UAPB at A-State in-depth preview

UAPB at A-State in-depth preview

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UAPB (1-1) at A-STATE (0-1)
6 p.m. Saturday
Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro
RADIO:  EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM, flagship)

LAST WEEK: Arkansas State dropped a narrow 43-36 decision Sept. 2 at Nebraska, which remains its lone game played entering its home opener against UAPB, after Saturday’s game against No. 17/15 Miami was canceled.

AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . :  move its all-time record versus UAPB to 2-0 and keep the Red Wolves undefeated versus SWAC members with an 8-0 mark . . . give it a 1-1 or better record after two games for the first time since 2014 when it defeated Montana State before falling to Tennessee . . . mark its 13th win over its last 14 games played against an FCS opponent . . . give it 31 wins over its last 37 games played at Centennial Bank Stadium, including the last five in a row . . . give the Red Wolves 53 victories over the last seven seasons . . . mark the first time since 2014 it won its home opener, but still give the Red Wolves 11 wins over the last 13 seasons in its first game played  at Centennial Bank Stadium  . . . mark A-State’s 25th win under head coach Blake Anderson, making him the sixth all-time A-State head coach to reach the mark.

THE ARKANSAS STATE - UAPB SERIES:  While Arkansas state first fielded a football team in 1911 and UAPB has been playing football since 1928, Saturday’s game will be just the second ever meeting between the two in-state programs.  At the same time, the two teams’ first meeting occurred just five seasons ago in 2013, when the Red Wolves claimed a 62-11 victory in Bryan Harsin’s debut as A-State’s head coach.  The Red Wolves jumped out to a 48-0 halftime lead in that game and finished with 672 yards total offense to the Golden Lions’ 173.  Arkansas State’s total offense in that game ranks as the third most in school history.

1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 33 of 40 games under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
1 of just two programs in league history owning five Sun Belt Conference championships.
1 touchdown reception needed by Dijon Paschal to tie the seventh most in school history.
1 sack needed by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones to tie the 19th most in NCAA FBS history.
1 victory needed to give Blake Anderson his 25th career victory as head coach at Arkansas State.
2 touchdown pass needed by Justice Hansen to tie the 7th most in school history.
4 consecutive home victories by A-State.
5 different watch lists (Bednarik, Nagurski, Hendricks, Senior Bowl, College Gridiron Showcase NFL) for Ja’Von Rolland-Jones.
5 Sun Belt Conference championships (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016) over the last six seasons.
5 head coaches over the last 8 years (Steve Roberts, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Bryan Harsin, Blake Anderson).
5 or more tackles for loss recorded by A-State in 18 consecutive games.
6 current A-State players have already earned their degree.
6 straight bowl game appearances (2011-16) -- a school record.
6 consecutive winning seasons (2011-16) by A-State for the first time since 1912-17.
7 players named to the Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team (8 selections).
7 or more victories each of the last six seasons (2011-16) -- first time in school history.
7 different players named to at least one major award watch list.
8 of last 11 years w/at least one NFL Draft selection.
9 of the last 12 seasons (2005-16) have seen A-State reach bowl eligibility, including the last six in a row.
9.6 tackles for loss per game last season by A-State was the highest average in the nation.
11 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 14 years, including 2015.
12 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-16).
13 players named 2017 All-Sun Belt Conference by at least one preseason publication.
22 of A-State’s 24 victories under HC Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.
25 career rushing touchdowns by Johnston White are the seventh most in school history.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 47 of its last 72 regular-season games (65 percent).
30.5 career sacks by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones are both school and Sun Belt Conference records.
32 first downs vs. Nebraska tied the sixth most in school history.
36 points scored against Nebraska was A-State’s most ever vs a current team in a Power 5 conference.
40 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last six (2011-16) seasons (40-7 league record).
52 victories by A-State over the last six seasons ranks tied for the 27th most in the nation.
106 consecutive games played without A-State being shutout.
200 or more yards passing by Justice Hansen six of the last eight games and eight times total.
292 or less yds total offense allowed by A-State’s defense four of the last five games, dating back to 2016.
300 or more yds total offense in 80 of last 91 games (88 pct.), including all but 5 games under Blake Anderson.
497 yds total offense vs Nebraska were A-State’s most in a season opener vs an FBS opp since 530 vs Oregon in 2012.
844 career punt return yards by Blaise Taylor are the most in school history & 2nd most in Sun Belt history.

THE PRINCIPALS:  A-State enters Saturday’s game with an 0-1 record after piling up 497 yards total offense against Nebraska and taking the Huskers all the way to the last play of the game in Lincoln.  Dating back to last season, the Red Wolves will carry a four-game home winning streak into the contest.  UAPB stands 1-1 on the young season, opening with a 23-10 home victory against Morehouse College before falling on the road last week at Akron, 52-3.

HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, a 17-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 A-State to back-to-back Sun Belt Conference championships (2015 and 2016), as well as three straight winning seasons and bowl game appearances (2016 Cure Bowl, 2015 New Orleans Bowl and 2014 GoDaddy Bowl) his first three years at the helm.  Under his direction, the Red Wolves have also set new school records for total offense (6,174 yards in 2014), average yards total offense (476.5 yards per game in 2014), total plays (1,024 in 2014), points scored (520 in 2015), touchdowns scored (69 in 2015) and interceptions (26 in 2015).  During his first three years at the helm of the program, he saw 29 of his players earn 45 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 (2014) 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 were Bryan Harsin (2013), Gus Malzahn (2012) and Hugh Freeze (2011).

FOUR YEARS RUNNING:  Even with at least 10 games remaining on its 2017 schedule, Blake Anderson is already the first head coach in Arkansas State history to win 24 or more games over his first four seasons at the school.  Additionally, he is the just the second head coach at A-State to win 24 games in 40 or fewer contests -- Bennie Ellender reached 24 victories in 37 games from 1963-67.

DOUBLE DIGITS:  Seven of A-State’s eight wins last season came by at least 10 points.  Additionally, all nine of its wins during the 2015 season and six of its seven in 2014 came by a double-figure margin, meaning 22 of the Red Wolves’ 24 wins 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.

A-STATE vs. THE SWAC:  Arkansas State has played six current members of the SWAC a combined seven times, standing 7-0 in those games.  The Red Wolves have outscored their opponents 362-21 in those outings.  SWAC members A-State has faced include Grambling (1985), Jackson State (1987), Mississippi Valley State (1995, 2009), Texas Southern (2008), Alcorn State (2012) and UAPB (2013).  Dating back to its 2008 game versus Texas Southern, the Red Wolves haven’t allowed a score in 12 of the last 13 quarters against a SWAC team.

IN-STATE FOES:  Arkansas State is set to play an in-state foe for the second consecutive year and fourth time since 2011.  The Red Wolves have played 10 colleges/universities located in The Natural State, including UALR, Arkansas-Monticello, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Lyon College, Arkansas Tech, UCA, Henderson State, 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.

A-STATE vs. FCS:  Arkansas State is playing an FCS member for the seventh consecutive season and ninth time over the last 10 years.  Dating back to the 2002 campaign, the Red Wolves have won 12 of their last 13 games against FCS foes.  A-State has posted 674 points to its FCS opponents’ 123 during those 13 games for an average margin of 42.3 points per game.  The Red Wolves’ lone setback during that time came last season, 28-23 against UCA.

HOME OPENERS:  Although A-State has dropped its home opener the last two seasons, the Red Wolves have still won their first game at Centennial Bank Stadium in 10 of the last 12 seasons dating back to 2005.  Arkansas State stands 30-13 all-time in home openers at the stadium and is also 16-8 in such games since moving to FBS status in 1992.

HOME SWEET HOME: Arkansas State has strung together 12 consecutive years (2005-16) with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves are now 55‐13 (.809 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 30 of their last 36 home games. The Red Wolves actual on‐field record all‐time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 147‐76‐1 since it opened in 1974. A‐State’s six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.

SIX-YEAR WINS TOTAL:  Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012, eight more in 2013, seven in 2014, nine in 2015 and eight last year, the Red Wolves have recorded 52 victories that are tied for the 27th most in the nation over the last seven seasons.

THAT’S A FIRST:  The Red Wolves had eight players start their first career game as a member of the A-State program in the season opener against Nebraska, including four offensive linemen, one wide receiver, one defensive lineman and a pair of safeties.  The list included Jaypee Philbert (LT), Dalton Ford (LG), Jacob Still (C), Lanard Bonner (RT), Justin McInnis (WR), BJ Edmonds (S), Darreon Jackson (S) and Javier Carbonell (DL).

ON THAT NOTE:  Not only did A-State have eight players make their first start with the Red Wolves, 22 different players took their first snap ever as a member of the team.  The squad’s current 2-deep features 20 of 53 players (38 percent) listed who had never played a snap as an A-State player entering this season.

PRESEASON PREDICTIONS:  Back-to-back league champion Arkansas State was tabbed third in the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Coaches Poll after receiving one first-place vote and 122 total points.  The Red Wolves finished just five points behind Troy, while Appalachian State was chosen the favorite with 136 points.  Although A-State has won five of the last six Sun Belt Conference championships, it has never been picked to win the league in the preseason coaches poll.  At the same time, A-State has been picked to finish among the top three teams in the league nine of the last 12 years.

