Georgia State at A-State in-depth preview

Georgia State at A-State in-depth preview

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Georgia State (1-1, 0-1) at A-State (2-2, 0-1)
6:30 p.m. Thursday
RADIO: 107.9 FM Jonesboro, 106.7 FM Little Rock
TV: ESPN
LIVE STATS: AStateStats.com
LIVE GAME NOTES: twitter.com/AStateGameDay

THE PRINCIPALS:  The Red Wolves evened their overall record last week to 2-2 with a 50-27 victory over Southland Conference member Central Arkansas in their 2020 home debut.  A-State, 0-1 in conference action, now turns its sights back to Sun Belt play when it hosts a Georgia State that also sits 0-1 in the league standings.

AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . :  give it five consecutive home wins . . . run the Red Wolves’ all-time record against Georgia State to 6-1 . . . move its record to 26-7 over its last 33 games played in the month of October . . . improve its record to 17-5 over its last 22 midweek (Tue.-Thur.) games . . . make Blake Anderson one of just four head coaches in school history to win 50 games at A-State and the first to reach the milestone in seven seasons or less . . . give it a 3-2 record after five games for the fourth consecutive season.

THE ARKANSAS STATE-GEORGIA STATE SERIES:  Arkansas State holds a 5-1 all-time record against Georgia State in the series that dates back to just 2013.  The Red Wolves and Panthers met four consecutive years from 2013-16, but didn’t play each other in 2017.  The series resumed in 2018 with a 51-35 A-State victory, although Georgia State collected its first win in the series last season as it topped the Red Wolves 52-38 in Atlanta.  Four of the six games between the two programs have been decided by at least 14 points.

BIG DAY FOR BOWLING:  Senior wide receiver Brandon Bowling put together his first career 100-yard receiving performance with 115 yards and a career-best two touchdowns on seven receptions against Coastal Carolina on Oct. 3.  He hauled in the two longest receptions of his career, one going for 44 yards and the other covering 35.  He entered the game with two receptions for 35 yards on the season.

BY THE NUMBERS...

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

3 consecutive A-State road games to start a season for the first time since 1999.

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).

5 receiving touchdowns by Jonathan Adams Jr. are the fourth most in the nation.

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

8.3 tackles for loss per game by the A-State defense is the 17th highest average in the country.

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.

11.8 yards allowed per kickoff return by A-State is the fifth best average in the nation.

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).

16 A-State wins over its last 21 midweek (Tue.-Thur.) games.

18 A-State players made their first career start with the Red Wolves over the first four games.

25 wins by A-State over its last 32 games played in the month of October.

30 or more points scored by A-State in 72 of its last 110 regular-season games (65 percent).

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

49 victories under Blake Anderson (2014-20) are the most by an A-State head coach over his first 7 seasons.

50 of the last 54 games the A-State defense has recorded at least one sack.

52 of the last 59 games with at least 5.0 tackles for loss by the A-State defense.

56 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last 10 (2011-20) seasons (56-18 league record).

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

77 victories by A-State over the last 10 seasons (2011-20) ranks tied for the 23rd most in the nation.

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

342.5 passing yards per game by A-State is the eighth highest in the nation.

300 or more yards total offense in 111 of last 132 games (84%), including all but five under Blake Anderson.

400 or more yards total offense in 56 of 81 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).

SEVEN YEARS RUNNING:  Blake Anderson is the only head coach in Arkansas State history to win 49 or more games over his first seven years at the school.  Additionally, he is one of just three head coaches at A-State to  ever direct the program to at least 49 wins in 80 or fewer games -- Forrest England won 49 of 79 total games between 1946-53 and Bennie Ellender won 52 times over his 76 games total games between 1963-70.

DOUBLE DIGITS:  Thirty-nine (39) of the Red Wolves’ 49 wins under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points.  At the same time five of their 10 single-digit victories under Anderson have been posted over the Red Wolves’ last nine outings dating back to last season.  Last season, A-State collected the program’s most single-digit wins (5) in one year since the 1982 season when it also had five.  Arkansas State has outscored its opponents 2,052-1,028 in the 49 wins under Anderson for a 20.9-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

TULSA GAME POSTPONED:  Arkansas State announced on Sept. 23 that its game against Tulsa, originally scheduled for Sept. 26, was postponed due to being unable to assemble a full two-deep depth chart at one specific position group.  Arkansas State and Tulsa officials are mutually working together to find a new date to reschedule the game, and the A-State Athletics Department will provide an update when available.

