Coastal Carolina at A-State in-depth preview

Coastal Carolina at A-State in-depth preview

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Coastal Carolina (4-5, 1-4) at A-STATE (5-4, 3-2)
2 p.m. Saturday
Allison Field at Centennial Bank Stadium
RADIO: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network
TV: ESPN+
LIVE STATS: AStateStats.com
LIVE GAME STATS: twitter.com/AStateGameDay

THE PRINCIPALS:  The Red Wolves have won their past two games to jump back above .500 and pull them within one victory of becoming bowl eligible for the ninth consecutive season and 12th time over the last 15 years. With a 3-2 league record, A-State also sits one game behind Louisiana in the Sun Belt’s West Division. Coastal Carolina started the season 3-1, including a victory over  Big 12 member Kansas, but has dropped four of its last five games to run its record to 4-5 entering Saturday’s game.  The Chanticleers are currently in fifth place in the Sun Belt’s East Division with a 1-4 league mark.

AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . :  improve its all-time record against Coastal Carolina to 3-0 . . . give it a winning record through 10 games for the ninth consecutive season . . . give it 55 wins over its last 69 Sun Belt games . . . move Blake Anderson into sole possession of the second most Sun Belt Conference victories among the league’s all-time head coaches . . . increase its winning streak in November contests to eight games . . . make it bowl eligible for the ninth consecutive season and 12th time over the last 15 years.

A-STATE vs. COASTAL CAROLINA SERIES:  Arkansas State holds a 2-0 record against Coastal Carolina as the two programs are set to meet for just the third time.  The Red Wolves claimed a 51-17 win in Jonesboro in 2017 before going on the road to knock off the Chanticleers 44-16 last season.  A-State has outscored Coastal Carolina 95-33 in the two games combined.

HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON:  Blake Anderson, a 19-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 coach on Dec. 19, 2013.  Anderson led the Red Wolves to Sun Belt Conference championships in 2015 and 2016, as well as five consecutive winning seasons and five bowl-game appearances (2018 Arizona Bowl, 2017 Camellia Bowl, 2016 Cure Bowl, 2015 New Orleans Bowl, 2014 GoDaddy Bowl) during his first five seasons leading the program.  Under his direction, the Red Wolves have set nine new single-season records, including average yards total offense (494.8 ypg in 2017), total offense (6,174 yards in 2014) and points scored (520 in 2015). 

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).

SIX YEARS RUNNING:  Blake Anderson is the only head coach in Arkansas State history to win 44 or more games over his first six years at the school.  Additionally, he is one of just three head coaches at A-State to  ever direct the program to at least 44 wins in 72 or fewer games -- Forrest England won 45 games over the same span between 1946-52 and Bennie Ellender won 48 times over his first 72 games between 1963-70.

DOUBLE DIGITS:  Including three of their five victories this season, 38 of the Red Wolves’ 44 wins under head coach Blake Anderson have come by 10 or more points.  In addition to their two wins this year against Troy and ULM, A-State also picked up two single-digit victories last season and one in both 2016 and 2014.  A-State has outscored its opponents 1,867-883 in the 44 wins under Anderson for a 22.4-point average scoring difference.

CLIMBING THE LADDER:  Blake Anderson has led the Red Wolves to a pair of Sun Belt titles and collected 34 league wins along the way, which are the tied for the second most ever by any of the conference’s all-time head coaches.

A-STATE vs THE SUN BELT:  Arkansas State has won 54 of its last 68 Sun Belt Conference games (.794 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the league to 86-50.  The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 27.  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.

NEXT MAN UP:  Partially due to injuries, including eight season-ending to Ryan Graham (RB), Isaiah Azubuike (RB), Logan Bonner (QB), Forrest Merrill (DL), Hunter Moreton (DL), Jerry Jacobs (CB), Tony Adams (DL) and Thomas Toki (DL), the Red Wolves have used 37 different starters this season.  Just 17 teams have used more starters this season than A-State, including BYU and Old Dominion with a national-high 47.

RED WOLVES NOVEMBER:  Dating back to the 2011 season, Arkansas State holds a 26-5 record over its last 31 games played in the month of November.  The Red Wolves have won their last seven November games.  They have four games scheduled this month for the second consecutive season.

THROUGH NINE:  Arkansas State holds a winning record through nine games for the ninth consecutive season dating back to the 2011 season.  A-State was also 5-4 at this time last season, while its best record under head coach Blake Anderson through nine games was 6-3 in 2017, 2015 and 2014.

