A-State battles Louisiana-Lafayette tonight
Arkansas State (4-2, 2-0) at Louisiana (3-3, 2-0)
7 tonight, Cajun Field, Lafayette, La.
Radio: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM Jonesboro, 93.3 FM Little Rock)
Live Stats: AStateRedWolves.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
THE PRINCIPALS: Tonight's game sets up a showdown between the Sun Belt Conference's two preseason favorites, Arkansas State and Louisiana. The Ragin' Cajuns were chosen to finish first in preseason coaches poll for the second straight season, while the Red Wolves were picked second. A-State and Louisiana have won at least 30 games the past four seasons, ranking among the most in the nation.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : give it five victories, matching (2011 and 2006) its most ever through seven games since joining the FBS in 1992 . . . give the Red Wolves a 3-0 start in Sun Belt play for the third time (2011 and 2006) in school history . . . give it four consecutive victories, matching its longest win streak last year . . . improve its Sun Belt Conference record since 2011 to 23-3 . . . make it 20-22-1 all-time vs. Louisiana . . . make it 12-1 over its last 13 games played in the month of October . . . make it 12-1 over its last 13 conference road games . . . run its record to 33-13 over the last four seasons . . . mark the fourth time over the last five seasons it has defeated the Sun Belt Conference preseason favorite . . . Give it eight wins over its last nine midweek games.
ASU HC BLAKE ANDERSON
THE ARKANSAS STATE - LOUISIANA SERIES: Arkansas State holds an all-time on-field record of 19-22-1 against Louisiana in the series that dates back to the 1953 season. As Sun Belt Conference opponents, Louisiana leads the series 7-5 after picking up a 23-7 win in Jonesboro last season. The Red Wolves had a two-game winning streak against the Ragin' Cajuns snapped with last year's setback. The road team has won the last two games in the series, but the home team has prevailed in 10 of the last 13 meetings. Nine of the last 14 games between the two programs have been decided by six points or less, although the last two have been by a double-figure margin. Tuesday's game will be the 43rd meeting all-time in the series. A-State's 42 games played against the Ragin' Cajuns are the second most against any opponent in school history behind only its 57 played versus Memphis.
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 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).
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 22 of its last 25 Sun Belt Conference games to run its all-time record in the conference to 55-39. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM?with 23 and, with the exception of newcomers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, have defeated ever team in the SBC 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 it was formed.
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 is 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.
LOUISIANA RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has two players on its roster from the state of Louisiana, including defensive back Frankie Jackson (Baton Rouge) and quarterback James Tabary (New Orleans). While Tabary is a true freshman, Jackson has started two games this season and has 17 tackles, tied for the fifth most on the team.
KNOCKING OFF THE FAVORITE: While Arkansas State dropped its game against 2013 Sun Belt Conference preseason favorite Louisiana, it has defeated the top pick in the league's preseason coaches poll three of the last four years. The Red Wolves knocked off preseason favorite FIU in both 2012 and 2011 and Middle Tennessee in 2010.
MIDWEEK MONSTERS: Historically, A-State has performed well in midweek games since joining the Sun Belt Conference. Since the 2001 campaign, the Red Wolves hold an 11-4 record in all midweek games. A-State has won seven of its last eight midweek games.
RED WOLVES OCTOBER: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State holds an 11-1 record over its last 12 games played in the month of October. The Red Wolves went undefeated in the month during both the 2011 and 2012 seasons, 1-1 a year ago and is 2-0 this season.
ROAD WARRIORS: Arkansas State has won 11 of its last 12 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 at Western Kentucky in its 2013 regular-season finale. The Red Wolves went 4-0 in conference road games in both 2011 and 2012 and 2-1 in 2013.
THROUGH SIX: Arkansas State has a winning record (4-2) after six games for the first time since the 2011 season and just the fourth time since joining the FBS in 1992 (2014, 2011, 2008, 2006). The Red Wolves' 4-2 record matches the 2011, 2008 and 2006 team's record as the program's best through six games since 1992.
