A-State at La.-Monroe in-depth preview

A-State at La.-Monroe in-depth preview

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A-STATE (6-3, 5-0) at ULM (1-8, 0-5)
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: JPS Field at Malone Stadium, Monroe, La.
RADIO: 107.9 FM Jonesboro, 92.7 FM Conway
Live Stats: AStateStats.com
Live Game Notes: twitter.com/AStateGameDay

AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : guarantee the Red Wolves a winning overall record for the fifth consecutive year . . . give it six consecutive victories for the first time since the 2012 season . . . give the Red Wolves a 7-3 or better overall record through 10 games for the first time since 2012 and third time ever as an FBS member . . . improve its conference record to 6-0 for the first time since the 2011 season when it went undefeated in Sun Belt play . . . run its record in the month of November to 15-3 dating back to the 2011 season . . . give it 31 victories over its last 37 Sun Belt Conference games . . . give it six consecutive wins over ULM and run its all-time series record against the Warhawks to 23-14 . . . improve its record over the last five seasons to 42-20.

THE ARKANSAS STATE - ULM SERIES: Arkansas State has played ULM 36 previous times, which is the fifth most in school history among all opponents. The 37th meeting this Saturday will move ULM into a tie with Louisiana Tech for the fourth most games A-State has ever played against any other school. The Red Wolves lead the all-time series with the Warhawks 22-14 since the first meeting in 1959. As Sun Belt foes, A-State leads the series 10-4 after picking up a win over ULM?each of the last five seasons, including a 28-14 victory in Jonesboro last season.
A-STATE vs ULM ALL-TIME SERIES: A-State leads 22-14
A-STATE vs ULM ALL-TIME SBC SERIES: A-State leads 10-4
A-STATE at ULM (SBC SERIES ONLY): A-State leads 4-3
ULM at A-STATE (SBC SERIES ONLY): A-State leads 6-1

OLD TIES: While Arkansas State and ULM have met the past 14 seasons as Sun Belt Conference opponents, it is not the first time the two teams have shared a league. Both the Red Wolves and Warhawks were members of the Southland Conference at the same time from 1982-86.

ROAD WARRIORS: Arkansas State has won 14 of its last 17 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, 2-1 in 2013, 2-2 a year ago and are 2-0 this season.

BOWL ELIGIBILE: With a 6-3 overall record, A-State is now bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive season and eighth time over the last 11 years. Since joining the FBS in 1992, Arkansas State became bowl eligible in nine games or less for the fourth time (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015) in school history. The earliest A-State ever became bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 through eight games.

THROUGH NINE: Arkansas State has a winning record (6-3) after nine games for the fifth straight season and the sixth time since joining the FBS in 1992 (2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2006, 2005). The Red Wolves' 6-3 record matches the 2015, 2014 and 2012 teams as their second best record through nine games since joining the FBS. The 2011 team was 7-2 through nine contests.