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 66-17 (.795 winning percentage) since the 2005 season and have won 41 of their last 51 home outings.  The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Centennial Bank Stadium is 158-80-1 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.

SUN BELT LEADERS:  Based on the weekly stats report compiled by the Sun Belt Conference, the Red Wolves have four different players leading the league in eight combined statistical categories.  That ties Troy for the most in the conference in terms of both players and statistical categories.  Senior wide receiver Omar Bayless is ranked No. 1 in receiving yards, receptions, scoring (TD) and scoring.  Junior defensive end William Bradley-King leads the league in both sacks and fumbles forced, while junior punter Cody Grace is ranked first in punting and sophomore kicker Blake Grupe tops in scoring (kick).

ROAD WARRIORS:  Arkansas State has won 27 of its last 35 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 to Western Kentucky in its 2013 regular-season opener.

NON-CONFERENCE RECAP:  Arkansas State produced a .500 or better non-conference record for the second consecutive season, third time under head coach Blake Anderson and fifth time over the last nine seasons, but just sixth time since moving to FBS status in 1992 (1995, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2018, 2019).  A-State posted a winning non-conference record (3-1) last season for the first time since 1995 (3-2).

A BIT OF HISTORY:  Arkansas State’s 43-17 win over UNLV marked its largest margin of victory in a non-conference road game since 1986, when it defeated Delaware 55-14 in the I-AA (FCS) playoffs.  The last time it had a larger margin of victory in a non-conference road game played during the regular season was 1976, when it knocked off Southern Illinois 41-10.

WATCH ME, WATCH ME:  A-State has 12 players on at least one major watch list for the 2019 season, including seven who play on the offensive side of the ball (Omar Bayless, Logan Bonner, Dahu Green, Javonis Isaac, Kirk Merritt, Marcel Murray, Jacob Still), three on the defensive (Tajhea Chambers, Darreon Jackson, Jerry Jacobs) and two on special teams (Cody Grace, Blake Grupe).  The Red Wolves have at least one player on 12 different watch lists.

EIGHT STRAIGHT:  Arkansas State has secured a winning record in a school-record eight consecutive seasons (2011-18).  The next longest streak was six straight seasons from 1912-17.  The Red Wolves have piled up 72 victories from 2011-19 for its most over a nine-year span in the program’s 105-year history.

ELITE COMPANY:  Arkansas State is one of just four teams in the nation to win five conference titles and appear in eight bowl games since 2011, joining Alabama, Clemson and Oklahoma.  The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt title in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 and hold the 15th longest active streak in the nation for bowl game appearances with eight.

105TH SEASON:  Arkansas State kicked off its 105th season of football Aug. 31 at home against SMU.  A-State holds a 478-491-37 record since the inaugural season and has played in 16 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.

SUN BELT CHAMPS (5 of 8):  While Arkansas State last won the Sun Belt in 2016, it is still the only Group of 5 program and one of just four FBS programs in the nation to win five conference championships over the last eight years (2011-18).  The only other teams to do so are Alabama (SEC), Clemson (ACC) and Oklahoma (Big 12).  The Red Wolves most recently won back-to-back Sun Belt titles in 2015 and 2016, compiling a 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 SBC titles.

BOWL ELIGIBLE:  Arkansas State has obtained bowl eligibility status each of the last eight years (2011-18) and 11 times over the last 14 seasons.  Arkansas State has become bowl eligible in 10 games or less each of those seasons.  Since moving to FBS status in 1992, the earliest A-State ever became bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 through eight games.

BOWL STREAK:  Arkansas State has made a school-record eight consecutive bowl-game appearances (2011-18), which is the third longest streak in the Group of 5 and ranks 15th in the nation among all FBS programs.

OFFENSIVE NOTES
300-PLUS: 
Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards total offense in 112 of its last 124 games (.903 percentage).  A-State has produced 300 yards in 67 of 73 games during the Blake Anderson era.

400-PLUS:  Arkansas State has hit the 400-yard total offense mark 50 times over its last 73 games (68 percent) since 2014, which was Blake Anderson’s first season as head coach.  The Red Wolves have posted 400 or more yards total offense in 14 of their last 16 games.

LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD:  The Red Wolves have posted at least 30 points in 68 of their last 103 regular-season games (66 percent) dating back to the 2011 season.  The Red Wolves have won 53 of their last 61 games when scoring at least 30 points.

