 88-24-6.
ASU hc BLAKE ANDERSON
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : make it 2-0 for the first time since 2008 . . . give the Red Wolves their first ever victory over an SEC opponent . . . give it a road victory over a non-conference opponent for the first time since 2008 . . . give it three consecutive wins dating back to last season . . . improve its record over the last four seasons to 30-11 . . . give the Red Wolves their first win over a high resource (Power 5) conference since defeating Texas A&M in 2008 while the Aggies were a member of the Big 12 Conference.
ARKANSAS STATE - TENNESSEE SERIES: Saturday's game will mark just the second all-time meeting between Arkansas State and Tennessee. The Volunteers claimed a 48-27 home victory over A-State in 2007 in front of a crowd of 102,368, the largest ever to watch an Arkansas State game.
A-STATE vs. THE SEC: Tennessee will be Arkansas State's third SEC opponent over the last two seasons after facing Missouri and Auburn a year ago. 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. A-State defeated Ole Miss 10-0 in 1915 and has also tied the Rebels twice. The Red Wolves defeated Texas A&M 18-14 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.
TENNESSEE RED WOLVES: A-State has six players on its roster from the state of Tennessee, including Daryl Rollins-Davis (Knoxville, Tenn.), TeDarius Turner (Memphis), Johnston White (Covington, Tenn.), Darius Buckley (Memphis), Ben Gallagher (Germantown) and Chase Robinson (Memphis).
ASU 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 last 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 comes to A-State after spending the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at North Carolina.
STARTING FRESH: The Red Wolves had six players make their first career start last week versus Montana State, including six on offense and one on defense. Those players included offensive linemen Jemar Clark, Devin Mondie and Tyler Greve, wide receiver Dijon Paschal, quarterback Fredi Knighten and defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones.
NEW FACES: Arkansas State had 12 true freshmen play in the season opener last week and 25 players, including redshirt freshmen and sophomores, see their first game action at A-State.
HOME OPENERS: With its 37-10 victory over Montana State, Arkansas State won its 10th consecutive home opener at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to the 2005 campaign. The Red Wolves now stand 30-11 all-time in home openers at the stadium and are also 16-6 in such games since moving to the FBS in 1992.
SEASON OPENERS: A-State won its season opener for the second consecutive year for the first time since 2008 and 2009. The last time Arkansas State won its first two games of a season was 2008 when it defeated Texas A&M and Texas Southern to begin the year.
A-STATE vs. THE FCS: Arkansas State played an FCS member for the fourth consecutive season and sixth time over the last seven years. Dating back to the 2002 campaign, the Red Wolves have won their last 10 games against FCS foes by a combined 525-81 score. A-State's last setback against an FCS opponent was the 2001 regular-season finale when it dropped a 28-22 decision to Nicolls State. The Red Wolves are now 21-4 against FCS opponents since moving to the FBS?in 1992.
STARTING STRONG: 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).
RED WOLVES TABBED SECOND IN PRESEASON SBC POLL: The Red Wolves were picked second in the preseason coaches poll announced in conjunction with the league's annual Media Day. ?A-State received 102 points behind Louisiana-Lafayette, which received 121 points and all 11 first-place votes.
PRESEASON ALL-SUN BELT CONFERENCE: Arkansas State placed 10 players on the 2014 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team, which tied Louisiana-Lafayette for the most in the league. Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee was named the conference's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and he was joined on the first team by four other teammates. The Red Wolves placed four offensive and six defensive players on the all-conference squad, while junior receiver J.D. McKissic also made the team as a return specialist.
CENTENNIAL SEASON: Arkansas State kicked off its 100th season of football on Aug. 30 vs Montana State. A-State now holds a 435-462-37 record since the inaugural season and has played in 10 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. In honor of its 100th football season, the athletics department has created a microsite that can be viewed at AStateFootball100.com.
SUN BELT CHAMPIONS: Arkansas State claimed its third consecutive Sun Belt Conference championship in 2013. A-State has won 10 conference championships all-time. It won the Southland Conference seven times (1986, 1985, 1978, 1975, 1970, 1969, 1968). A-State also won the 2005 Sun Belt Conference title, but it was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions. Prior to the 2011-13 seasons, the last time A-State won three straight conference championships was 1968-70 when it was a member of the Southland Conference.
A WINNING RECORD: Arkansas State secured its third straight winning season in 2013 for the first time since 1985-87. A-State won 10 games in both 2011 and 2012, while collecting eight victories last season. The Red Wolves' 28 total victories since 2011 are the most over a three-year span since winning 29 games from 1985-87.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Entering the opening week of the season, Arkansas State had 27 (28 this week) combined freshmen and sophomores on its depth chart to tie for the 10th most in the nation. The Red Wolves' 10 seniors (nine this week) on the depth chart was tied for the 10th fewest in the country.
