A-State at Coastal Carolina in-depth preview
A-State (5-4, 2-3) at Coastal Carolina (5-4, 2-3)
4 p.m. Saturday
Brooks Stadium, Conway, S.C.
RADIO: 107.9 FM Jonesboro, 106.7 & 99.3 FM in Central Ark.
LIVE STATS: AStateStats.com
LIVE GAME NOTES: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
THE PRINCIPALS: The Red Wolves moved their overall record to 5-4 last week with a 38-14 win over South Alabama and can now become bowl eligible for the eighth straight season with one more victory. A-State stands 2-3 in league action and remains one game behind ULM in the West Division standings. Although Louisiana lost last Saturday to even its conference record with A-State’s, the Red Wolves still are not in control of their own destiny to reach the Sun Belt Conference championship game. Multiple scenarios still exist where A-State could reach the Sun Belt’s inaugural title game, but the Red Wolves would be guaranteed a spot if they win out and Louisiana drops one of its final three regular-season games. With an identical overall record to Arkansas State’s, Coastal Carolina is also in position to become bowl eligible with one more win. The Chanticleers are also 2-3 in conference play, but sits in fourth place in the East Division standings and is three games behind leader Troy. In the midst of a three-game home stand, Coastal Carolina holds a 1-2 record at Brooks Stadium this season.
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : make it bowl eligible for the 11th time over the last 14 seasons (2005-18), including the last eight in a row . . . move A-State into a tie atop the Sun Belt’s West Division standings if ULM loses its game at South Alabama . . . push its overall record to 6-4 or better through 10 games for the eighth consecutive year . . . improve the Red Wolves’ all-time record versus Coastal Carolina to 2-0 . . . move its record to 23-5 over its last 28 games played in the month of November . . . would place Blake Anderson into a tie for the fifth most Sun Belt Conference wins among all head coaches in league history . . . give it 81 all-time Sun Belt wins and make it 49-12 over its last 61 league games . . . make it 24-7 over its last 31 Sun Belt road games.
RED WOLVES NOVEMBER: Dating back to the 2011 season, Arkansas State holds a 22-5 record over its last 27 games played in the month of November. The Red Wolves posted a 2-1 record in the month a year ago and have four games scheduled for the month this season, which is their most since also playing four in 2016.
BY THE NUMBERS . . .
0 sacks allowed by A-State last week versus South Alabama, giving it two such games on the year.
1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 48 of 60 games (80%) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
1 of just two programs in league history owning at least five Sun Belt Conference championships.
1 or more touchdown passes by Justice Hansen in 24 of the last 26 games.
1 touchback and just 10 opponent return attempts (11%) in 94 career punts by Cody Grace.
2 100-yd rushing games by Marcel Murray, including a career-high 121 vs. Louisiana, over the last 3 contests.
3 fumble recoveries by Tajhea Chambers are tied for the second most in the nation.
3 players named a SBC Player of the Week a combined 4 times (QB Hansen, DE Bradley-King, LB Chambers).
3 interceptions by Jerry Jacobs are tied for the 2nd most in the SBC, while he ranks T5th in passes defended.
5 punt returns this season by A-State’s opponents for -15 yards (No. 1 punt return defense in the nation).
5 Sun Belt Conference championships (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016) over the last seven seasons (2011-17).
5 or more wins by A-State through its first nine games for the eighth consecutive season.
6 A-State players on a combined 15 college football award watch lists.
7 straight bowl game appearance (2011-17) -- a school record.
7 consecutive winning seasons (2011-17) by A-State for the first time in school history.
7 or more victories each of the last seven seasons (2011-17) -- first time in school history.
7 current A-State players have already earned their degree.
7 points allowed in the first half by the A-State defense in five of its last seven games.
9 A-State players on the Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team were the second most in the league.
9 all-time Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards.
10 of the last 13 seasons (2005-17) have seen A-State reach bowl eligibility, including the last seven in a row.