STRONG IN THE SECOND: Dating back to last season, eight of Arkansas State's last 12 victories have come when it was either tied or trailing at halftime. Two of A-State's four victories this season have come under the circumstances, while its six last year were its most ever since returning to NCAA?Division I-A (now FBS) status in 1992.
STARTING FRESH: The Red Wolves have had a new starting lineup on offense or defense in every game this season, and they have had 11 players make their first career start this season. Those 11 players are tied for the 19th most in the nation with FIU, Fresno State, East Carolina and Ohio State. Tulsa has the most players in the nation that have made their first career start this season with 18. A-State's first-time starters this season include offensive linemen Jemar Clark, Devin Mondie and Tyler Greve, wide receivers Dijon Paschal and Booker Mays, quarterback Fredi Knighten, running back Johnston White, defensive lineman Chuks Ota and defensive ends Ja'Von Rolland-Jones and Caleb Caston.
NEW FACES: Arkansas State has seen 30 total players, including 14 true freshmen and nine redshirt freshmen, achieve their first game experience this season at A-State. Eight of those true freshmen are listed on the two-deep, including defensive lineman Chuks Ota and defensive end Caleb Caston -- the only two to start a game this year (at Tennessee and at Miami, respectively).
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Arkansas State has 29 combined freshmen and sophomores on its depth chart to tie for the fourth most in the nation, along with Wake Forest, Alabama and Tennessee. Oklahoma State has the most with 35. The Red Wolves' 11 seniors on the depth chart were tied for the 21st fewest in the country. Temple has the fewest with five.
FOUR-YEAR WINS TOTAL: Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012, eight more in 2013 and four this year, the Red Wolves have recorded 32 victories that are tied for the 20th most in the nation over the last four years.
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 44-9 at Centennial Bank Stadium since the 2005 season and has won 19 of its last 21 home games. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 136-72-1 since it opened in 1974. A-State's six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.
.500 NON-CONFERENCE: Arkansas State completed the non-conference portion of its regular-season schedule with a 21-14 overtime victory over Utah State on Nov. 20. The Red Wolves have now completed their regular season non-conference schedule with a .500 record for the third time over the last four years. They have also won two non-conference games during the regular season the last four years.
WORKING OVERTIME: Arkansas State's 21-14 triumph over Utah State marked its first overtime victory since defeating Florida Atlantic 3-0 in 2005. With the win, the Red Wolves improved to 3-4 all-time in overtime games dating back to 1998.
CENTENNIAL SEASON: Arkansas State kicked off its 100th season of football on Aug. 30 vs Montana State. A-State now holds a 438-464-37 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 from 2011-13 were the most over a three-year span since winning 29 games from 1985-87.
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 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.
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.
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.
KNIGHTEN HONORED: Junior quarterback Fredi Knighten picked up a trio of honors for his performance against Georgia State, earning Sun Belt Conference (SBC)?Offensive Player of the Week, College Sports Madness SBC Player of the Week, and Manning Award Star of the Week accolades. Knighten piled up a 308 yards total offense and accounted for four touchdowns in the win, including a career-high three passing scores. He is ranked 36th in the nation in points responsible for, averaging 14.0 points per game.
SECOND HALF SURGE: Two of Arkansas State's last three games, all victories, have seen it post all its points in the second half. The Red Wolves put up 21 points in the second half and overtime against Utah State and another 28 in the final two quarters against ULM. The Red Wolves outscored Utah State and ULM in the second half by a combined 49-21. Including overtime, A-State has put up 107 second-half points in comparison to 70 in the first half.
QUICK STARTS: While the Red Wolves were held scoreless in the first half against both Utah State and ULM, that comes in stark contrast to their quick starts in three of their other four games when they scored a touchdown on one of their first two possessions. In fact, A-State's 31 first-half points last week versus Georgia State were its most in a half against an FBS opponent since scoring 35 first-half points against Middle Tennessee in its 2012 regular-season finale.