OVER .500 IN THE SUN BELT: With a 5-2 conference record last season, A-State posted a winning Sun Belt record for the sixth time since the league's inaugural season in 2001. A-State has put together three straight winning records against conference opponents for the first time since 1984-86 when it was a member of the Southland Conference.
FOUR-YEAR WINS TOTAL: Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012, eight more in 2013 and a season-opening win this year, the Red Wolves have recorded 29 victories that are tied for the 19th most in the nation over the last four years.
THREE-PEAT: Last year, Arkansas State became the third program in Sun Belt history to claim at least a share of the conference championship in three consecutive seasons, joining Troy (2006-10) and North Texas (2001-04). The Red Wolves also won three league championships in a row for the just the second time in school history, also claiming the Southland Conference titles from 1968-70.
HOME SWEET HOME: With a 5-1 home mark last season, Arkansas State secured its ninth consecutive winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. A-State?is now 42-9 at Centennial Bank?Stadium since the 2005 season and has won 17 of its last 19 home games. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank?Stadium is 134-72-1 since it opened in 1974. A-State's six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.
TEN FORMER WALK-ONS EARN SCHOLARSHIP: Head coach Blake Anderson announced during A-State's fall camp that 10 former walk-ons to the Red?Wolves football team have been awarded full athletics scholarships. While some of the 10 have been placed on scholarship in the past, they have all been a walk-on member of the team at some point during their careers. The list includes Brock Barnhill, Travis Bodenstein, William Boyd, Darius Buckley, Ryan Eustace, Charleston Girley, Ryan Jacobs, Booker Mays, TeDarius Turner and Raziel Velgis.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas Statenhas posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 46 of its last 52 games.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: A-State has posted at least 30 points in 26 of its last 36 regular-season games dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 16 of their last 17 games when scoring at least 30 points.
TAKING OVER AT QB: In his first career start, junior quarterback Fredi Knighten led Arkansas State to a 37-10 victory over No. 19 FCS-ranked Montana State while setting career highs for total offense, passing, rushing, receiving and all-purpose yards. Knighten was responsible for 323 yards total offense and 219 passing, 104 rushing and 149 all-purpose yards - all game highs. He also hauled in his first career reception that went 45 yards and set up his 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Darion Griswold, giving A-State a 23-10 lead with 1:53 remaining in the third quarter. Knighten went over 100 yards rushing for the second time of his career, and his total included a 33-yard run to the Montana State 4-yard line early in the fourth quarter to set up the Red Wolves' third touchdown of the game. His passing numbers included a career-high 19 completions on 29 attempts without an interception.
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.
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 (185). He is ranked sixth for career receiving yards with 1,755 to his credit and has nine receiving touchdowns rank tied for ninth. He is the only player in school history to have 70 or more receptions in two different seasons.
ON A ROLL: A Freshman All-America selection in 2011 and Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-America in 2012, sophomore WR?J.D. McKissic has caught at least one pass in all 27 games of his career at A-State. His 27 consecutive games with a reception is tied for the 12th longest streak in the nation. He had a school-record 15 against Missouri last season. McKissic also has five career 100-yard receiving games.
100-YARD RUSHER: Junior RB Michael Gordon. Gordon accumulated over 100 yards rushing a team-high four times last season, including two of the last three regular-season games. Gordon posted 606 of his 754 rushing yards in conference games, averaging 86.6 yards per contest that ranked second in the league.
GRISWOLD BREAKS OUT: Senior tight end Darion Griswold enjoyed a break-out season last year, catching 24 passes for 312 yards. His receptions total was the most in a season by an A-State tight end since Trevor Gillott recorded 24 in 2009 as well, while his 312 receiving yard were the most by a player at the position since David Johnson had 356 in 2008.
A FLARE FOR THE DRAMATIC: Sophomore RB?Michael Gordon was responsible for three of the four longest runs by A-State last year, including a 92-yard outburst against UAPB?that was the second longest in school history. Gordon posted a 64-yard touchdown run against Troy and had a 40-yard touchdown rush against Texas State as well. He had a 42-yard run against Montana State last week, giving him four career carries that went for at least 40 yards -- and he also scored a touchdown on all four.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK: Arkansas State recorded six sacks against Montana State, which was its most since posting the same number against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in its 2013 season opener. A-State's six sacks tied the second most in the nation during week one of the season.
PLAYING BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE: The Red Wolves also recorded 10 tackles for loss, its most since posting 15 against UAPB as well. A-State had 11 different players post at least 0.5 tackles for loss in the game against Montana State. The Red Wolves 10 tackles for loss tied the fifth most in the nation during week one.
LOADED SECONDARY: Arkansas State's secondary has combined to start 102 career games, which is among the sixth highest in the nation. Just UTSA, Virginia, Colorado, Ole Miss and Arizona have more. 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 and Charleston Girley.