10 players in school history, including Warren Wand, who have rushed for over 2,500 yards in a career.
10 explosive plays (15+ pass/12+ rush) per game this season by the A-State offense.
14 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-18).
16.5 kickoff return defense average ranks No. 10 in the nation, one year after allowing a 21.4 avg. & ranking No. 74.
19 points for A-State in the Coaches’ Poll tied Troy for the most ever by an SBC program in a preseason poll.
19 A-State players on at least one preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team
21 defensive touchdowns between 2014-18 under DC Joe Cauthen.
22 victories by A-State over its last 27 games played in the month of November.
22 consecutive games with a reception by Justin McInnis, including the last 12 in a row with multiple catches.
23 victories over its last 30 Sun Belt Conference road games.
24 of 44 third-down conversions by A-State the last three games, producing a .545 percentage.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 58 of its last 91 regular-season games (64 percent).
32 out of the last 33 games the A-State defense has recorded at least one sack.
32 of A-State’s 36 victories under HC Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.
35 of the last 38 games with at least 5.0 tackles for loss by the A-State defense.
36 victories under Blake Anderson are the most by any A-State head coach over his first five seasons.
39 of 52 tackles this season by Ronheen Bingham have come over the last 5 games (7.8 average per game).
48 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last eight (2011-18) seasons (48-14 league record).
52 catches by Kirk Merritt are the most by an A-State player through 9 games since 2013 (J.D. McKissic, 54).
64 victories by A-State over the last eight seasons ranks tied for the 25th most in the nation.
73 interceptions by the A-State defense over the last five seasons are the 5th most in the nation.
80 all-time Sun Belt victories by A-State, which are the most in the history of the league by any program.
100 yards or more rushing in nine straight games for the first time since 2015.
120 turnovers gained by A-State over the last 5 years ranks as the 5th most in the nation over that span.
125 consecutive games played without A-State being shutout.
170 rushing yds or more in six games this season are A-State’s most since hitting the mark 10 times in 2015.
249 yds total off. allowed by A-State vs. South Alabama - the Red Wolves’ fewest since the 9th game of 2017.
300 or more yds total off. in 100 of last 111 games (90%), including all but 5 games under Blake Anderson.
400 or more yards total offense in 39 of 60 games (65%) under Blake Anderson.
467.9 yards per game by the A-State offense is the 21st highest in the nation.
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, an 18-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. Anderson led the Red Wolves to Sun Belt Conference championships in 2015 and 2016, as well as four consecutive winning seasons and bowl-game appearances (2017 Camellia Bowl, 2016 Cure Bowl, 2015 New Orleans Bowl, 2014 GoDaddy Bowl) during his first four seasons leading the program. Under his direction, the Red Wolves have set nine new single-season school records for average yards total offense (494.8 yards per game in 2017), first downs (322 in 2017), first downs passing (190 in 2017), passing yards (4,106 in 2017), passing touchdowns (38 in 2017), points scored (520 in 2015), touchdowns scored (69 in 2015), total offense (6,174 yards in 2014) and total plays (1,024 in 2014). During his first four years at the helm of the program, he saw 41 of his players earn 64 All-Sun Belt Conference selections -- the most in the league over that span.
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).
FIVE YEARS RUNNING: Despite A-State being just nine games through its 2018 regular season, Blake Anderson is already the only head coach in Arkansas State history to win 36 or more games over his first five years at the school. Additionally, he is one of just three head coaches at A-State to ever direct the program to at least 36 wins in 60 or fewer games -- Bill Davidson also collected 36 victories in his first 60 games between 1971-76, while Bennie Ellender won 37 times over his first 60 games between 1963-69.
DOUBLE DIGITS: Although 32 of the Red Wolves’ 36 victories under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points, the Red Wolves have already won two games this season by a single-digit margin. The previous four seasons combined under Anderson saw A-State claim just two wins by less than 10 points, including a 21-14 overtime victory against Utah State in 2014 and 27-26 outcome versus Georgia Southern in 2016.
