A-State at Texas St. in-depth preview
A-State (6-4, 4-2) at Texas St. (5-5, 3-3)
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Bobcat Stadium, San Marcos, Texas
RADIO: EAB Red Wolves Sports Network (107.9 FM Jonesboro, 93.3 FM Little Rock)
LIVE STATS: AStateRedWolves.com
LIVE GAME NOTES: twitter.com/AStateGameDay
ON TAP: Arkansas State continues Sun Belt Conference play this week Thursday at Texas State, facing the Bobcats in its final road test of the regular season. Arkansas State, which is bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season and seventh time over the last 10 years, carries a 2-3 road record into the contest, while Texas State holds an identical 2-3 home record. The Bobcats have lost their past two games by a combined seven points.
Jr WR J.D. MCKISSIC
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . . : give it seven victories for its fourth most since joining the FBS in 1992 . . . secure its fourth consecutive season with a winning record . . . secure its seventh season with a winning Sun Belt Conference record since the league was formed in 2001 . . . give it 13 wins over its past 15 conference road games . . . improve its Sun Belt Conference record since 2011 to 25-5 . . . make it 13-2 over its last 15 games played in the month of November . . . run its record to 35-15 over the last four seasons . . . Extend its winning streak against teams from the state of Texas to 11 games.
ARKANSAS STATE - TEXAS STATE SERIES: Saturday's game will mark just the second meeting ever between Arkansas State and Texas State after the Red Wolves claimed a 38-21 win over the Bobcats in Jonesboro last season. A-State was led by running back Michael Gordon, who recorded a then career-high 184 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Running back Robert Lowe recorded a team-high 84 rushing yards and quarterback Tyler Jones passed for 204 yards to lead the Bobcats.
LONE STAR SUCCESS: Dating back to the 2007 season, Arkansas State has won its last 10 games against teams from the Lone Star state. The Red Wolves fell to Texas in their 2007 season opener, but came back to sweep their games over SMU and North Texas that year. A-State knocked off Texas A&M, Texas Southern and North Texas in 2008 and also defeated the Mean Green in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Its latest win in the streak came last season against Texas State.
MIDWEEK MONSTERS: Historically, A-State has performed well in midweek games since joining the Sun Belt Conference. Since the 2001 campaign, the Red Wolves hold an 11-5 record in all midweek games. A-State has won seven of its last nine midweek games.
STOP THE BLEEDING: Coming off a 37-32 setback against Appalachian State, the Red Wolves have lost back-to-back games in the same season just twice over the last four years. Following an initial loss, A-State has rebounded to win its next game eight times since 2011.
HEAD COACH BLAKE ANDERSON: Blake Anderson, a 13-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. Working on head coach Larry Fedora's staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at both North Carolina and Southern Miss over the last four seasons, Anderson's dynamic offense helped lead the two programs to 34 victories, three bowl game appearances and two conference or divisional titles. Along the way, his potent offense was responsible for breaking both schools' total offense records while also ranking among the most productive teams in the nation. The Hubbard, Texas, native comes to A-State after spending the last two seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at North Carolina.
OUT OF THE GATE: Blake Anderson is A-State's 30th all-time head coach, but became just the 11th to claim a victory in his first ever game at the school. Last season Bryan Harsin became the first A-State head coach to win his initial game since Larry Lacewell in 1979, snapping a streak of seven head coaches to drop their debuts. A-State's head coaches to win their first game at the school include Anderson, Harsin, Lacewell, Bill Davidson (1971), Gene Harlow (1955), Glen Harmeson (1954), Bill Adams (1939), Jack Dale (1931), Bill Stanley (1924), Foy Hammons (1919) and Clint Young (1913).
FAST START: Out of 30 all-time head coaches at Arkansas State, Blake Anderson has become one of just seven to win at least six games in his first season at the school. The other head coaches to win at least six games in their first season as head coach at A-State are Bryan Harsin (2013), Gus Malzahn (2012), Hugh Freeze (2011), Steve Roberts (2002), Gene Harlow (1955) and Jack Dale (1931).
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 24 of its last 29 Sun Belt Conference games (.827 winning percentage) to run its all-time record in the conference to 57-41. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against ULM with 23 and, with the exception of newcomers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, have defeated every team in the SBC 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 12-2 record over its last 14 games played in the month of November. The Red Wolves won 10 consecutive games in the month of November before falling to Western Kentucky in their 2013 regular-season finale.
ROAD WARRIORS: Arkansas State has won 12 of its last 14 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 and are 2-1 this season.
BOWL ELIGIBLE: With a 6-4 overall record, A-State has become bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season and seventh time over the last 10 years. Arkansas State became bowl eligible after nine games for just the third time?(2011, 2012 and 2014). The earliest Arkansas State has ever been bowl eligible was in 2011 when it was 6-2 after eight games.