EXPLOSIVE PLAYS: Arkansas State recorded 12 of its 29 (41 percent) plays of over 20 yards this season in its last two games. The Red Wolves had seven plays versus ULM and five more against Georgia State that covered at least 20 yards. A-State posted its six longest plays in one of its last two games.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 51 of its last 57 games. A-State went over 300 in each of its first six games this season, including 547 yards vs. Montana State, 331 against Tennessee, 329 at Miami, 316 vs. Utah State, 572 against ULM and a season-high 618 at Georgia State.
TAKING OVER AT QB: In five of his first six career starts, junior quarterback Fredi Knighten has posted over 200 yards total offense. Most recently, Knighten piled up a career-high 355 yards against ULM and 308 against Georgia State. He has three games with over 330 yards total offense. He is ranked 42nd in the nation in total offense with 270.7 yards per game.
A FLARE FOR THE DRAMATIC: Sophomore RB Michael Gordon is responsible for four of the five longest plays this season by an A-State player, and all four were posted in one of the last two games. The four plays include runs covering 68 (vs ULM), 53 (vs GSU), 50 (vs GSU) and 49 (vs ULM) yards. Gordon is averaging 9.4 yards per rushing attempt, which would currently break the school record of 9.3 by his teammate Rocky Hayes. Gordon's two runs over 40 yards vs Georgia State give him eight such carries for his career:
92 yd TD vs UAPB (2013); 68 yd vs ULM (2014); 64 yd TD vs Troy (2013); 53 vs GSU?(2014); 50 vs GSU?(2014); 49 yd vs ULM (2014); 42 yd TD vs Montana State (2014); 40 yd TD vs Texas State (2013)
ANOTHER 100: Arkansas State junior running back Michael Gordon added another 100-yard rushing game to his career totals with a career-high 188 yards vs. Georgia State. It was his second consecutive 100-yard performance after also recording 168 against ULM. Gordon has surpassed 100 yards rushing six times during his career.
WALK-ON 100: Redshirt freshman and walk-on running back Johnston White not only recorded the first 100-yard rushing game of his career versus Utah State, it was the first 100-yard game of the season at the time by an A-State player. Johnston has posted 300 rushing yards this season and his four rushing touchdowns are the most among all A-State running backs.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Just six games into the season, Arkansas State has already completed at least one pass to 18 players -- six more than all of last season. Thirteen of those players have multiple receptions, including J.D. McKissic with a team-high 35. The last time A-State had 18 or more players with a catch was 2011 when it had 18 as well.
HOUSTON, WE DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM: Junior wide receiver Tres Houston is off to a fast start this season, ranking second on the team in receptions (20) and third in receiving yards (217). Houston caught eight passes for 135 yards, both career highs, against Montana State and hauled in his first career receiving touchdown against Tennessee. Houston had eight receptions for 44 yards all of last season.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: A-State has posted at least 30 points in 27 of its last 41 regular-season games (66 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 17 of their last 18 games when scoring at least 30 points.
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 (220). He is ranked fourth for career receiving yards with 2,055 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. He is also currently ranked fifth in the nation in career receptions among active players, and he is the only junior among the top-10 leaders.
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 32 games of his career at A-State. His 32 consecutive games with a reception are tied for the 10th longest streak in the nation. He had a school-record 15 against Missouri last season.
ATHLON SPORTS HONORS KNIGHTEN: Junior quarterback Fredi Knighten was named Athlon Sports' Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week following his performance against ULM. Knighten recorded 355 yards total offense and was responsible for four touchdowns, both career highs. He also set career highs for rushing touchdowns (3) and passing yards (284) in the game.
SCORING DEFENSE: A-State has held four opponents this season to 14 points or less, the most since holding four to no more than 14 in 2008. ?The last time A-State held more than four opponents to 14 points or less in a season was 1986 when it did so 10 times. The Red Wolves have won 16 consecutive games when holding an opponent to 17 point or less.