· 0.7 career sacks p/g by Ja'Von Rolland-Jones is the 2nd highest average in the nation among active players.
· 1 or more turnovers gained by A-State in 20 of 22 games under defensive coordinator Joe Cauthen.
· 3 A-State players named a Sun Belt Player of the Week (Michael Gordon, J.D. McKissic, Cody Brown).
· 3 second half comeback victories this season by A-State and four total under Blake Anderson.
· 4 consecutive bowl game appearances, including back-to-back GoDaddy Bowl wins in 2013 and 2014.
· 4 consecutive winning seasons (2011-14) by A-State (last time 1984-87).
· 4 current players have already earned their degree -- T. Houston, L. Ferguson, B. Mays, C. Girley.
· 4 true freshmen and seven total freshmen on A-State's current depth chart.
· 5 defensive touchdowns this season by A-State are the second most in the nation.
· 5 consecutive games A-State has rushed for at least 200 yards -- longest streak since 1988.
· 5 school records held by J.D. McKissic, including single-game (15), season (103) & career receptions (278).
· 5 head coaches over the last 6 years (Steve Roberts, Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn, Bryan Harsin, Blake Anderson).
· 5 game winning streak by A-State is tied for the 11th longest in the nation.
· 6 receptions needed by J.D. McKissic for the 27th most in NCAA FBS history.
· 6.7 career yards per rushing attempt by Michael Gordon is tied for the second highest in school history.
· 7 fifth-year seniors and 15 total seniors on A-State's current depth chart.
· 7 or more victories each of the last four seasons (2011-14).
· 8 of the last 11 seasons (2005-15) have seen A-State reach bowl eligibility, including the last five in a row.
· 8 players named to at least one major award watch list.
· 8 consecutive field goals made by J.D. Houston ties the sixth longest streak in school history.
· 8 of last nine years w/at least one NFL Draft selection.
· 10 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 13 years.
· 11 career 100-yard rushing games by Michael Gordon, including A-State's last game versus App State.
· 11 consecutive seasons with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium (2005-15).
· 11 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference selections are the most in the league.
· 11 receiving yards needed by J.D. McKissic for the most ever by an A-State player (career).
· 12 statistical categories A-State is ranked among the top three teams in the Sun Belt Conference.
· 12 of A-State's 13 victories under HC Blake Anderson have come by a double-figure margin.
· 13 victories under Blake Anderson, making him 1st HC in A-State history w/13+ wins 1st two seasons.
· 13 career runs covering at least 40 yards by Michael Gordon.
· 14 victories by A-State over its last 17 games in the month of November.
· 14 wins by A-State over its last 17 Sun Belt Conference road games.
· 16 players named to a Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team by at least one college football publication.
· 17 interceptions (all over the last 8 games) by A-State are the most in the nation.
· 21 punts inside the opponent's 20 by Luke Ferguson -- the most in the Sun Belt Conference.
· 22 turnovers gained by A-State are the sixth most in the nation.
· 25 "top-10" school records held by Fredi Knighten.
· 28.1 career kickoff return average by J.D. McKissic is the 23rd highest NCAA?FBS?history.
· 30 Sun Belt Conference victories over the last five seasons (30-6 league record).
· 30 or more points scored by A-State in 38 of its last 56 regular-season games (68 percent).
· 36 previous games played against ULM?are the fifth most in A-State history versus all opponents.
· 41 victories by A-State over the last five seasons ranks tied for the 26th most in the nation.
· 42.4 career punting average by Luke Ferguson is the second highest in school history.
· 46 All-Sun Belt Conference selections over the last four seasons.
· 50 victories and just 11 losses at Centennial Bank Stadium since 2005 (.820 winning percentage).
· 57 tackles by Khari Lain, 51 more than he had all of last season and tied for the 20th most in the Sun Belt.
· 278 career receptions by J.D. McKissic -- most in A-State & Sun Belt history & most in the nation among active players.
· 300 or more yds total offense in 65 of last 73 games (89 pct.), including all but 2 games under Blake Anderson.
· 400 or more yards total offense averaged last six seasons (2010-15).
· 561 rushing yds by Warren Wand are the most by a true freshman at A-State since Lamont Zachery in 1996.

HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, a 14-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 A-State to its fourth consecutive winning season and bowl-game appearance his first season at the helm, which also saw the Red Wolves break the school records for total offense (6,194), average yards total offense (476.5 yards per game), total plays (1,024), points scored (477) and touchdowns scored (65). Despite injuries forcing Anderson to use a different starting lineup in every regular-season game, his squad ranked among the top 45 teams in the nation in 23 combined offensive, defensive and special teams categories. In the process, he saw 11 of his players earn All-Sun Belt Conference recognition, which tied the second most in the league.

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 (2014) in his first season 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).