A-STATE vs THE SUN BELT:  Arkansas State has won 56 of its last 72 Sun Belt Conference games (.778 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 88-52.  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 69-17 (.802 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 44 of their last 54 home outings.  The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 161-80-1 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.

THREE ROAD OUTINGS START 2020 SEASON:  Arkansas State played its first three games on the road this season for the first time since 1999.  Records also indicate that in addition to 1999, the 2020 season marks just the second time in school history that A-State played its first three games on the road.  The Red Wolves didn’t play their first home game until Oct. 10, which was the latest date for an A-State home opener since Oct. 14, 1950.

ON THIS DATE:  Dating back to 1926, Arkansas State holds a 3-7 record when playing on Oct. 15.  While the Red Wolves dropped their first four games played on the date, they have won three of their last six.  The last time A-State played on Oct. 15 was in 2016, when it knocked off South Alabama 17-7 at Centennial Bank Stadium.  Prior to that game, A-State had not played on the date since falling 15-6 at Memphis in 1994.  In addition to South Alabama, Arkansas State holds victories over Louisiana Tech (21-7 in 1983) and Murray State (44-0 in 1966) when playing on Oct. 15.

RED WOLVES OCTOBER:  Arkansas State holds a 25-7 record over its last 32 games played in the month of October.  A-State had won 11 games in a row during the month prior to falling to Appalachian State on Oct. 9, 2018.

MIDWEEK MADNESS:  Historically, A-State has performed well in midweek games (Tue.-Thur.) since joining the Sun Belt Conference.  The Red Wolves hold a 20-8 record in all midweek games since its 2001 inaugural year in the league.  They have won 16 of their last 21 midweek contests.

FOR STARTERS:  Eighteen (18) A-State players made their first career start with the Red Wolves over the team’s first four games of the season.  The total includes seven offensive and 11 defensive players.

OFFENSE (7):  Brandon Bowling (WR), Avery Demmons (OL), Dahu Green (WR), Jamal Jones (RB), Ethan Miner (OL), Wyatt Luebke (OL), Roshauud Paul (WR)

DEFENSE (11):  Elery Alexander (S), Taylon Doss (CB), Jaden Harris (LB), Kenneth Harris (CB), Tahj Herring-Wilson (CB), Fred Hervey (LB), Amir Howard (S), Noel Iwuchukwu (DL), Samy Johnson (CB), Justin Rice (LB), Vidal Scott (DL)

IMMEDIATE IMPACT:  Twenty-eight (28) A-State players have earned their first playing time with the Red Wolves this season, including 11 true freshmen, seven FBS transfers and six junior-college transfers who are all new additions to the Red Wolves’ roster in 2020.

TRUE FRESHMEN (11):  Jack Bullard (DS), Taylon Doss (CB), Antwon Fegans (S), Kenneth Harris (CB), Elliott Nimrod (K), Lincoln Pare (RB), Corey Rucker (WR), Javar Strong (S), Trevian Thomas (S), Israel Whitmore (LB), Austin Woods (OL)

FBS TRANSFER (7):  Giles Amos (Sr., TE), Ryan Hanson (R-Fr./P), Javan Hawes (Jr./WR), Tahj Herring-Wilson (CB), Roshauud Paul (Jr./WR), Justin Rice (Sr./LB), Kennan Solomon (Jr./DL)

JC TRANSFER (6):  Avery Demmons (Jr./OL), Booker Ficklin (Jr./CB), CJ Harris (R-Fr./DB), Fred Hervey (Jr./LB), Quinton Lee (DL), Vidal Scott (Jr./DL)

NON-CONFERENCE RECAP:  With its 50-27 win over UCA on Oct. 10, A-State improved to 2-1 in non-conference games. In the process, the Red Wolves secured at least a .500  non-conference record for the third consecutive season, fourth time under head coach Blake Anderson and sixth time over the last 10 seasons, but just the seventh time since to FBS status in 1992 (1995, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2019, 2020).  A-State posted a winning non-conference record (3-1) in 2018 for the first time since 1995 (3-2).