CLIMBING THE LADDER: Blake Anderson has led the Red Wolves to a pair of Sun Belt titles and collected 28 league wins along the way, which are the sixth most ever by any of the conference’s all-time head coaches. Anderson has the opportunity to climb as high as third on that list this season.
THE A-STATE - COASTAL CAROLINA SERIES: Arkansas State and Coastal Carolina met for the first time ever last season when the Red Wolves claimed a 51-17 victory in Jonesboro. The Red Wolves held just a 17-7 halftime lead, but outscored the Chanticleers 17-0 in the third quarter to take a 34-7 advantage. Justice Hansen passed for 286 yards and five touchdowns to pace A-State’s offensive attack, while linebacker Kyle Wilson posted nine tackles to lead the Red Wolves’ defense.
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 48 of its last 60 Sun Belt Conference games (.800 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 80-48. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 25. 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.
SUN BELT CHAMPS (5 of 7): Arkansas State is the only FBS program in the nation to win five conference championships over the last seven years. The Red Wolves most recently claimed the 2016 Sun Belt Conference championship, giving it back-to-back titles with a combined 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 all-time SBC titles.
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 63-15 (.808 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 38 of their last 46 home games. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 155-78-1 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.
THROUGH 9: Including this year, Arkansas State has held a winning record through nine games the last eight seasons. The Red Wolves are 5-4 for the third time over that span (2018, 2016, 2013), while they were 6-3 four times (2017, 2015, 2014, 2012). A-State’s 7-2 record through eight games in 2011 remains their best since moving to FBS status in 1992.
WINNING NON-CONFERENCE RECORD: With a 3-1 record, Arkansas State secured a winning record this season against non-conference opponents for the first time since 1995 when it went 3-2. Additionally, with wins against Tulsa and UNLV, the Red Wolves won back-to-back non-conference games against FBS opponents for the first time ever since moving to FBS status in 1992.
RON CARROLL WORKS No. 500: Now in his 43rd season as Arkansas State’s head certified trainer, A-State Hall of Honor inductee (2005) Ron Carroll reached a milestone number in his career when the Red Wolves played Georgia Southern this year. A part of eight all-time A-State conference championships and eight bowl games, Carroll worked his 500th all-time Arkansas State game on Sept. 29, 2018. Carroll has not only worked every A-State football contest since his first in 1976, he has never missed a fall practice and missed only one spring practice in 2013 to have his gallbladder removed. Since being named A-State’s first certified athletic trainer at the age of 24, he has worked with 11 head football coaches and 11 athletics directors. Now 66 years old, Carroll has also since been married (1979), has three children and is expecting his seventh grandchild this October.
EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE: Based on gains of at least 15 yards passing and 12 rushing, Arkansas State has recorded at least nine explosive plays in all but one game this season and is averaging 10.4 per contest. The Red Wolves recorded a season-high 15 explosive plays against SEMO, followed by 14 versus Georgia State, 11 versus UNLV and Louisiana, 10 against Georgia Southern and South Alabama and nine against both Tulsa and Alabama. A-State has recorded 94 total explosive plays, including 51 covering at least 20 yards.
RUSHING RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has already rushed for at least 170 yards in six games, which are its most since hitting the mark in 10 outings in 2015. A-State has also posted at least 100 rushing yards in every game this year, marking the first time it has reached the century mark in nine consecutive games since the 2015 season as well (nine straight). The last time the Red Wolves produced 10 consecutive 100-yard rushing games in a season was 2012 (12 straight).
SCORING ON THE GROUND: Arkansas State’s five rushing touchdowns versus Louisiana were its most since also recording five against Texas State in 2015. Ten of the Red Wolves’ 14 rushing scores this season have come over the last three games. A-State has scored multiple rushing touchdowns in each of the last three outings for its longest streak since 2016 (four straight).