TWO YEARS RUNNING: Now with 13 career victories leading the Red Wolves, Blake Anderson is the first head coach in A-State history to win 12 or more games over his first two seasons at the school. Additionally, Anderson is tied with Bennie Ellender (22 games between 1963-65) as the second fastest coach in A-State history reach 13 wins behind only Gene Harlow (20 games between 1955-57).

BREAKING THE CYCLE: Arkansas State began a season with the same head coach it had the season before for the first time since 2010. Not only is Blake Anderson back for his second consecutive year, the Red Wolves have their entire coaching staff back for a second straight year for the first time since 2007. Following a nine-year stint by Steve Roberts as A-State's head coach, Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss), Gus Malzahn (Auburn) and Bryan Harsin (Boise State) all spent one year at the helm of the program.

A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 30 of its last 36 Sun Belt Conference games (.833 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the conference to 63-42. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 22. With the exception of Georgia Southern, which A-State has never faced as an SBC opponent, the Red Wolves have defeated every team in the conference 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.

RED WOLVES NOVEMBER: Dating back to the 2011 season, Arkansas State holds a 14-3 record over its last 17 games played in the month of November. The Red Wolves won 10 consecutive games in the month before falling to Western Kentucky in their 2013 regular-season finale.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: A-State is in the midst of a three-game road stretch covering the entire month of November. It marks just the second time in A-State's history as a Sun Belt member that it has played three straight conference road games, although the other time came just last season when the Red Wolves went 2-1 at Georgia State (W), Louisiana-Lafayette (L) and Idaho (W). The last time A-State went an entire calendar month without playing a home game in Jonesboro was October 2003.

DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK: Including last week's game against Appalachian State, three of Arkansas State's last four victories came after the Red Wolves entered halftime behind on the scoreboard. During those three victories, A-State outscored its opponents by a combined 86-23 in the second half. The Red Wolves also defeated Utah State last season after entering the second half behind, giving them four second-half comeback victories under head coach Blake Anderson.

DOUBLE DIGITS: All six A-State victories this season have come by at least 10 points and the Red Wolves average margin of victory in its five Sun Belt wins was 11.5 points. Six of A-State's seven wins last season also came by a double-figure margin, meaning 12 of the Red Wolves' 13 wins under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points. The only exception was a 21-14 overtime win over Utah State last season.

FIVE ALIVE: Arkansas State has put together four consecutive winning seasons (2011-14) for not only the first time as an FBS member, but also the first time at any level since 1984-87 when it was a member of the NCAA FCS. The last time the Red Wolves strung together five straight winning seasons was 1949-53.

FIVE-YEAR WINS TOTAL: Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012, eight more in 2013, seven last year and six this season, the Red Wolves have recorded 41 victories that are tied for the 26th most in the nation over the last five years. Additionally, A-State's 41 victories are its most over a five year span since winning 42 games between 1984-88.

STEPPING INTO A STARTING ROLE: Eighteen players have made their first career start at A-State this season (9 vs. USC, 1 vs. Missouri, 7 vs. Missouri State, 1 vs. South Alabama), including 11 on defense and seven on offense. That is tied for the 12th most in the nation . . . UCF and Kansas have the most with 33 each. The defensive starters included DL Waylon Roberson, Donovan Ransom, Robert Mondie and Jake Swalley, LB's Tajhea Chambers, Chase Robison and Khari Lain, DB's Bo Sentimore, Cody Brown, Blaise Taylor and Jamaris Hart. Gaining their first offensive career start were OL Daniel Keith, Brandon Berg, Joseph Bacchus and Austin Moreton, QB?James Tabary and TE Warren Leapheart.

HOME SWEET HOME: Arkansas State has strung together 11 consecutive years with a winning record at Centennial Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. The Red Wolves are now 50-11 (.819 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 25 of their last 29 home games. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 142-74-1 since it opened in 1974. A-State's six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.