ROAD WARRIORS:  Arkansas State has won 27 of its last 37 conference road games dating back to the 2011 season.  A-State had won 10 consecutive conference road games, its longest streak ever as a member of any league, before falling to Western Kentucky in its last regular-season game of 2013.

THE NOMINEES ARE...:  As selected by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), the four nominees for the Reveal Suits National Team of the Week included Arkansas State after the Red Wolves defeated Kansas State 35-31 in Manhattan on Sept. 12.  Fellow Sun Belt member Louisiana earned the weekly award after defeating No. 23 Iowa State 31-14 in Ames.

POWER PLAY:  With its 35-31 road win over Kansas State, the Red Wolves collected their first win over a Power 5 conference opponent since defeating Texas A&M 18-14 in 2008.  It also marked their second win over a Power 5 team since moving to FBS status in 1992.  In the process, A-State handed Kansas State its first defeat in a home opener since a loss to North Dakota State in 2013.  The Red Wolves’ victory also marked just the eighth time an opponent had defeated K-State over the Wildcats last 84 regular-season non-conference home games.

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

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

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.

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 120 of its last 132 games (.909 percentage).  A-State has produced 300 yards in 75 of 81 games during the Blake Anderson era.

400-PLUS:  Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 56 times over its last 81 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 20 of their last 24 games.

LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD:  The Red Wolves have posted at least 30 points in 72 of their last 110 regular-season games (65 percent) dating back to the 2011 season.  The Red Wolves have won 57 of their last 66 games (86 percent) when scoring at least 30 points.

TOUCHDOWN STRIKE:  Junior quarterback Logan Bonner has thrown at least one touchdown pass every game this season and in seven of eight games as a starter, including six outings with multiple touchdown passes.  During his eight starts since 2019, he has posted 18 touchdown passes and has 20 for his career.  He has completed at least one touchdown pass to eight different receivers, including Omar Bayless (7), Kirk Merritt (3), Jonathan Adams (3), Dahu Green (3), TW Ayers (1), Brandon Bowling (1), Corey Rucker (1) and Christian Booker (1).

TOUCHDOWN STRIKE (PART II):  Including the last three games this season, sophomore quarterback Layne Hatcher has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 13 of 15 career games.  Additionally, he has thrown at least two touchdowns in 11 outings and has 33 career touchdown strikes, which are the sixth most in school history.  He has thrown at least one touchdown to six different receivers, including Omar Bayless (11), Kirk Merritt (9), Jonathan Adams (7), Brandon Bowling (4) Giles Amos (1) and Reed Tyler (1).

TAG TEAM:  Through four games, the A-State quarterbacks combo of Logan Bonner and Layne Hatcher is averaging 326 passing yards per game that would be the eighth highest average of any single quarterback in the nation.  They have also combined for 14 passing touchdowns that would be tied for the second highest total in the country.  Between the two of them, they have 418 career completions for a combined 5,554 yards and 53 touchdowns.

SPREADING THE WEALTH:  A-State has 15 players who have recorded at least one reception this season.  Through just four games, that is already the same amount of players who caught a pass for the Red Wolves for all of last season.  The Red Wolves have seen at least seven players catch a pass in all four games this season and at least nine post a reception in three of four outings, including a season-high 10 against both Kansas State and Coastal Carolina.  A-State has seven players with at least five catches this year, while it had eight players with at least five for all of last season.

ON A ROLL:  Senior wide receiver Jonathan Adams Jr. has posted at least six catches in each of A-State’s first four games and his 6.5 receptions (26 total) per game ranks 16th in the nation.  Dating back to the 2017 season, the Jonesboro, Ark., native has caught multiple passes in 19 consecutive games.  He has 113 career receptions that are eight shy of the 10th most in school history.

IN THE NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT:  Biletnikoff Award Watch List member Jonathan Adams Jr. put together one of his best career games on a huge stage during the Red Wolves’ 35-31 win at Kansas State.  He was catapulted into the national spotlight, garnering interviews from media members such as Reggie Bush with FOX and multiple national awards.  Following his performance that included eight catches for 98 yards and a career-high three touchdowns, he was named the national Player of the Week by the Maxwell Award and 247Sports and Offensive Player of the Week by Athlon Sports and the Frisco Bowl.  He was also tabbed the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week.