GETTING TO THE QB: Arkansas State recorded a combined 22 sacks against its first six opponents, giving it a 3.70 average per game that ranks eighth in the nation. The Red Wolves had six sacks against Montana State, which were its most since posting the same number against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in its 2013 season opener. Through just six games, A-State is already over halfway to its total (26) for all of last season.
PLAYING BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE: Twenty-one players have combined to record 43 tackles for loss over the first six games of the season, giving the Red Wolves a 7.2 average per game that ranks 20th in the nation. Sophomore linebacker Xavier Woodson has a team-leading 6.0 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, posting at least a half-tackle for loss in five of six games.
LEAVE NO STONE UNBLOCKED: Junior defensive end Chris Stone has recorded at least a half-sack four consecutive games and five of six outings this season, giving him 4.5 on the season that ranks second in the Sun Belt Conference. Additionally, he has at least one tackle for loss in five of six games this year for a 5.0 total that ranks tied for 10th in the Sun Belt. Last season, he posted a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss that ranked 11th in the league. He entered the season with four career sacks, already topping that total over A-State's first six games this season.
PICK IT OFF: Five A-State players have combined for six interceptions this season, and the Red Wolves have picked off at least one pass in six of their last seven games dating back to the 2014 GoDaddy Bowl.
UNDER 100: The Arkansas State defense has yet to give up 100 yards rushing to an individual this season and is ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference and 24th in the nation in rushing defense (114.7 ypg). The last player to rush for 100 yards against the A-State defense was Ball State's Jahwan Edwards in the 2014 GoDaddy Bowl. A-State has held three teams, including Georgia State, ULM and Montana State, to under 100 yards total rushing.
ANOTHER 100: Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee recorded a team-high 134 tackles last season, making him the first A-State player to record over 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons since linebacker Les Echols in 2002 (105) and 2003 (123). He ranked 12th in the nation in tackles and led the Sun Belt Conference.
LOADED SECONDARY: Arkansas State's secondary has combined to start 127 career games, which is among at least the six highest in the nation. 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.
LEE EARNS SBC WEEKLY HONOR: Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in A-State's 21-14 victory over Utah State. Lee, who earned the weekly honor for the third time of his career, recorded a season-high 13 tackles, team-high 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a pass break-up. His 13 tackles were just three shy of his career-high 16 (at South Alabama last season) and marked the 11th time of his career he recorded a double-figure stops total.
WOODSON RECOGNIZED: Sophomore linebacker Xavier Woodson picked up a pair of weekly honors from College Sports Madness (CSM) and College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) for his performance against ULM. Woodson was named CSM's Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week and a national Honorable Mention Linebacker of the Week by the CFPA. He recorded a team-high 10 tackles, career- high three tackles for loss and one sack in the Red Wolves' 28-14 win over ULM.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
TWICE AS NICE: Through its first six games this season, A-State has already seen two different players named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. Junior punter and kicker Luke Ferguson was named both the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week and a College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) national Honorable Mention Specialist of the Week for his performance against Montana State. Senior cornerback Artez Brown earned the recognition for his performance against Utah State, most notably for blocking a Utah State field goal attempt to force overtime.
INSIDE THE 20: Junior punter Luke Ferguson has recorded a career-best 17 punts inside the 20-yard line this season for a 2.8 average per game. He has pinned the opponent inside its own 20-yard line at least two times in every game this season. His 17 total are four more than the next closest player in the Sun Belt Conference. He has placed 53.1 percent (17 of 32) of his punts inside the 20, which is the third highest percentage in the nation behind just Landon Foster of Kentucky (65.4 percent; 17 of 26) and J.K. Scott of Alabama (63.2 percent; 12 of 19). Ferguson, who entered the season with eight career kicks inside the 20, is ranked fifth in the league in punting average with a 42.4 average per attempt.