THREE TOP-25: Three of A-State's four non-conference opponents have been ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation at some point this season. Toledo checked in as high as No. 20 at one point on the AP Poll, while A-State began its 2015 campaign with back-to-back games against Top 25 teams (then ranked No. 8 USC, No. 21 Missouri) for the first time since 2004 when it faced No. 17 Missouri and No. 4 LSU. The Red Wolves' lone victory over a top-25 team since joining the FBS in 1992 came against No. 25 Kent State in the 2013 GoDaddy Bowl. USC was the highest ranked opponent Arkansas State had faced since playing at No. 5 Oregon to open the 2012 season.

300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 65 of its last 73 games (.890 percentage). A-State went over 300 yards in all 13 games last season and has reached the mark seven times this year.

400-PLUS: Including the last three games in a row and six games total this season, Arkansas State has posted at least 400 yards total offense in 15 of 22 games under head coach Blake Anderson and offensive coordinator Walt Bell. The Red Wolves have posted over 500 yards total offense four times in 2015, including a season-high 624 yards against Missouri State. Last season, the Red Wolves tallied at least 500 yards total offense in five outings and ranked 20th in the nation in total offense (476.5 ypg).

LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: A-State has posted at least 30 points in 38 of its last 56 regular-season games (68 percent) dating back to the 2011 season, including 12 of the last 16 contests. The Red Wolves have won 26 of their last 30 games when scoring at least 30 points.

RUSHING RED WOLVES: Arkansas State has posted at least 200 rushing yards in each of the last five games for the first time since the 1988 season when it was an FCS member and reached the mark in nine consecutive outings. Additionally, the Red Wolves are averaging 294.0 rushing yards per game over their last five outings and have piled up 16 rushing touchdowns over the same span.

FINDING THE END ZONE: Sophomore running back Johnston White has recorded a team and career-best 11 rushing touchdowns this season, giving him 17 running scores during his career. He has scored multiple rushing touchdowns in four games this season. He needs three more rushing touchdowns to tie the 10th most in school history for a career.

WAND MAKING EARLY IMPACT: Running back Warren Wand has rushed for 561 yards, the second most on the team, and is averaging 6.8 yards per carry as a true freshman. His 561 yards are the most by a true freshman at A-State since Lamont Zachery ran for 846 yards in 1996. Wand has rushed for at least 50 yards in six games, including a career-high 119 against Georgia State.

OVER 2,000: This season, senior running back Michael Gordon became the 12th player in school history to record over 2,000 career rushing yards. Gordon has rushed for a team-high 758 yards this season, pushing his career total to 2,657. Currently A-State's seventh all-time leading rusher, Gordon needs an additional 279 rushing yards to become the school's sixth all-time career leader. Gordon is also ranked fifth all-time in rushing touchdowns at A-State with 30 to his credit. ?He has scored at least one rushing TD in 16 career games, 2+ TDs in seven contests, 3+ TDs in five outings and a career-high five against Idaho as a junior.

GROWING NUMBERS FOR GRISWOLD: Senior tight end Darion Griswold's 856 career receiving yards are the second most in school history by an A-State tight end behind only Steve Lockhart's 1,216 accumulated between 1968-71. Additionally, Griswold's 63 receptions are the most by an A-State tight end since Lockhart recorded a tight end school-record 79. Lockhart was a 12th round NFL?Draft pick by the New Orleans Saints.

TAKING OVER AT QB: In 13 of his 19 career starts, senior quarterback Fredi Knighten has posted over 200 yards total offense. Knighten has recorded at least 300 yards total offense in seven games the last two seasons. During the Red Wolves' game against South Alabama, he became the seventh player in school history to record over 5,000 yards total offense in a career (now 5,879).