SEVEN RED WOLVES NAMED PRESEASON ALL-SBC:  The 2017 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team featured seven Arkansas State players, including senior defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones as the Defensive Player of the Year.  The Red Wolves had eight total selections, including senior cornerback Blaise Taylor as a first-team return specialist and second-team defensive back.  Joining Taylor and Rolland-Jones as first-team choices were senior tight end Blake Mack, senior linebacker Kyle Wilson and junior defensive back Justin Clifton.  Representing A-State on the second team were senior wide receiver Dijon Paschal and senior defensive lineman Dee Liner, in addition to Taylor.  The Red Wolves eight total selections were the third most in the league behind Appalachian State's 12 and Troy's nine.

SUN BELT CHAMPS:  Arkansas State 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 -- Troy is the other with five as well.  Arkansas State is the only FBS program in the nation to win five conference titles over the last six seasons, and the Red Wolves hold a 40-7 Sun Belt record during that time.  The Red Wolves’ 7-1 Sun Belt record this season matched the 2012 squad for their third best record ever in the league -- Arkansas State went 8-0 in both 2011 and 2015.

BOWL ELIGIBLE:  With a 7-5 regular-season record, A-State was bowl eligible for the sixth consecutive season in 2016 and ninth time over the last 12 years.  Since joining the FBS in 1992, Arkansas State became bowl eligible in 10 games or less for the sixth time (2011-16).  The earliest A-State ever became bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 through eight games.

SIX STRAIGHT:  Arkansas State has secured six consecutive seasons (2011-16) with a winning record for the first time since 1912-17.  The Red Wolves have piled up 52 victories from 2011-16 for its most over a six-year span in the program’s 103-year history.  A-State has never produced seven consecutive winning seasons.

TOP 25:  Arkansas State was receiving votes in both the Associated Press (2 points) and Coaches (6 points) Top 25 polls at the end of the 2015 regular season, making  it the fourth season since 2011 that A-State was included among “others receiving votes” at one point during the year.  The Red Wolves also earned votes in 2011, 2012 and 2013.  A-State’s most ever points in the Associated Press (28) and Coaches (23) Top 25 came in the 2012 final polls.

103RD SEASON:  Arkansas State kicked off its 103rd season of football Sept. 2 at Nebraska.  A-State holds a 458-478-37 record since the inaugural season and has played in 13 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.

“1” OF A KIND:  Research indicates that senior cornerback and return specialist Blaise Taylor is the only current FBS player in the nation to earn both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees before the start of his true senior season, which has brought him national notoriety.  He was recently featured in a Sports Illustrated article written by Bruce Feldman, drawing attention to his many accolades in the class room.  He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and received his MBA this summer.

WATCH ME, WATCH ME:  Arkansas State has seven different players on at least one of the major watch lists for the 2017 season, including three who play on the offensive side of the ball and four on the defensive.  All combined, A-State has a player on 10 different major watch lists.

JUSTICE HANSEN:  Johnny Unitas Golden Arm
DEE LINER:  Senior Bowl
BLAKE MACK:  John Mackey
JA’VON ROLLAND-JONES:  Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski, Ted Hendricks, Senior Bowl
BLAISE TAYLOR:  Paul Hornung, Wuerffel Trophy
WARREN WAND:  Doak Walker

Arkansas State scored 36 points against Nebraska, which was its most ever against a team currently in a Power 5 conference.  A-State’s second highest total was 34 points scored against then-ranked No. 5 Oregon in 2012 (HC Gus Malzahn) and 34 versus Indiana in 2010 (HC Steve Roberts) . . . The Red Wolves also recorded 32 first downs, which tied the sixth most in school history and were their most since posting a school-record tying 34 against New Mexico State in 2011.

300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 80 of its last 91 games (.879 percentage).  A-State went over 300 yards in all 13 games during head coach Blake Anderson’s first season, while also reaching the mark 11 times in 2015, 10 times in 2016 and once this season (35 of
40 games).

400-PLUS:  Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 24 times over its last 40 games (60 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach.  The Red Wolves recorded 497 yards total offense in their only game this season.

Including six of the last seven contests, the Red Wolves have now posted at least 30 points in 47 of their last 72 regular-season games (65 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 35 of their last 40 when scoring at least 30 points.

NOW THAT’S JUSTICE:  Junior quarterback Justice Hansen was named College Sports Madness’ Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against Nebraska.  Hansen recorded a school-record 46 completions for 415 yards and three touchdowns.  He completed 67 percent of his passing attempts, while his 46 completions also tied the second most in Sun Belt Conference history and are currently the most in the nation this season.  His 415 yards were the second most of his career, fourth most in school history and is currently tied for the seventh most in the nation this season.

HITTING THE MARK:  Including the Nebraska game, junior quarterback Justice Hansen has now thrown multiple touchdown passes seven times during his career, including the last three games in a row dating back to last season.  He has thrown for at least 200 yards eight times, 300 three times and 400 twice.  Dating back to last season, Hansen has passed for at least 200 yards his last two games and in six of his last eight.

