ASU at S. Alabama in-depth preview
ASU (3-4, 1-1) at South Alabama (3-4, 1-2)
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
RADIO: EAB Red Wolves Network (107.9 FM Jonesboro, 93.3 FM Little Rock)
LIVE STATS: AStateRedWolves.com
ON TAP: Arkansas State begins a two-game road swing Saturday when it travels to Mobile to play South Alabama in the second of six consecutive Sun Belt Conference outings to close out the regular season. The Red Wolves and Jaguars are looking to get back to a .500 record after coming off Sun Belt Conference setbacks last week. A-State dropped a 23-7 home decision to preseason Sun Belt Conference co-favorite Louisiana-Lafayette, while South Alabama lost 33-31 at Texas State. The Red Wolves are in fifth place in the Sun Belt standings with a 1-1 record, and the Jaguars stand sixth with a 1-2 mark.
QUICK GLANCE: Statistically, Arkansas State and South Alabama match up evenly with no more than a 28-yard average separating them in total offense and total defense. The Jaguars average almost four more points per game, but the Red Wolves have a lower scoring defense at 28.9 to 29.1.
ASU WR J.D. McKissic
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . .: Extend its road winning streak against Sun Belt Conference opponents to nine games . . . Give it a .500 record for the fourth time this year . . . Make it 2-1 in Sun Belt Conference play for the second straight year . . . Improve its road record against Sun Belt Conference opponents to 9-0 since 2011 . . . Improve its all-time record against the Jaguars to 2-0.
THE ARKANSAS STATE - SOUTH ALABAMA SERIES: Arkansas State and South Alabama are meeting for the first time in Mobile and just the second time ever. The Red Wolves hold a 1-0 record against the Jaguars after pulling out a 36-29 victory last season at Liberty Bank Stadium.
ALABAMA RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has 16 players on its roster from the state of Alabama, the most among any state outside of Arkansas. The next closest is Texas with 13 players from the Lone Star state. Players on A-State's roster from the state of Alabama includes Irving Adams (Florence), LaAngelo Albright (Prattville), Dexter Blackmon (Selma), Amos Draper (Tanner), Jamaris Hart (Florence), Rocky Hayes (Heflin), Chris Humes (Hoover), Carl?Lee Jr. (Mobile), Qushaun Lee (Prattville), Carlos McCants (Mobile), J.D. McKissic (Phenix City), Dijon Paschal (Tallassee), Steven Stevens (Bay Minette), Chris Stone (Daleville), Xavier Woodson?(Eufaula) and Sterling Young (Hoover).
FAMILIAR TURF: While Arkansas State has never played South Alabama in Mobile, it will be on familiar turf when it faces the Jaguars. The Red Wolves have played in each of the last two GoDaddy Bowl games at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, South Alabama's home stadium. A-State claimed a 17-13 win over then-ranked No. 25 Kent State in last year's bowl game, one year after suffering a 38-20 setback to Northern Illinois.
RED WOLVES NOVEMBER: Arkansas State is undefeated in November since the 2011 season with a 6-0 record over that span. All six victories were against Sun Belt Conference opponents, including four that came by a double-figure margin.
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
1 of just 16 FBS programs to win at least 20 games over the last two years (2011 & 2012).
1 receiving touchdown needed by Allen Muse to tie the 9th most (9) in school history.
1 rushing touchdown needed by David Oku to tie the seventh most (22) in school history.
3 ASU was picked to finish 3rd in the preseason Sun Belt Coaches Poll with 45 pts. and 2 first-place votes.
3 A-State players (Davis, Hayes, McKissic) ranked 1st in the Sun Belt in at least 1 statistical category.
4 scoring drives put together by A-State on its first possession this season.
5 of the last eight seasons have seen A-State achieve bowl eligibility.
5 players named to one of college football's major award watch lists.
5 points needed by Brian Davis to break the school record for points by kicking in a career (288).
6 consecutive wins in the month of November dating back to the 2011 season.
7 turnovers lost by A-State is tied for the sixth fewest in the nation.