A FLARE FOR THE DRAMATIC: Senior RB Michael Gordon holds a career 6.7 average per rush, which ranks tied for the second highest in school history, and has been a part of 20 plays covering at least 30 yards the past four seasons. He has recorded 13 career runs covering at least 40 yards:
92 yd TD vs UAPB (2013); 73 yd TD?vs Appalachian State (2015); 70 yd TD vs ULL?(2014); 68 yd vs ULM (2014); 64 yd TD vs Troy (2013); 59 vs. Idaho (2015); 55 vs. Idaho (2015); 53 vs GSU (2014); 50 vs GSU (2014); 49 yd vs ULM (2014); 44 yd TD vs Idaho (2014); 42-yd TD vs Montana State (2014); 40-yd TD vs Texas State (2013)

Mc-KISS-ic THE RECORD GOODBYE: Senior wide receiver J.D. McKissic broke the Sun Belt Conference record for career receptions during the Red Wolves' game against Idaho, recording four receptions to give him 264 for his career (now 278). He broke the Sun Belt Conference record (262) formerly held by Troy's Jerrel Jernigan (2007-10). McKissic has caught at least one pass in 45 of 46 career games, including the last 10 in a row dating back to last season. He entered the 2014 regular-season finale against New Mexico State with a catch in 35 consecutive games (every game of his career), which was the 12th longest streak in the nation at the time.

RECEIVING RECORDS: J.D. McKissic has already taken 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 (278). He is ranked second for career receiving yards with 2,720 to his credit and has 10 receiving touchdowns that rank tied for seventh. He is the only player in school history to have 70 or more receptions in two different seasons. Additionally, he needs just 11 receiving yards to break the school record for a career. His 2,720 receiving yards are the third most in Sun Belt Conference history.

OFFENSIVE NCAA ACTIVE CAREER LEADERS: Arkansas State seniors Fredi Knighten, Michael Gordon and J.D. McKissic are all ranked among the top 40 active NCAA career leaders in at least one statistical category. McKissic leads the nation in career receptions among current players with 278, and the second closest player (Nelson Spruce of Colorado) is six receptions behind McKissic.

A-State Player Stat Rank Total/Avg.
J.D. McKissic Receptions 1 278
J.D. McKissic KO Return Avg. 4 28.1 ypr
J.D. McKissic All-Purpose Yds 5 4,635
J.D. McKissic Receiving Yards 11 2,720
Michael Gordon Rushing Yards 19 2,657
Fredi Knighten Total Offense 35 5,879
Fredi Knighten Pass Efficiency 40 134.88

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior running back Michael Gordon was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Student-Athlete of the Week on Oct. 5 after rushing for a career-high 221 yards and season-high three touchdowns against Idaho, leading Arkansas State to a 49-35 victory over the Vandals. Gordon's 221 rushing yards were the second most ever by an A-State player at Centennial Bank Stadium. He ran the ball a career-high 26 times, averaging 8.5 yards per attempt, and recorded three or more rushing touchdowns in a game for the fifth time of his career.

Even while A-State's pass defense efficiency ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference last season at 122.3, the Red Wolves have shown improvement on that number through their first nine games this year. Their pass defense efficiency this season is 116.92, which is the second best in the league and currently ranked 38th in the nation. The Red Wolves have 17 interceptions (most in the nation) and are allowing just a 52.7 completion percentage (21st in the nation).

PLAYING IN THE BACKFIELD: Sophomore defensive end Ja'Von Rolland-Jones has recorded at least a half TFL?in six of nine games this season and 10 of his last 14 contests dating back to last year. He also has a team-high 6.0 sacks this season, as well as a team-high 14.5 for his career. He has tallied at least a half sack in nine of his last 14 games.

THE FAST LAIN: Sophomore linebacker Khari Lain leads the Red Wolves in tackles through the first nine games with 57, which is also tied for the 20th most in the Sun Belt Conference. With an expanded role this season, Lain has already posted 51 more tackles than he had a year ago (6).