A WINNING EFFORT: Arkansas State needs one more victory to secure a winning record for the fourth consecutive season, but just the fifth time since joining the FBS in 1992. The last time A-State posted four straight winning seasons was 1984-87. That stretch saw Arkansas State win 37 games, the most in school history over a four-year period. The Red Wolves have won 34 games from 2011-14.
OVER .500 IN THE SUN BELT: With a 4-2 Sun Belt Conference record, A-State needs one more league win to secure a winning SBC record for the seventh season (including the last four in a row) since the conference's inaugural year in 2001. The last time A-State had a winning record against conference opponents in four consecutive years was 1984-87.
FOUR-YEAR WINS TOTAL: Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012, eight more in 2013 and six this year, the Red Wolves have recorded 34 victories that are tied for the 23rd most in the nation over the last four years.
NUMBER 100: Arkansas State needs one more victory for its 100th all-time win as an FBS member (joined in 1992). The Red Wolves actually hold 109 on-field victories as an FBS member, but 10 wins were later vacated due to NCAA sanctions.
STRONG IN THE SECOND: Dating back to last season, nine of Arkansas State's last 14 victories have come when it was either tied or trailing at some point during the third quarter. Half of A-State's six victories this season have come under the circumstances, while its six last year were its most ever since returning to NCAA Division I-A (now FBS) status in 1992.
FINISHING IN THE FOURTH: Arkansas State has outscored its opponents 105-55 in the fourth quarter this season for a +50-point scoring margin that ranks 11th in the nation. The Red Wolves have at least matched their opponents fourth-quarter scoring output in every game and have outscored seven teams in the quarter. The A-State defense has also kept the opposing offense off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter in four games.
STARTING FRESH: The Red Wolves have had a new starting lineup on offense or defense in every game this season. In fact, A-State has used six different offensive starting lineups and 10 on defense. They have had 17 players make their first career start this season.
NEW FACES: Arkansas State has seen 30 total players, including 14 true freshmen and nine redshirt freshmen, achieve their first game experience this season at A-State. Seven of those true freshmen are listed on the two-deep, including defensive lineman Chuks Ota and defensive end Caleb Caston -- the only two to start a game this year.
SECOND HALF SURGE: All six Arkansas State victories this season have seen it score at least 21 points in the second half, and the Red Wolves have put up more points in the second half than the first in four of them. The Red Wolves have posted at least 17 second half points in seven games this year, including six of the last seven. Including overtime, A-State has put up 184 second-half points in comparison to 154 in the first. The Red Wolves have outscored their opponents 72-66 in the third quarter and 105-55 in the fourth.
QUICK STARTS: While the Red Wolves were held scoreless in the first half against both Utah State and ULM, that comes in stark contrast to their quick starts in their other eight games when they scored a touchdown on one of their first three possessions. The Red Wolves have scored a touchdown on one of their first two possessions in seven contests.
EXPLOSIVE PLAYS: Arkansas State recorded 33 of its 50 (66 percent) plays of over 20 yards this season in its last six games. The Red Wolves had seven plays versus both ULM and Louisiana-Lafayette, six versus Idaho, five against Georgia State and Appalachian State and three more against South Alabama that covered at least 20 yards, giving them a 5.5 average per game over that span.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 55 of its last 61 games. A-State went over 300 in each of its first 10 games this season, including a season-high 618 at Georgia State.
400-PLUS: Arkansas State has recorded at least 400 yards total offense in six games this season, including five of the last six. Additionally, the Red Wolves have recorded at least 500 yards total offense in four games this year. A-State is averaging 446.4 yards total offense per game, which ranks 41st in the nation.
PASCHAL SHINING: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Dijon Paschal has come on strong in Sun?Belt Conference play, ranking fifth in the league in receiving yards (76.5 ypg). Paschal has posted 24 of his 30 catches and 459 of his 537 receiving yards against Sun Belt opponents. Including all games (conference and non-conference), Paschal is ranked 10th in the league in receiving yards (53.7 ypg). ?His 17.9 yards per reception average is the highest in the conference among the top 10 leaders in receiving yards.
TAKING OVER AT QB: In eight of his first 10 career starts, junior quarterback Fredi Knighten has posted over 200 yards total offense. Knighten has recorded at least 300 yards total offense in four of the last six games, including a career-high 405 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette. He is ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference and 31st in the nation with 279.4 yards total offense per game.
