A-State holds off Louisiana 37-27
JONESBORO - Arkansas State rushed for 306 yards Tuesday night and surged to a 20-point halftime lead before holding off Louisiana 37-27 in front of a nationally televised audience on ESPN2.
The Red Wolves (4-3, 3-0 SBC) had four players rush for 60-plus yards led by freshman Warren Wand who had nine carries for 98 yards. Senior Michael Gordon had 14 rushes for 73 yards and a touchdown and redshirt sophomore Johnston White added 62 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown. Senior quarterback Fredi Knighten was eight-of-19 passing for 105 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while rushing for 72 yards on 14 attempts.
Up next, the Red Wolves play host to Georgia State at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31 on ESPN3.
Louisiana (2-4, 1-1 SBC) outgained A-State 485-435 in total offense, but an opportunistic Red Wolves defense forced two turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown. A-State held the Ragin' Cajuns to six-of-17 on third down and one-for-11 when attempting a pass on third down.
The Ragin' Cajuns received the opening kickoff and on the second play used a quarterback keeper by Jalen Nixon to quickly move into A-State territory. Dixon burst for a 41-yard gain, but the Red Wolves defense held and a 41-yard field goal attempt was missed giving A-State possession.
The Red Wolves used seven plays and covered 76 yards in 2:08 to lead 6-0 midway through the first quarter. Knighten dropped back to pass on the first two plays, finding Darion Griswold on the second play for an 11-yard gain. The fierce running attack took over from there as it took five rushes to find the end zone. Gordon rushed for a gain of 26 yards and capped the drive with a 7-yard TD carry. Knighten eluded what appeared to be a sack by the Ragin' Cajuns to pick up 19 yards and White gained 13 yards on two carries.
The ground assault raced on later in the first quarter as the Red Wolves found pay dirt once again by way of the ground game. It took seven rushes to cover 57 yards after the A-State defense force two-straight three-and-outs to increase the lead to 13-0 in the first quarter. White scampered along the sideline and plowed into the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown.
Wrapping up the first quarter, Wand broke a 39-yard rush covering the last 15-plus yards without his right shoe. A facemask penalty resulted in an untimed down from the Louisiana 11-yard line and the Red Wolves gained a 20-0 lead after a 2-yard TD pass from Knighten to Griswold.
Having forced a three-and-out on three of the four Ragin' Cajuns drives after the opening kickoff, the A-State defense forced an interception for the fifth-straight game and returned it for a TD and a 27-0 lead. Cody Brown stepped in front of a pass by Nixon at the 30-yard line and returned it for a touchdown, the fourth defensive touchdown of the season for A-State. Nixon responded as he got the Ragin' Cajuns on the scoreboard with a 75-yard touchdown run on the option play.
Knighten used his arm to get A-State on the board again late in the first half as he found a wide open Chris Murray for 46-yard touchdown. The reception marked the first career catch for Murray and was the second-longest passing play of the season for the Red Wolves. The A-State scoring drive covered 84 yards on four plays.
Louisiana drove 75 yards on their final possession of the first half to cut the A-State lead to 34-20 at the half. The Red Wolves rushed for 211 yards in the first half and the Ragin' Cajuns had 176 yards on the ground.
One the opening possession of the second half, A-State drove inside the Ragin' Cajuns one yard line but elected to try a field goal. After a delay of game penalty, the 23-yard field goal attempt clanked off the left upright keeping the scored at 34-14.
The Red Wolves got the ball back after an interception in the end zone by Money Hunter. A-State drove inside Louisiana territory, but again was forced to attempt a field goal. J.D. Houston nailed the 42-yard kick to increase the Red Wolves lead to 37-14, but Louisiana answered with a quick five play, 72-yard drive capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass by Nixon to make it 37-21 at the end of the third quarter.
A-State approached midfield on the ensuing drive, but Knighten was intercepted by Savion Brown at the Ragin' Cajun 25 yard line. Brown returned the interception 16 yards to give Louisiana a chance to cut into the Red Wolves lead. The Ragin' Cajuns scored seven players later as Elijah McGuire scored on a 20-yard touchdown reception, but the Louisiana two-point conversion failed holding the A-State lead at 37-27 with 11:02 remaining in regulation.
Louisiana forced A-State to punt and the Ragin' Cajuns took over on their own 25-yard line. The Red Wolves defense got off the field when Louisiana was unable to convert on fourth and eight from the A-State 33-yard line.
A-State took over on downs with 4:10 remaining, but a three-and-out used 1:02 of clock and a punt gave the ball back to the Ragin' Cajuns at their own 28-yard line with 3:08 left. Three-straight incompletions set up a fourth down again, but Nixon found Gabe Fuselier for a gain of 28 yards to move to the A-State 44-yard line. The A-State defense forced three more incompletions and an incomplete pass on fourth down gave the ball back to A-State and the Red Wolves lined up in victory formation to end the game.
Junior Xavier Woodson-Luster who registered eight tackles, six solo stops, with a tackle for loss led A-State defensively. Sophomore Khari Lain and Brown each totaled seven tackles on the night.