7 preseason All-Sun Belt Conference selections, the most in the league.
8 consecutive winning seasons at Liberty Bank Stadium.
8 game Sun Belt Conference road winning streak held by A-State.
9 players (Albright, Campbell, Carrethers, Haunga, Kennedy, McCants, Muse, Oliver, Williams) already with their degree.
9 passes defended by Rocky Hayes ties the most by an ASU player for all of last season.
9.6 tackles per game by Qushaun Lee puts him on pace to break 100 for the second consecutive season.
10 win seasons in 2011 & 2012, making ASU the first team in SBC history w/ back-to-back 10-win campaigns.
10 A-State players named to Phil Steele's midseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team.
10 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 11 years.
11 consecutive field goals made by Brian Davis for the second longest streak in school history.
12 consecutive victories by A-State when scoring at least 30 points.
12 points needed by Brian Davis to break the Sun Belt record for points by kicking in a career (295).
13 votes in the final 2012 USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll, ranking A-State No. 32 in the nation.
13 A-State players named to at least one preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team.
13 statistical categories in which A-State ranks among the top 50 teams in the nation after six games.
15 players named to the most recent Sun Belt Conference Commissioner's List (3.5 GPA or higher).
16 Sun Belt Conference victories over its last 18 league games.
16 players on the A-State roster from the state of Alabama, the most outside of Arkansas.
17 receptions by Darion Griswold are the most by an A-State tight end since Trevor Gillott (24) in 2009.
22 A-State wins over its last 31 regular-season games dating back to 2011.
23 All-Sun Belt Conference selections over the last two years combined.
27 players named to the most recent Sun Belt Conference Academic Honor Roll (3.0 GPA or higher).
28 votes in the final 2012 Associated Press Top 25 poll, ranking A-State No. 32 in the nation.
28.4 yards per kickoff return by ASU is ranked 4th in the nation, and 18.5 ypr KO?coverage is ranked 19th.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 21 of its last 30 games.
35 of J.D. McKissic's 41 receptions have come over the last five games (7.0 per game).
42 receiving yards needed by Julian Jones to break 1,000 for his career.
47.2 third-down conversion percentage by A-State is ranked 31st in the nation.
54 tackles by Ryan Carrethers are the most in the nation by a defensive lineman.
67 percent completions by Adam Kennedy is ranked 16th in the nation.
300 yards or more of total offense recorded by ASU?in 40 of its last 45 games.
300+ passing yards by Adam Kennedy, including a career-high 375 vs Idaho, in two of last three games.
400 or more yards total offense by A-State in five of its first seven games.
436.6 yards of total offense per game ranks as the 49th highest average in the nation.
26.7 million-dollar football facility project in Liberty Bank Stadium's north end zone announced.
HEAD COACH BRYAN HARSIN: Bryan Harsin was named the Red Wolves' 29th head football coach on Dec. 12, 2012. Harsin is a 13-year coaching veteran at the NCAA FBS level who has coached in 10 bowl games as either an assistant or offensive coordinator. Harsin, a finalist for the 2009 Broyles Award recognizing the top assistant coach in the country, has been associated with two nationally-prominent programs during his rise to A-State's head coach. Working closely with Chris Petersen at Boise State and Mack Brown at Texas, two of the most well-respected coaches in the country, Harsin spent the last seven seasons as an offensive coordinator with the Broncos and Longhorns.
HIGH MARKS: Arkansas State head football coach Bryan Harsin was ranked as the sixth best hire in the nation among 26 new coaches at the time, according to CBSSports.com. The article written by Dennis Dodd said the following when referring to A-State's 29th head coach: "We're talking a Sun Belt program that has changed its AD (once) and coaches (twice) over the last two years. Somehow the Red Wolves went from national championship game offensive coordinator (Malzahn) to Fiesta Bowl-winning offensive coordinator with a stop in Texas (Bryan Harsin). Not too shabby."