QUARTERBACK KEEPER: Junior quarterback Fredi Knighten is averaging 58.2 rushing yards per game, which is the highest by an A-State quarterback since Roy Johnson averaged 71.1 in 1991. Johnson recorded 782 yards rushing in 1991, but the highest total since then by an A-Sate quarterback was 588 by Ryan Aplin in 2011. Knighten currently has 582 rushing yards this season.
A FLARE FOR THE DRAMATIC: Sophomore RB Michael Gordon is responsible for five of the 10 longest plays this season by an A-State player, and all five were posted in one of the last six games. Gordon is averaging 7.3 yards per rushing attempt, which is ranked sixth in the nation.
ANOTHER 100: Arkansas State junior running back Michael Gordon has recorded four 100-yard rushing games this season, giving him eight total for his career. Over the last six games, Gordon is averaging 126.5 rushing yards per game. His 105.5 yards per game for the entire season ranks third in the Sun Belt Conference and 22nd in the nation.
WALK-ON 100: Redshirt freshman and walk-on running back Johnston White not only recorded the first 100-yard rushing game of his career versus Utah State, it was the first 100-yard game of the season at the time by an A-State player. Johnston has posted 373 rushing yards this season and his five rushing touchdowns are the second most among all A-State running backs.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Arkansas State has completed at least one pass to 20 players -- eight more than all of last season. Seventeen of those players have multiple receptions, including J.D. McKissic with a team-high 43. The 20 players with a reception are the most ever by A-State since joining the FBS in 1992. The next closest was 19 in 2006.
HOUSTON, WE DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM: Ten games through the regular season, junior wide receiver Tres Houston ranks second on the team in receptions (40) and third in receiving yards (457). Houston caught eight passes for 135 yards, both career highs, against Montana State and has hauled in three touchdown passes (vs Tennessee, ULL and Appalachian State). Houston had eight receptions for 44 yards all of last season.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: A-State has posted at least 30 points in 31 of its last 45 regular-season games (69 percent) dating back to the 2011 season, including the last five in a row. The Red Wolves have won 19 of their last 22 games when scoring at least 30 points.
LEARNING EXPERIENCE: Arkansas State's collective offensive line entered the 2014 season with the nation's third fewest combined starts in the nation. The Red Wolves returned just two offensive lineman with starting experience, including sophomore Colton Jackson and senior Alan Wright. The 22 combined starts entering the year were the fewest behind just Tennessee (six) and Ohio State (20). ?Following A-State was San Jose State with 23 and Army with 24.
RECEIVING RECORDS: Just a junior, J.D. McKissic is already taking 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 (228). He is ranked third for career receiving yards with 2,184 to his credit and has nine receiving touchdowns that rank tied for ninth. He is the only player in school history to have 70 or more receptions in two different seasons.
ON A ROLL: A Freshman All-America selection in 2011 and Sports Illustrated Honorable Mention All-America in 2012, junior WR J.D. McKissic has caught at least one pass in all 34 games of his career at A-State. His 34 consecutive games with a reception is the 13th longest streak in the nation. He had a school-record 15 catches against Missouri last season.
LOCK IT DOWN: The Arkansas State defense is not only ranked second in the Sun?Belt Conference in both third and fourth down percentage defense, they are among the nation's leaders in both categories. A-State is ranked 14th and 24th in the nation in 3rd and 4th down percentage defense, respectively. ?They have allowed just a .329 conversion percentage on third downs and a .368 percentage on fourth downs.
FORCING TURNOVERS: Arkansas State recorded a season-high eight turnovers gained versus Idaho and six more the last two weeks combined, giving it 24 total for the season that ranks 12th in the nation. The Red Wolves have recorded seven interceptions and seven fumble recoveries over the last three games. One of the fumbles recovered was returned a school-record 93 yards by junior corner Rocky Hayes for a touchdown, while corner Artez Brown had a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown.
SCORING DEFENSE: Arkansas State has held five opponents to 14 points or less, including South Alabama last week. The last time A-State held five or more opponents to 14 points or less in a season was 1986 when it did so 10 times. The Red Wolves have won 17 consecutive games when holding an opponent to 17 point or less.
GETTING TO THE QUARTERBACK: Arkansas State recorded a combined 32 sacks against its first 10 opponents, giving it a 3.2 average per game that ranks 14th in the nation. The Red Wolves had six sacks against Montana State, which were its most since posting the same number against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in its 2013 season opener. Through just 10 games, A-State has already passed its total (26) for all of last season. The last time the Red Wolves had more than 32 sacks in a season was 2011 when it had 35.
PLAYING BEHIND THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE: Twenty-four players have combined to record 69 tackles for loss over the first 10 games of the season, giving the Red Wolves a 6.9 average per game that ranks 31st in the nation. A-State needs two more tackles for loss over its final two regular-season games to match its total (71) last season.