EATING UP THE CLOCK:  While Arkansas State put together only one drive consuming at least four minutes over its first six games, it actually had six drives that took over four minutes in the last three games combined.  The six drives actually featured three that took over six minutes, including a season-long 7:22 march down the field versus Texas State.  The last three games have seen the Red Wolves post their longest time of possession this year (37:20 vs Texas State, 33:10 vs Louisiana and 31:54 at ULM).

BIG NUMBERS:  Senior WR Omar Bayless picked up this season where he left off last year, recording over 100 receiving yards in seven of the last 10 games dating back to 2018.  Including the Arizona Bowl and the first nine games this season, he has posted 73 receptions (7.3 rpg) for 1,297 yards (129.7 ypg) and 13 touchdowns.  His four touchdown  receptions versus SMU tied the school and Centennial Bank Stadium records, while his career-high 213 receiving yards against Troy were the third most in A-State history.  Bayless is currently leading the nation in receiving yards per game (129.8 avg.) and receiving touchdowns (13) and is ranked eighth in receptions (7.3 pg).

SUN BELT OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK:  Senior wideout Omar Bayless was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week for his performance in A-State’s 50-43 victory at Troy.  He became the fourth player in Arkansas State history to record over 200 receiving yards in a game by posting 10 receptions for a career-high 213 yards and a touchdown. He finished with the third most receiving yards in school history and the 12th most in the nation this season, while also tying the fifth most ever by a Sun Belt Conference player.  A-State’s first offensive play of the game saw Bayless come up with a 92-yard touchdown catch, which was the second longest reception in school history, sixth longest in the nation this season and tied the fourth longest every by a Sun Belt player.

2,000-YARD CLUB:  Senior wide receiver Omar Bayless has joined an exclusive group of just five all-time A-State players to record 2,000 receiving yards in a career.  He went over the 2,000-yard mark during the Louisiana game and now has 2,290 for his career.  Bayless joined J.D. McKissic (2012-15), Lennie Johnson (1995-98), Robert Kilow (1998-2000) and Taylor Stockemer (2009-12) as Arkansas State players with 2,000 yards.  He has a school-record six 100-yard receiving games this season and seven total for his career.

KEEPING GOOD COMPANY:  This century, senior wide receiver Omar Bayless is one of just seven FBS players to post at least 66 receptions, 1,168 receiving yards and 13 receiving touchdowns through nine games or less.  Among the others are Biletnikoff Award winners Larry Fitzgerald (Pitt, 2003), Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech, 2007), Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State, 2010) and Brandin Cooks (Oregon State, 2013).  The other two are Josh Doctson (TCU, 2015) and Rashard Higgins (Colorado State, 2014).

CAREER DAY FOR GREEN:  After suffering a season-ending injury in the first game of 2018 and battling injury this year that has forced him into limited duty, sophomore wide receiver Dahu Green had a breakout game against ULM with career highs for both receptions (5) and receiving yards (86).  His career-long 35-yard reception in the fourth quarter set up a go-ahead touchdown for the Red Wolves to break a 34-34 tie.

GOOD HANDS:  Junior wide receiver Brandon Bowling has 23 catches this season, which is already more than he had for his first two seasons combined (15).  He also has 174 receiving yards, 66 more than his career total (108) entering this year.  He posted career-best numbers for both receptions (12) and receiving yards (92) against SMU, and those 12 catches tied the fourth most in school history.

PRODUCTION INCREASE:  Ranked sixth in the Sun Belt Conference in receptions per game, junior wideout Jonathan Adams has already posted a career-best 43 catches this year -- 26 more than his previous best for a season (2018).  Including a career-high 105 receiving yards at Troy, he now has 495 receiving yards through nine games, which is the seventh most (55.0 ypg) in the Sun Belt.  Adams posted a career-best 267 yards for all of last season.

WORKHORSE:  Sophomore running back Marcel Murray has posted his three all-time highest rushing attempts for a single game in each of the Red Wolves last three contests, including a career-high 35 carries against Louisiana that were just three shy of the fifth most in school history.  With a career-high 175 yards on 24 attempts last time out at ULM, Murray now has five 100-yard games during his career.  His 81 rushing attempts the last three games are 48 more than he had in his other four games played this year combined.