STARTING STRONG: With the Red Wolves victory over UAPB, Bryan Harsin became the Red Wolves first head coach to win his inaugural game at the school since Larry Lacewell in 1979. ASU's previous seven head coaches all suffered setbacks in their first game, including Al Kincaid, Ray Perkins, John Bobo, Joe Hollis, Steve Roberts, Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn.
YOUNGEST FBS HEAD COACHES: At 36 years of age, Arkansas State head coach Bryan Harsin is the fourth youngest head coach in the nation. Western Michigan's P.J. Fleck is the youngest at 32 years old with a Nov. 29, 1980 date of birth.
Coach Age (DOB)
P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan, 32 (11-29-80)
Matt Campbell, Toledo, 33 (11-29-79)
Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech, 34 (8-9-79)
Bryan Harsin, Arkansas State, 36 (11-1-76)
Willie Taggart, USF, 37 (8-27-76)
Justin Fuente, Memphis, 37 (7-30-76)
Matt Rhule, Temple, 38 (1-31-75)
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern, 38 (12-2-74)
Garrick McGee, UAB, 40 (4-6-73)
Matt Wells, Utah State, 40 (8-10-73)
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Although A-State had an eight-game Sun Belt Conference winning streak snapped last time out, it has won 16 of its last 18 league games to run its all-time record in the conference to 50-38. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against Louisiana-Monroe with 21. With the exception of Texas State and Georgia State, which are in their first season as a member of the league, the Red Wolves have defeated every team in the SBC since the football league was formed in 2001. Along with Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette, A-State is one of three teams that have been a part of the conference since 2001.
THIRD DOWN EFFICIENCY: Arkansas State has been one of the most successful teams in the nation this season converting third downs, ranking 31st in the nation and second in the Sun Belt Conference with a .472 percentage. The Red Wolves have converted at least half their third down attempts in three games and over 41 percent in all but one.
STARTING STRONG: Arkansas State has put together a scoring drive on its first possession in four of its seven games, and scored on at least one of its first two possessions six times. The Red Wolves scored opening-drive touchdowns against UAPB and Idaho and field goals against Auburn and Missouri. A-State also scored a touchdown on its second drive versus both Memphis and Troy. The Red Wolves have 64 points in the first quarter, their most of all quarters.
HITTING TWO-HUNDRED: Arkansas State has rushed for at least 200 yards in two games this season and in six of its last 12 regular-season games dating back to 2011. The Red Wolves have won eight consecutive games when rushing for 200 yards or more, a streak that also dates back to 2011.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense 40 of its last 45 games. The Red Wolves have posted at least 400 yards total offense in all but two games this season and is ranked 49th in the nation (436.6 ypg).
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including a 62-point outburst in its season opener, 41 points scored against Troy and 48 vs. Idaho, A-State has posted at least 30 points in 21 of its last 30 regular-season games dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves' 10 games with at least 30 points last year were their most since 1951 when they hit the total 10 times as well. The Red Wolves have won 12 consecutive games when scoring at least 30 points.
SUN BELT PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Senior defensive lineman Ryan Carrethers was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week following the Red Wolves game against Louisiana-Lafayette, giving A-State three different players to earn a weekly honor from the league. Senior quarterback Adam Kennedy and sophomore wide receiver J.D. McKissic were named the conference's Offensive and Special Teams players of the week following A-State's victory over Idaho.
MIDSEASON ALL-CONFERENCE: Arkansas State placed 10 players, including five first-team selections, on the Phil Steele's Midseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team. The Red Wolves 10 selections tied Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe for the most in the conference, and their five first-team picks matched the most along with the Ragin' Cajuns. The A-State offense and defense were both represented by four players, and two Red Wolves made the list as special teams choices. Arkansas State's first-team selections included sophomore center Bryce Giddens (Moultrie, Ga.), senior guard Steven Haunga (Richmond, Calif.), senior defensive lineman Ryan Carrethers (Nashville, Tenn.), sophomore cornerback Rocky Hayes (Heflin, Ala.) and senior kicker Brian Davis (Brentwood, Tenn.). The Red Wolves' second-team selections included senior running back David Oku (Midwest City, Okla.), senior wide receiver Julian Jones (Germantown, Tenn.), junior linebacker Qushaun Lee (Prattville, Ala.) and senior safety Sterling Young (Hoover, Ala.). Sophomore wide receiver J.D. McKissic (Phenix City, Ala.) was also a second-team choice as a kick returner.