AMONG LEAGUE LEADERS: Sophomore linebacker Xavier Woodson leads the team and is ranked tied for 12th in the Sun Belt Conference in tackles, averaging 7.5 per game. His 75 total tackles are only one more than the Red Wolves' second leading tackler Qushaun Lee. Woodson has posted a double-figure tackles total three times this season and four times during his career, including a career-high 14 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette.
LEAVE NO STONE UNBLOCKED: Junior defensive end Chris Stone has recorded at least a half-sack in six of 10 outings this season, giving him 5.5 on the year that ranks tied for seventh in the Sun Belt Conference. Additionally, he has at least one tackle for loss in seven of 10 games this year for a 7.0 total that ranks tied for 17th in the Sun Belt. Last season, he posted a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss that ranked 11th in the league. He entered the season with four career sacks, already topping that total over A-State's first 10 games this season.
PICK IT OFF: Seven A-State players have combined for 13 interceptions this season, and the Red Wolves have picked off at least one pass in eight of their last 11 games dating back to the 2014 GoDaddy Bowl. The Red Wolves' 13 interceptions are tied for the most in the Sun Belt Conference and rank as the 16th most in the nation. A-State had a season-high four interceptions versus Idaho and three a week later against South Alabama.
UNDER 100: A-State has held three teams, including Georgia State, ULM and Montana State, to under 100 yards rushing this season. The Red Wolves have allowed a player from just three teams this year to rush for over 100 yards individually.
ANOTHER 100: Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee recorded a team-high 134 tackles last season, making him the first A-State player to record over 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons since linebacker Les Echols in 2002 (105) and 2003 (123). He ranked 12th in the nation in tackles and led the Sun Belt Conference in 2013. Lee has recorded a double-figure stops total 12 games during his career.
LOADED SECONDARY: Arkansas State's secondary has combined to start 147 career games, which is among at least the six highest in the nation. A-State's players in the defensive backfield with starting experience include Sterling Young, Chris Humes, Money Hunter, Artez Brown, Andrew Tryon, Rocky Hayes, Frankie Jackson, Sterling Wright and Charleston Girley.
SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
TOUCHDOWN TAYLOR: True freshman Blaise Taylor was named the Sun?Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week and a College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) national Punt Returner of the Week on Monday for his efforts in the Red Wolves' game against Appalachian State . . . Taylor recorded a career-high 104 punt return yards, including a 38-yard return for a touchdown, on just three attempts during the contest. Not only were his 104 return yards the most by a Sun Belt Conference player this season, they were the ninth most in the nation . . . In addition to his 38-yard touchdown, he had a 61-yard return that set up an A-State touchdown-scoring drive at the Appalachian State 31-yard line. His return yards were the fourth most in school history, also making him just the fourth player in school history to eclipse 100 punt-return yards in a game. His touchdown return was the first by an A-State player since the 2007 season . . . The cornerback was also recently named to the Sun Belt Conference Commissioner's List for compiling a 4.0 GPA during the 2014 spring semester. Still holding a cumulative 4.0 GPA, Taylor is a Business Administration major.
BIG BOOT: Junior quarterback and punter Stephen Hogan was named a College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) national Honorable Mention Punter of the Week on Monday, two days after breaking the school record for average yards per punt in the Red Wolves' game against Appalachian State . . . Hogan punted a season-high three times for a career-high 174 yards, averaging 58.0 yards per attempt while placing one inside the Appalachian State 20-yard line. The 58.0-yard average topped the previous school record (minimum three attempts) of 57.5 held by Bruce Gartman versus Texas-Arlington in 1981 . . . His punting average was also the best by a Sun Belt Conference player this season and tied the sixth highest among all players in the nation. Hogan posted two punts covering a career-high 60 yards, which were also the second longest of the season by an A-State player. His other attempt covered 54 yards, and his lone punt inside the 20 pinned Appalachian State on its own one yard line.
THREE'S COMPANY: Through its first 10 games this season, A-State has seen three different players named the Sun Belt Conference?Special Teams Player of the Week. Junior punter and kicker Luke Ferguson was named both the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week and a College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) national Honorable Mention Specialist of the Week for his performance against Montana State. Senior cornerback Artez Brown earned the recognition for his performance against Utah State, most notably for blocking a Utah State field goal attempt to force overtime. True freshman Blaise Taylor was named this week's Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week.
INSIDE THE 20: Junior punter Luke Ferguson has recorded a career-best 21 punts inside the 20-yard line this season for a 2.1 average per game. He has pinned the opponent inside its own 20-yard line at least one time in all but one game this season. His 21 total are tied for the second most in the Sun Belt Conference. He has placed 43.7 percent (21 of 48) of his punts inside the 20."