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 100 of its last 111 games (.901 percentage). A-State has produced 300 yards in 55 of 60 games under head coach Blake Anderson, including the last 21 in a row.
400-PLUS: Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 39 times over its last 60 games (65 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach. A-State is ranked 21st in the nation this season with 467.9 yards per game, one year after it posted a school-record 494.8 average that ranked 10th in the nation.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including 17 of the last 26 contests, the Red Wolves have now posted at least 30 points in 58 of their last 91 regular-season games (64 percent) dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 45 of their last 51 games when scoring at least 30 points.
TOP 30: Senior quarterback Justice Hansen was named on Oct. 5 as a “top 30” candidate for the 2018 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. The senior from Edmond, Okla., was named a “top 20” candidate for the award last season as a junior.
FAST START: The Louisiana game marked the fourth time this season that Arkansas State scored on its first possession (all touchdowns). A-State also found the end zone on its first drive versus Georgia State, UNLV and SEMO.
GOING FOR 100: True freshman running back Marcel Murray posted a career-high 121 rushing yards two games ago at Louisiana to become the first A-State player to hit the 100-yard mark in back-to-back games since Warren Wand last season (versus Texas State and ULM).
HANSEN EARNS SECOND WEEKLY HONOR: Senior quarterback Justice Hansen was named the Sun Belt Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 22 after accounting for five touchdowns and 333 yards total offense while also breaking the Arkansas State school record for career passing touchdowns during the Red Wolves’ 51-35 victory over Georgia State. He completed three touchdown passes, running his career total to 70 that gave him the sixth most in Sun Belt Conference history.
MERRITT ON THE RECEPTION: Junior receiver Kirk Merritt has either led A-State or tied for the team high in receptions five of the first nine games, hauling in a combined 52 receptions over that span. Merritt’s 52 receptions are the most by an A-State player over the first nine games of a season since J.D. McKissic (now with the Seattle Seahawks) had 54 in 2013. Merritt posted a career-high 11 catches against Georgia Southern that rank tied for the seventh most in school history for a single game. He has caught at least four passes in eight of the Red Wolves’ nine games as well and is currently leading the Sun Belt Conference with 5.8 receptions per game.
HITTING THE MARK: Junior quarterback Justice Hansen has thrown at least one passing touchdown in 24 of his last 26 games and two or more touchdown passes in 17 of his last 23 outings. He has thrown multiple scoring passes in 22 career games. The former Oklahoma transfer has thrown for at least 200 yards 25 times, 300 yards 12 times and 400 five times during his three-year career at A-State. Dating back to the 2015 season, Hansen has passed for at least 200 yards in 23 of his last 28 games.
ECLIPSING 2,000: Running back Warren Wand has pushed his career rushing total to 2,709 yards, making him one of 10 players in A-State history to post 2,500 in a career. He is currently ranked 19th in the nation among active players in career rushing yards, while his 20 career rushing touchdowns are the 45th most.
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 35 of its last 38 games. A-State has ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation each of the last three seasons in tackles for loss.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK: A-State has ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation in sacks three of the last five years, posting a combined 165 sacks over that span. The Red Wolves have recorded at least one sack in 32 of its last 33 games dating back to the 2016 season.
PICK IT OFF: A-State has proved to be an opportunistic defense the last five seasons (2014-18) when the ball has been put in the air, intercepting a combined 73 passes over that time that rank as the fifth most in the nation over that span. The only teams with more interceptions are San Diego State (85), Alabama (79), Ohio State (77) and Utah (77).
FORCING TURNOVERS: Arkansas State has recorded at least one turnover gained in 48 of 60 games (80 percent) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen. The Red Wolves have ranked among the top 30 teams in turnovers gained three of the last five years as well (2014-18), and their combined 120 forced turnovers over that span are the fifth most in the nation.