STOP THE BLEEDING: Coming off a 23-7 setback to UL Lafayette, Arkansas State has dropped back-to-back games only once over the last three seasons (2011-13). The Red Wolves suffered back-to-back losses earlier this year, but previously had not dropped back-to-back games in the same season since falling in the last two games of the 2010 campaign.
ROAD WARRIORS: Arkansas State has won eight consecutive road conference games, its longest streak ever as a member of any league. The Red Wolves went 4-0 in conference road games in both 2011 and 2012. Its previous longest road conference winning streak was seven against Southland foes from 1973-75.
HOME SWEET HOME: With a 5-1 home mark last season, Arkansas State secured its eighth consecutive winning record at Liberty Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. ASU?is now 39-9 at Liberty Bank Stadium since the 2005 season and has won 14 of its last 16 home games. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Liberty Bank Stadium is 131-72-1 since it opened in 1974. ASU's six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.
COVERING AT CORNERBACK: Sophomore corner Rocky Hayes has made a big impact in his first season on the defensive side of the ball, leading the team in both pass break-ups (6) and interceptions (3). He is ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference in passes defended with nine, which ties the most by an A-State player for all of last season (Chaz Scales, 7 PBU, 2 INT). Hayes is ranked 26th in the nation in passes defended.
MAKING A RETURN: Sophomore WR J.D. McKissic is ranked sixth in the nation in kickoff returns (30.5 ypr) and 36th in punt returns (8.1 ypg). He recorded a career-high 125 kickoff return yards against Idaho, including a 98-yard return for a touchdown in the contest. The return for a touchdown was the first by an A-State player since 2001.
ON THE RISE: Senior WR Julian Jones has recorded at least four receptions in five of the last six games, including a career-high 10 versus Missouri. Jones has either led or tied for the team high in receptions in four games this season and is ranked 51st in the nation in receptions per game (5.6). Jones' 39 total receptions are 22 more than he had for his entire career entering the 2013 season.
MORE ON JONES: Senior WR Julian Jones not only recorded a career-high 10 receptions against Missouri, he also finished the game with a career-best 136 receiving yards. He followed that up by posting 135 yards against Idaho to give him over 100 yards in two of the last three games. He is ranked fourth in the Sun Belt Conference with 68.0 yards per game. Jones has been on the receiving end of a score in eight of the last 13 games dating back to last year. Jones enters Saturday's games needing just 42 yards to break 1,000 for his career.
TOTAL OFFENSE PRODUCER: Senior quarterback Adam Kennedy ranks third in the Sun Belt Conference in total offense with 264.3 yards per game, which also ranks 34th in the nation. Kennedy recorded 358 yards of total offense against Auburn, 334 vs. Missouri and a career-high 397 against Idaho. He also just missed going over 300 versus Troy with 299 to his credit. His 397 yards versus Idaho were the fifth most in school history.
MAKING A CONNECTION: Senior QB Adam Kennedy tied the school record for completions in a game with 37 against Missouri (tied Ryan Aplin, 2011 vs. Western Kentucky). Kennedy has already completed 149 passes, leaving him just seven shy of the 10th most in school history for a single season. He is ranked 21st in the nation in completions (21.3 pg) and 22nd in completion percentage (.668). ?His current completion percentage currently stands as the second highest in school history for a single season.
INSIDE FORCE: A member of the Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy Watch Lists, senior defensive lineman Ryan Carrethers is ranked second on the team and sixth in the Sun Belt in tackles with 54 through seven games. He is averaging 7.7 tackles per game, 2.4 more than he averaged last season when he finished with 68 total for the most by an A-State interior defensive lineman since former NFL standout Jon Bradly in 2002. His 54 tackles this season are the most in the nation by a defensive lineman. He posted a career-high 16 tackles against UL Lafayette, which hare also the most in the nation this season by a defensive lineman for a single game.
