Louisiana at A-State in-depth preview

Louisiana at A-State in-depth preview

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LOUISIANA (4-2, 1-1) at A-STATE (3-3, 1-1)
6:30 p.m. Thursday
Allison Field at Centennial Bank Stadium
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 will play their only midweek (Tue.-Thur.) game of the season when they host Louisiana in their first matchup of the year against a Sun Belt Conference West Division opponent.  A-State had a five-game Sun Belt winning streak snapped its last time out, falling 52-38 at Georgia State on Oct. 5.  The Red Wolves enter the game with a 3-3 overall mark and 1-1 record in league play, while Louisiana stands 4-2 overall and 1-1 in conference play.  The Ragin’ Cajuns are playing their second consecutive midweek game after falling 17-7 to Appalachian State on Wednesday, Oct. 9.

AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . :  improve its all-time record against Louisiana to 21-25-1 . . . give the Red Wolves their 41st win over their last 50 home games, while also improving their record at Centennial Bank Stadium to 66-16 since 2005 . . . give it a winning record after seven games for the third consecutive season and fifth time in six years under head coach Blake Anderson . . . give it 53 wins over its last 66 Sun Belt games . . . move Blake Anderson into a tie for the second most Sun Belt Conference victories among the league’s all-time head coaches.

THE A-STATE-LOUISIANA SERIES:  Arkansas State has an all-time record of 20-25-1 against Louisiana in a series that dates to the 1953 season.  As Sun Belt Conference opponents, Louisiana leads the series 10-7.  The Red Wolves dropped a 47-43 decision at Louisiana last season.  The home team has held the recent advantage in the series, winning 15 of the last 18 meetings.  Thursday’s game will be the 47th all-time meeting in the series.  A-State’s 46 games played (doesn’t include one win vacated win by A-State) against the Ragin’ Cajuns are the second most against any opponent in school history behind only its 57 played versus Memphis.

THROUGH SIX:  Arkansas State holds a 3-3 record through six games for the second consecutive year and a .500 or better overall mark for the eighth time over the last nine seasons.  Since moving to FBS status in 1992, the Red Wolves stand 3-3 or better for the 14th time.  The last time A-State was over .500 through six games was 2017 when it was 4-2.

RED WOLVES OCTOBER:  Although the Red Wolves dropped their first game played in October this season, they still hold a 23-5 record over their last 28 games played in the month.  A-State had won 11 games in a row during the month prior to falling to Appalachian State on Oct. 9 of last season.

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 five consecutive winning seasons and five bowl-game appearances (2018 Arizona Bowl, 2017 Camellia Bowl, 2016 Cure Bowl, 2015 New Orleans Bowl, 2014 GoDaddy Bowl) during his first five seasons leading the program.  Under his direction, the Red Wolves have set nine 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).

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 42 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 42 wins in 69 or fewer games -- Forrest England won 43 games over the same span between 1946-52 and Bennie Ellender won 45 times over his first 69 games between 1963-70.

DOUBLE DIGITS:  Including two of their three victories this season, 37 of the Red Wolves’ 42 wins under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points.  The only exceptions were this year’s 50-43 win at Troy, 29-20 and 27-20 victories last season over Tulsa and UNLV, a 21-14 overtime win against Utah State in 2014 and a 27-26 victory over Georgia Southern in 2016.  A-State has outscored its opponents 1,781-828 in the 42 wins under Anderson for a 22.7-point average scoring difference.

CLIMBING THE LADDER:  Blake Anderson has led the Red Wolves to a pair of Sun Belt titles and collected 32 league wins along the way, which are tied for the third most ever by any of the conference’s all-time head coaches.

FAMILIAR FOE:  While Arkansas State and Louisiana have both played as members of the Sun Belt Conference since the league’s inaugural football season in 2001, it’s not the first time the two teams have shared a conference.  The Red Wolves and Ragin’ Cajuns were both members of the Big West Conference from 1993 to 1995 and the Southland Conference from 1971 to 1981.

A-STATE vs THE SUN BELT:  Arkansas State has won 52 of its last 65 Sun Belt Conference games (.800 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 84-49.  The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 26.  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.