DEFENSIVE NCAA ACTIVE CAREER LEADERS: Arkansas State's Rocky Hayes and Ja'Von Rolland-Jones are both ranked among the top-50 active NCAA leaders in one statistical category. Rolland-Jones, ranked 38th in sacks, is one of just two sophomores among the top-50 leaders in the stat.

A-State Player Stat Rank Total/Avg.
J. Rolland-Jones Sacks per game 2 0.73 pg
Rocky Hayes Passes Defended 36 27
J. Rolland-Jones Sacks 38 14.5

PICK IT OFF: While the Red Wolves were unable to record a turnover gained against USC, they have come back to record 17 interceptions over their last eight games. A-State posted three interceptions against Missouri, Missouri State, Idaho and South Alabama which were its most since the South Alabama game a year ago. The last time A-State recorded an interception in at least eight straight games during the same season was 2011. The Red Wolves are ranked first in the nation this season in total interceptions. Additionally, their 17 interceptions are the most by an A-State team since the 2011 squad picked off 19.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Junior safety Cody Brown was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week on Oct. 26 after tying his then-career high seven tackles, posting one pass break-up and returning his third interception of the season 30 yards for a touchdown during Arkansas State's 37-27 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Junior kicker J.D. Houston made a career-high four field goals last game versus Appalachian State to make him 8-of-8 on the season. ?His eight consecutive field goals made ties Josh Arauco (2007) for the sixth longest streak in school history. Additionally, his four field goals tied the fourth most in school history and he scored 16 points by kicking that ranks as the fifth most in A-State history.

BLOCK PARTY: Junior defensive end Chris Odom recorded his first two career blocks during the Georgia State game, his first coming on a field goal and the second on an extra point attempt. In the process, he became the seventh player in school history to record multiple blocks in the same game. Entering the game, the Red Wolves had one block all season. Now with three total blocks, they have one more than they had all last season.

COVERED UP: The Red Wolves were one of the top teams in both kickoff and punt coverage a year ago, ranking No. 4 in the nation in kickoff return defense (16.31 ypr) and No. 9 in punt return defense (3.10 ypr). Their first nine games of the 2015 season saw them allow just 19.2 yards per kick return, which is the 32nd best average in the nation. Additionally, they are averaging 39.90 net yards per punt to rank 23rd in the country.

PRECISION PUNTING: Not only is senior punter Luke Ferguson averaging 42.9 yards per punt, he has recorded 21 punts (43 percent) inside the 20 that lead the Sun Belt Conference. ?Ferguson has posted at least one punt inside the opponent's 20 every game this season, including a career-tying four against Missouri and Louisiana-Lafayette. He finished last season with 22 punts inside the 20 and now has 51 for his career.

ON THE RETURN: Sophomore cornerback Blaise Taylor recorded a season-high 60 punt return yards versus Georgia State on two attempts, including one that went for a season-best 53 yards. A preseason All-Sun Belt Conference return specialist, Taylor holds a punt return average of 12.4 yards per attempt, which ranks 16th in the nation and stands as the fourth highest average in school history.

NATIONAL RANKINGS: Arkansas State's special teams units have become one of the best-rounded in the nation, ranking among the top 40 teams in the country in five different statistical categories:
Stat Total/Avg. Rank
Blocked Kicks 3 total 9
Net Punting 39.9 avg. 23
Kickoff Returns 23.9 ypr 24
KO?Return Def. 19.2 ypr 32
Punt Returns 10.9 ypr 40

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Senior wide receiver J.D. McKissic was named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Student-Athlete of the Week on Nov. 30 after recording a school-record 211 kickoff return yards, including a 92-yard return for a touchdown, during A-State's game against Toledo. His 211 yards were the second most (now third most) in the nation this season and the fifth most ever by a Sun Belt Conference player. McKissic's 92-yard return was the 10th longest in school history and the first return for a touchdown by an A-State player since he accomplished the feat on a 98-yard return versus Idaho in 2013. He became the 10th player in Sun Belt history to post two kickoff return touchdowns in a career.


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