MULTIPLE WEAPONS:  Nine different A-State players caught at least one pass against Nebraska, including five wide receivers that set career highs for either receptions and/or receiving yards.  Chris Murray hauled in a team-high nine catches for 90 yards, which were both career highs.  Kendrick Edwards made his A-State debut with eight catches for 100 yards, while Christian Booker and Omar Bayless both posted a career- high seven receptions each.  Justin McInnis finished the game with a career-high three catches as well.

MAKING A MOVE:  Junior Blake Mack changed positions from wide receiver to tight end last season, and he has transitioned well with 39 receptions for a team-high 702 yards and four touchdowns during that time.  His first two seasons combined at wide receiver, Mack posted 17 receptions for 235 yards.

FINDING THE END ZONE:  A former walk-on and Burlsworth Trophy nominee, senior running back Johnston White recorded a team and career-best 14 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore and now has 25 running scores during his career.  White’s 25 career rushing touchdowns are the seventh most in school history.

APPROACHING 2,000:  Running back Warren Wand finished the Nebraska game with 69 rushing yards on 12 carries for a 5.8 average.  He pushed his career rushing total to 1,657 yards, leaving him 343 away from becoming the 13th player 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.  He entered the season 1,588 yards, the most over a freshman and sophomore season since Reggie Arnold ran for 2,136 combined yards in 2006 and 2007.

16 OR LESS: 
Arkansas State has allowed 16 points or less in six of its last nine games and given up a combined 152 points over that span (16.9 per game), which is the lowest total for nine consecutive games by the Red Wolves in their FBS history.  The Red Wolves have won their last 38 straight games when holding their opponent to no more than 10 points.  A-State has won 25 consecutive games when holding its opponent to 17 points or less.

A LOSS ON THE PLAY:  Dating back to the 2016 season, the Red Wolves have posted at least five stops behind the line of scrimmage in 18 consecutive games.  Arkansas State led the nation in tackles for loss per game last season with a 9.6 average.

IMPRESSIVE START:  Sophomore safety B.J. Edmonds made the most of his first career start, recording a career-high nine tackles against Nebraska.  He topped his previous high of eight set against Louisiana-Monroe last season.  He also added a pass break-up against the Husker.

REACHING DOUBLE DIGITS:  Senior linebacker Kyle Wilson recorded a team-high 10 tackles against Nebraska, which were just three shy of his career high.  While he reached double digits for just the second time of his career, he also recorded nine tackles against Auburn last season.  Wilson also finished the Nebraska game with one tackle for loss, which counted as A-State’s first safety since its 2011 season opener at Illinois - a span of 77 games.

PLAYING IN THE BACKFIELD:  Senior defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones already holds the A-State and Sun Belt Conference records for sacks in a career with 30.5 to his credit, but is now also within 13.5 of tying the NCAA FBS record currently held by Terrell Suggs (Arizona State, 2000-02).  He has also recorded at least a half TFL in 25 of his last 31 contests dating back to his freshman year, and he has 45.5 during his career.

Arkansas State has ranked among the top 15 teams in the nation in defensive touchdowns each of the last three seasons (2014-16) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.  In fact, the 2015 season saw the Red Wolves record an FBS-high eight touchdowns.  A-State posted four defensive touchdowns in 2014 to rank No. 14, while also recording four in 2016 that ranked eighth.  The Red Wolves have 16 total defensive touchdowns over the last three seasons.

Since taking over placekicking duties for A-State in last season’s Cure Bowl, sophomore Sawyer Williams has connected on all three of his field goal attempts and is a perfect 8-of-8 on his extra points.  He made a career-high two field goals, including a career-long of 39 yards, against the Huskers, while also finishing the game with a career-best 10 points.

ELITE KICKOFF COVERAGE:  Arkansas State has ranked among the top four teams in the nation in kickoff return defense two of the last three years (2014-16) and among the top 18 teams all three seasons under special teams coordinator Luke Paschall.  A-State allowed just a 16.1 average last season to rank 3rd in the nation, while the 2015 squad ranked 18th (18.7 avg.) and the 2014 team No. 4 (16.3 avg.).

BLOCK THAT KICK:  Arkansas State has recorded nine blocked kicks over the past two seasons (2015-16), including five last year that ranked as the fifth most in the nation and four in 2015 to rank the Red Wolves No. 7.  The totals over the last two seasons include two blocked punts (both last season) and seven blocked field goals/extra points.

ON THE RETURN:  Senior cornerback Blaise Taylor has become one of the most prolific punt return men in both Arkansas State and Sun Belt Conference history, ranking No. 1 at A-State in career punt return yards and No. 2 among all-time Sun Belt players.  He has four punt returns for a touchdown and has gone over 100 return yards twice, including a career-high 111 yards against New Mexico State in 2015.

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