MIDWEEK MADNESS:  Historically, A-State has performed well in midweek games (Tue.-Thur.) since joining the Sun Belt Conference.  The Red Wolves hold a 20-7 record in all midweek games since its 2001 inaugural year in the league.  They have won 16 of their last 20 midweek contests.

HOME SWEET HOME:  Arkansas State has strung together 14 consecutive years (2005-18) with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005.  The Red Wolves are now 65-16 (.802 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 40 of their last 49 home outings.  The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 157-79-1 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. 

ROAD WARRIORS:  Arkansas State has won 26 of its last 34 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 2013 regular-season opener.

NON-CONFERENCE RECAP:  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 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) last season for the first time since 1995 (3-2).

A BIT OF HISTORY:  Arkansas State’s 43-17 win over UNLV marked its largest margin of victory in a non-conference road game since 1986, when it defeated Delaware 55-14 in the I-AA (FCS) playoffs.  The last time it had a larger margin of victory in a non-conference road game played during the regular season was 1976, when it knocked off Southern Illinois 41-10.

WATCH ME, WATCH ME:  A-State has 11 players on at least one major watch list for the 2019 season, including seven who play on the offensive side of the ball (Omar Bayless, Logan Bonner, Dahu Green, Javonis Isaac, Kirk Merritt, Marcel Murray, Jacob Still), three on the defensive (Tajhea Chambers, Darreon Jackson, Jerry Jacobs) and one on special teams (Cody Grace).  The Red Wolves have at least one player on 11 different watch lists.

EIGHT STRAIGHT:  Arkansas State has secured a winning record in a school-record eight consecutive seasons (2011-18).  The next longest streak was six straight seasons from 1912-17.  The Red Wolves have piled up 70 victories from 2011-19 for its most over a nine-year span in the program’s 105-year history.

ELITE COMPANY:  Arkansas State is one of just four teams in the nation to win five conference titles and appear in eight 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 15th longest active streak in the nation for bowl game appearances with eight.

SUN BELT CHAMPS (5 of 8):  While Arkansas State last won the Sun Belt in 2016, it is still the only Group of 5 program and one of just four FBS programs in the nation to win five conference championships over the last eight years (2011-18).  The only other teams to do so are Alabama (SEC), Clemson (ACC) and Oklahoma (Big 12).  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.

BOWL ELIGIBLE:  Arkansas State has obtained bowl eligibility status each of the last eight years (2011-18) and 11 times over the last 14 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 eight consecutive bowl-game appearances (2011-18), which is the third longest streak in the Group of 5 and ranks 15th in the nation among all FBS programs.

300-PLUS:  Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards total offense in 109 of its last 121 games (.901 percentage).  A-State has produced 300 yards in 64 of 70 games during the Blake Anderson era. 

400-PLUS:  Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 48 times over its last 70 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 12 of their last 13 games.

LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD:  The Red Wolves have posted at least 30 points in 66 of their last 100 regular-season games (66 percent) dating back to the 2011 season.  The Red Wolves have won 51 of their last 59 games when scoring at least 30 points. 

BIG NUMBERS:  Senior WR Omar Bayless has picked up this season where he left off last year, recording over 100 receiving yards in six of the last seven games dating back to 2018.  Including the Arizona Bowl and the first six games this season, he has posted 51 receptions (7.3 rpg) for 972 yards (138.9 ypg) and 10 touchdowns.  His four touchdown  receptions versus SMU tied the school and Centennial Bank Stadium records, while his career-high 213 receiving yards against Troy were the third most in A-State history.  Bayless is currently leading the nation in receiving yards (843) and receiving touchdowns (10) and is ranked eighth in receptions (7.3 pg). 

SUN BELT OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK:  Senior wideout Omar Bayless was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in A-State’s 50-43 victory at Troy.  He became the fourth player in Arkansas State history to record over 200 receiving yards in a game by posting 10 receptions for a career-high 213 yards and a touchdown. He finished with the third most receiving yards in school history and the seventh most in the nation this season, while also tying the fifth most ever by a Sun Belt Conference player.  A-State’s first offensive play of the game saw Bayless come up with a 92-yard touchdown catch, which was the second longest reception in school history, third longest in the nation this season and tied the fourth longest every by a Sun Belt player.