DEFENSE IS THE BEST OFFENSE: Arkansas State has ranked among the top 21 teams in the nation in defensive touchdowns four of the last five seasons (2014-18) under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen. In fact, the 2015 season saw the Red Wolves record an FBS-high eight touchdowns. The Red Wolves have 21 total defensive touchdowns over the last five seasons (2014-18).
BINGHAM ON THE STOP: Senior defensive end Ronheen Bingham recorded a career-high 13 tackles last game against Louisiana, and he now has two career games with double figure stops (both this season). Bingham has posted 39 of his 52 stops over the last five outings, averaging 7.8 per game over that span as he has climbed to No. 25 in the Sun Belt Conference in the stat.
CHAMBERS RECOGNIZED: Sophomore linebacker Tajhea Chambers was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week after recording seven tackles and a career-high two fumble recoveries, including one he returned 34 yards for his first career touchdown, during Arkansas State’s 51-35 victory over Georgia State. The Gordon, Ga., native now has four career fumble recoveries to his credit, while his 56 tackles this season are the third most on the squad.
BRADLEY-KING COLLECTS WEEKLY HONOR: Sophomore defensive end William Bradley-King was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week after his dominating performance in the Red Wolves’ 27-20 victory over UNLV. He recorded his second career forced fumble while setting career highs with nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. With the Red Wolves leading 27-20, Bradley-King recorded a strip-sack on fourth down that ended UNLV’s final possession and secured the victory for Arkansas State. The Kansas City, Mo., native also posted a sack on the final play of the first half, helping preserve a six-point A-State lead by not allowing UNLV quarterback Armani Rogers to get off a pass to the end zone. He additionally came up with tackles on two third-down plays that forced UNLV punts during the game.
JACOBS HONORED BY CSM: College Sports Madness named junior cornerback Jerry Jacobs its Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week following his two-interception performance against UNLV. Jacobs became the first A-State player to intercept multiple passes in a game since Kyle Martin had two against ULM in the Red Wolves’ 10th game of last season. Jacobs is now ranked tied for second and tied for fifth in the Sun Belt Conference for interceptions and passes defended, respectively.
DOUBLE-FIGURE STOPS: Senior safety Darreon Jackson recorded a career-high 13 tackles against Tulsa, which also ties the most this year by an A-State player through nine games. Jackson has now posted double-figure stops in four career games, all coming over the Red Wolves’ last 10 outings. Jackson is currently ranked tied for seventh in the Sun Belt Conference with 7.1 per game.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
COVERAGE GAME: Arkansas State’s punt and kickoff coverage units have been successful early this season as both rank among the top 10 in the nation. In fact, the Red Wolves are ranked first in the nation in punt coverage by allowing -2.5 yards per return by its opponents. The kickoff coverage team is allowing just 16.5 yards per return, which is a significant improvement over its 21.4 average and No. 74 ranking a year ago.
ON THE RETURN: Stepping into a punt return role for the first time of his career, senior running back Warren Wand has already recorded 198 return yards that leaves him just 15 shy of breaking into the top 10 single-season marks in A-State history. While his 9.1 yards per attempt ranks third in the Sun Belt Conference, it ranks Wand 32nd in the nation.
AMAZING GRACE: Junior punter Cody Grace has posted only one touchback in 94 punting attempts during his two-year career at A-State, while his punts have also been returned just 10 times (11 percent). He has played a big part in the Red Wolves ranking No. 1 in the nation this season and No. 2 a year ago in punt return defense. He has posted at least one punt inside the opponent’s 20-yard line in 19 of 20 career games and multiple in all but four.
GRUPE ON THE KICK: Since taking over place kicking duties in the third game (Tulsa) of the season, redshirt freshman Blake Grupe has made nine of his 12 field goal attempts. He made a career-high three against Appalachian State, including a career-long covering 47 yards. Grupe is ranked among the top five players in the Sun Belt Conference for field goals made (2md), field goal percentage (T4th) and points by kicking (4th).