DELIVERING IN HIS DEBUT:  Earning his first career start against SMU, junior QB Logan Bonner threw for a career-high four touchdowns, while he also set new career-best marks for completions (32), passing yards (324) and total offense (340).  His 32 completions and four touchdown passes both tied the seventh most in A-State history for a single game.  Athlon Sports ranked Bonner’s performance as the 21st best in the nation among quarterbacks who made their first career start in the season’s opening week.

ANOTHER IMPRESSIVE DEBUT:  Much like junior quarterback Logan Bonner, redshirt freshman Layne Hatcher put up monster numbers in his starting debut this season with 25 completions for 440 yards and four touchdowns against Troy.  His performance led to him being named one of eight Manning Award Stars of the Week.  Hatcher’s 440 passing yards were the second most in school history, while his four touchdown throws tied the seventh most ever by an A-State player.

THROUGH THE AIR:  Averaging 260.0 passing yards per game this season to rank second in the Sun Belt, redshirt freshman quarterback Layne Hatcher has thrown for at least 299 yards in four of his first five career starts while also completing at least two touchdown passes in all five of those games.

DEFENSIVE NOTES
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 46 of their last 51 games.  A-State has ranked among the top 30 teams in the nation three of the last four seasons (2016-19) in tackles for loss.

GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK:  A-State has ranked among the top 27 teams in the nation in sacks four of the last six years (2014-19), posting a combined 193 sacks over that span.  The Red Wolves have recorded at least one sack in 44 of their last 46 games dating back to the 2016 season.

PICK IT OFF:  Arkansas State has posted at least one interception in six of the first nine games this year, continuing to be an opportunistic defense over the last six seasons (2014-19) when the ball has been put in the air.  During that time span, A-State has intercepted 86 passes that rank tied for the ninth most in the nation.  Since 2014, San Diego State ranks No. 1 with 96 interceptions.

FORCING TURNOVERS:  Arkansas State has recorded at least one turnover gained in 59 of its last 73 games dating back to the 2014 season.  The Red Wolves have ranked among the top 30 teams in the nation in turnovers gained three of the last six years (2014-19), and their combined 139 forced turnovers over that span are tied for the 12th most in the nation.

DEFENSE IS THE BEST OFFENSE:  Arkansas State has ranked among the top 21 teams in the nation in defensive touchdowns each of the last six seasons (2014-19).  In fact, the 2015 season saw the Red Wolves record an FBS-high eight touchdowns.  The Red Wolves have 24 total defensive touchdowns over the last six seasons.

TACKLING MACHINE:  Senior defensive back Darreon Jackson posted a career-high 17 tackles against ULM, which were the most by an A-State player since Nathan Herrold posted 17 against South Alabama in 2012.  While it was his second time posting double-figure stops this season, he now has six career games with at least 10 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS
GROZA AWARD SEMIFINALIST: 
Sophomore kicker Blake Grupe was named on Nov.  7 as one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award.  He is the fourth all-time A-State player ever named a semifinalist, joining Brian Davis (2012 & 2013), Josh Arauco (2008) and Jeff Caldwell (1994).  Also a 2019 Burlsworth Trophy nominee, Grupe ranks eighth in the nation in field goal percentage (.929), 29th in field goals made per game (1.56 avg.) and 31st in scoring (8.4 ppg).

GRUPE EARNS WEEKLY SBC HONOR:  Sophomore Blake Grupe was named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after making both of his field goal attempts and scoring 12 points in the Red Wolves’ seven-point win over ULM.

ON THE RETURN:  Moving into a punt return role for the first time of his career, senior BJ Edmonds has recorded 16 returns for 178 yards and an 11.1 average.  His long return has covered 34 yards against Texas State, and he posted a career-best 47 yards at UNLV on three attempts.  He is ranked ninth in the nation for punt return average.

AMAZING GRACE:  Senior punter Cody Grace has posted just six touchbacks in 165 punting attempts during his three-year career at A-State, while his punts have also been returned just 21 times (13 percent).  He helped A-State set a new NCAA record for punt return defense in 2018.  He has posted at least one punt inside the opponent’s 20-yard line in 29 of 33 career games and multiple in all but nine.  He was a Ray Guy Award semifinalist (top 10) each of the last two years (2017 & 2018).

SUN BELT SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK:  Senior punter Cody Grace was named the Sun Belt Special Teams Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks following the Red Wolves’ games against Troy and Georgi State.  He was also named the Ray Guy Award Punter of the Week following the Georgia State contest.

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