ON PACE FOR 100: Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee has recorded a team-high 67 tackles, which is also ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference. He is averaging 9.6 tackles per game, which puts him on pace for 100 tackles for the second straight season. The last time an A-State player had at least 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons was 2003 and 2002 when linebacker Les Echols had 123 and 105, respectively. Lee tied his career high for tackles in a game with 15 against Idaho and had 13 vs. UL Lafayette, giving him six career games with double-figure stops.
GRISWOLD VACATION TO THE END ZONE: Senior tight end Darion Griswold tied his career high with five receptions for a career-high 89 yards and his first two career touchdowns against Idaho, earning CFPA national Honorable Mention Tight End of the Week for his efforts. He has now caught 17 passes for 230 yards, both the most in a season by an A-State tight end since Trevor Gillott recorded 24 receptions for 283 yards in 2009.
ON A ROLL: A Freshman All-America selection last season, sophomore WR J.D. McKissic has caught at least one pass in all 20 games of his career at A-State. He has come one strong the last few games, recording 30 of his 41 receptions this season against Missouri, Idaho and UL Lafayette. He had nine versus the Vandals, a school-record 15 against Missouri and six against the Ragin' Cajuns. McKissic also finished the Missouri game with a season-high 117 receiving yards, marking the fifth time of his career he has posted 100 in a game.
A FLARE FOR THE DRAMATIC: Sophomore RB Michael Gordon is responsible for two of the three longest runs by A-State this year, including a 92-yard outburst against UAPB that was the second longest in school history. Gordon posted a 64-yard touchdown run against Troy as well, and he is averaging 9.2 yards per attempt (28). Gordon has two 100-yard rushing games, including a 102-yard showing against UAPB and a 115-yard effort vs. Troy.
WELL ROUNDED: Senior RB David Oku has gone over 100 yards combined rushing and receiving in a game twice this season and nine times during his two-year career at A-State.
FINDING THE END ZONE: Senior running back David Oku, who posted 16 rushing touchdowns last season to tie the third most in school history, recorded two rushing touchdowns against both UAPB and Troy this season and one versus Idaho. ?Oku has now recorded at least one rushing touchdown in 13 of his 20 games played at Arkansas State.
CFPA HONORS DAVIS: Senior kicker Brian Davis was named the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) National Specialist of the Week following the Missouri game. He was responsible for 13 of Arkansas State's 19 points against the Tigers, making all four of his field goal attempts and an extra point to lead the Red Wolves in scoring. Davis has now made multiple field goals in a game 13 times during his career. Dating back to last season, Davis has now made his last 10 field goals in a row to tie the second longest streak in Arkansas State history.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Arkansas State has 25 underclassmen (sophomores or freshmen) listed on its 2-deep. The list includes 13 sophomores, six redshirt freshmen and six true freshmen. Among the underclassmen, six are listed as starters on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. A-State's 25 underclassmen on its two-deep was tied for the 14th most in the nation with Colorado and Illinois according to the 2013 initial depth charts. Virginia listed 34 players on its opening-day two-deep for the most among all teams.
NCAA RECORD: A-State became the seventh FBS team in NCAA history to have four players (David Oku, Fredi Knighten, Michael Gordon, Sirgregory Thornton vs. UAPB) rush for over 100 yards in the same game. The other teams include Arizona (1951), Texas (1969), Alabama (1973), Army (1984), Nebraska (2001) and Nevada (2009).
FOR STARTERS: A-State improved to 45-47-6 all-time in season openers with its victory over UAPB on Aug. 31. The Red Wolves claimed a win in their season-opening game for the first time since 2009.
RUSHING RED WOLVES: The Red Wolves piled up 509 rushing yards versus UAPB, which were the most in the nation during the season's first week and still stand as the second most behind BYU's 550 against Texas. A-State's total was also the fifth most in school history and the second most in Sun Belt history.