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 52 of their last 59 games.  A-State has ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation four of the last five seasons (2016-20) in tackles for loss

GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK:  A-State has ranked among the top 36 teams in the nation in sacks four of the last seven years (2014-20), posting a combined 209 sacks over that span.  The Red Wolves have recorded at least one sack in 50 of their last 54 games dating back to the 2016 season.

PICK IT OFF:  Dating back to last season, A-State has intercepted at least one pass five of its last six games and continues to be an opportunistic defense over the last seven seasons (2014-20) when the ball has been put in the air.  During that time span, A-State has intercepted 95 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 66 of its last 81 games dating back to the 2014 season.  The Red Wolves have ranked among the top 30 teams in the nation in turnovers gained four of the last seven years (2014-20), and their combined 154 forced turnovers over that span are tied for the sixth 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 seven seasons (2014-20).  In fact, the 2015 season saw the Red Wolves record an FBS-high eight defensive touchdowns.  The Red Wolves have 26 total defensive touchdowns over the last seven seasons.

TACKLE MACHINE:  Senior safety Elery Alexander completed each of the last three games as A-State’s leading or second-leading tackler, recording nine stops against Kansas State, a career-high 10 against Coastal Carolina and seven against Central Arkansas.  A junior college transfer in 2019, Alexander entered the Kansas State game with 12 career tackles (11 in 2019) at A-State.  Alexander currently leads the team with 27 tackles this season, which ranks 15th in the Sun Belt Conference (6.8 tpg).

THAT’S A FIRST:  Not only did sophomore safety Anthony Switzer record a career-high nine tackles against Coastal Carolina, he collected his first career interception and forced fumble on back-to-back series in the second half.

NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK:  Senior linebacker Justin Rice was named the Walter Camp  FBS Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 11 after recording 12 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks during A-State’s 50-27 win over Central Arkansas.  Rice, who posted career-best totals for both tackles for loss and sacks, is the first A-State player to ever be named a Walter Camp national player of the week.  Not only were his 3.0 sacks the most by a Sun Belt player this season, they tied the seventh most in A-State history for a single game.  He also tied the most single-game tackles for loss in the nation this season.  His 12 tackles were a personal season-high and marked the ninth time of his career he posted a double-figure stops total.  Rice has now posted at least 2.5 tackles for loss in each of the Red Wolves’ last three games, and his 9.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for the entire year lead the country.  He is currently tied for eighth in the nation in sacks with 4.0 to his credit.  Rice was also tabbed the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Bears.

DEFENSIVE STAND:  Arkansas State limited Kansas State to 374 yards total offense (5.4 yards per play) and 91 rushing yards (2.3 yards per attempt).  The last time A-State held a Power 5 conference opponent to less than 374 yards total offense was Missouri in 2015, when the Tigers posted 288 yards.  K-State’s rushing output was the lowest by an A-State opponent from a Power 5 conference since at least 2000.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
HANSON EARNS SBC WEEKLY HONOR:  Redshirt freshman punter Ryan Hanson was named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week on Oct. 12 after posting new season-best numbers for punts (5), yards (260), average (52.0), punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line (3) and longest punt (69 yards) during A-State’s victory over Central Arkansas.  His 52.0 average per attempt was the best by a Sun Belt player this season and ranked as the fifth best in school history for a single game.  Hanson leads the Sun Belt Conference in punting average at 45.8 yards per attempt.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:  Junior kicker Blake Grupe was named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after connecting  on his only field goal try and converting all three of his extra point attempts to finish the Red Wolves’ season opener at Memphis with six points.  Grupe earned the recognition for the third time of his career, also collecting the honor twice last season as a sophomore.

KICKOFF RETURNS:  Junior wide receiver Roshauud Paul has posted eight kickoff returns for 215 yards, giving him a 26.9 average per return that ranks as the 13th highest in the country and second best in the Sun Belt Conference.  Paul’s top return this season covered 45 yards at Kansas State.  The Red Wolves top kick returner last season, Kirk Merritt, finished the season with 415 yards and a 27.7 average per return that ranked as the fourth highest in school history.

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