GOOD HANDS:  Junior wide receiver Brandon Bowling has 20 catches this season, which is already more than he had for his first two seasons combined (15).  He also has 155 receiving yards, 47 more than his career total (108) entering this year.  He posted career-best numbers for both receptions (12) and receiving yards (92) against SMU, and those 12 catches tied the fourth most in school history.

PRODUCTION INCREASE:  Ranked sixth in the Sun Belt Conference in receptions per game, junior wideout Jonathan Adams has already posted a career-best 31 catches this year -- 14 more than his previous best for a season (2018).  Including a career-high 105 receiving yards at Troy, he now has 404 receiving yards through six games, which is the third most in the Sun Belt.  Adams posted a career-best 267 yards for all of last season.

DELIVERING IN HIS DEBUT:  Earning his first career start against SMU, junior QB Logan Bonner threw for a career-high four touchdowns, while he also set new career-best marks for completions (32), passing yards (324) and total offense (340).  His 32 completions and four touchdown passes both tied the seventh most in A-State history for a single game.  Athlon Sports ranked Bonner’s performance as the 21st best in the nation among quarterbacks who made their first career start in the season’s opening week.

ANOTHER IMPRESSIVE DEBUT:  Much like junior quarterback Logan Bonner, redshirt freshman Layne Hatcher put up monster numbers in his starting debut this season with 25 completions for 440 yards and four touchdowns against Troy.  His performance led to him being named one of eight Manning Award Stars of the Week.  Hatcher’s 440 passing yards were the second most in school history, while his four touchdown throws tied the seventh most ever by an A-State player.

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 44 of their last 48 games.  A-State has ranked among the top 30 teams in the nation three of the last four seasons (2016-19) in tackles for loss. 

GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK:  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 188 sacks over that span.  The Red Wolves have recorded at least one sack in 41 of their last 43 games dating back to the 2016 season. 

PICK IT OFF:  Arkansas State has posted an interception in four of the first six games this 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 83 passes that rank as the 10th most in the nation.  Since 2014, San Diego State ranks No. 1 with 93 interceptions.

FORCING TURNOVERS:  Arkansas State has recorded at least one turnover gained in 56 of its last 70 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 134 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 24 total defensive touchdowns over the last six seasons.

APPLYING PRESSURE:  After posting career-best numbers for both sacks (2.0) and tackles for loss (4.0) against Southern Illinois, junior defensive end William Bradley-King finds himself ranked among the top 30 players in the nation in both statistical categories.  He is ranked No. 25 in sacks (0.83 per game) and No. 30 in tackles for loss (1.3 per game). 

CAREER DAY FOR GRUPE:  Sophomore kicker Blake Grupe made three field goals and scored 13 points, both career highs, against UNLV.  His three field goals tied the 10th most in school history for a single game, while his 13 points tied the ninth most for points by kicking.  Grupe is ranked tied for second in the Sun Belt with 1.3 field goals per game.

ON THE RETURN:  Moving into a punt return role for the first time of his career, senior BJ Edmonds has recorded eight returns for 114 yards and a 14.2 average.  His long return has covered 28 yards against Georgia State, and he posted a career-best 47 yards at UNLV on three attempts.

AMAZING GRACE:  Senior punter Cody Grace has posted just two touchbacks in 148 punting attempts during his three-year career at A-State, while his punts have also been returned just 19 times (13 percent).  He helped A-State set a new NCAA record for punt return defense in 2018.  He has posted at least one punt inside the opponent’s 20-yard line in 27 of 30 career games and multiple in all but seven.  He was a Ray Guy Award semifinalist (top 10) each of the last two years.

SUN BELT SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK:  Senior punter Cody Grace was named the Sun Belt Special Teams Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks following the Red Wolves’ games against Troy and Georgi State.  He was also named the Ray Guy Award Punter of the Week following the Georgia State contest.

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