ASU at W. Kentucky in-depth preview
ASU (7-4, 5-1) at W. Kentucky (7-4, 3-3)
TIME: 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30
PLACE: Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium, Bowling Green, Ky.
RADIO: EAB Red Wolves Network (107.9 FM Jonesboro, 93.3 FM Little Rock)
Live Stats: AStateRedWolves.com
THE PRINCIPALS: Winners of its last four games, Arkansas State has ensured itself a winning season for the third consecutive year and no worse than a second-place finish in the Sun Belt Conference standings. With a victory and a loss by Louisiana-Lafayette against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, the Red Wolves would be guaranteed at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship for the third consecutive season. Ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Sun Belt in total offense and total defense, respectively, the Hilltoppers will bring a three-game winning streak into the contest. An A-State victory would give the Red Wolves eight or more wins for the third straight year, while a WKU victory would give the Hilltoppers their most since 2004 when they had nine as an NCAA Division I-AA (now FCS) member.
Sr QB Adam Kennedy
AN A-STATE VICTORY WOULD . . .: Extend the Red Wolves' winning streak in road games against Sun Belt Conference opponents to 11 . . . Give the Red Wolves a .500 or better road record for the third straight year . . . Extend its winning streak in the month of November to 11 games . . . Keep the Red Wolves undefeated against the Hilltoppers in games played in Bowling Green.
THE ARKANSAS STATE - WESTERN KENTUCKY SERIES: Arkansas State is 3-3-1 all-time vs. Western Kentucky and 2-0-1 when facing the Hilltoppers in Bowling Green. Five of the seven contests between the two teams have been decided by four points or less, including three of four meetings as Sun Belt foes. Western Kentucky handed A-State its only Sun Belt loss last season in the Red Wolves' conference opener, but the two teams have alternated wins the last six meetings.
ASU BY THE NUMBERS . . .
1 of just 21 FBS programs to win at least 27 games over the last three years.
1.2 passes defended per game by Rocky Hayes ranks 33rd in the nation.
3 of the 4 meetings between A-State and WKU as SBC opponents have been decided by 4 points or less.
3 blocked kicks by the A-State special teams over the last three games.
3 consecutive winning seasons, including 2013, by A-State for the first time since 1985-87.
4 out of the last six games Qushaun Lee has posted double-figure tackles (11.7 tpg over that span).
4 games with over 300 yards total offense by Adam Kennedy.
4 receptions needed by J.D. McKissic to become 1st player in A-State history w/70 or more in two different seasons.
4 consecutive seasons with a victory over the top team in the Sun Belt Preseason Coaches Poll, including 2013.
5 straight weeks an A-State player has been named one of the Sun Belt Conference's players of the week.
5 players named to one of college football's major award watch lists.
5 victories by A-State this season when tied or trailing at halftime.
6 extra points needed by Brian Davis to break the Sun Belt Conference career record (157).
6 of the last nine seasons have seen A-State achieve bowl eligibility, including 2013.
7 victories gives Bryan Harsin the 3rd most in school history for a head coach during their 1st year at ASU.
9 straight victories in games decided by 7 points or less.
9 consecutive winning seasons at Liberty Bank Stadium, including 2013.
9 players (Albright, Campbell, Carrethers, Haunga, Kennedy, McCants, Muse, Oliver, Williams) already with their degree.
9.9 tackles per game by Qushaun Lee is ranked as the 20th highest average in the nation.
10 consecutive wins in the month of November dating back to the 2011 season.
10 game Sun Belt Conference road winning streak held by A-State.
10 win seasons in 2011 & 2012, making ASU the first team in SBC history w/ back-to-back 10-win campaigns.
10 A-State players named to Phil Steele's midseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team.
10 Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Awards over the last 11 years.
12 turnovers lost by A-State is the eighth fewest in the nation.
13 passes defended by Rocky Hayes is four more than the most by an ASU player for all of last season.
13 votes in the final 2012 USA Today Coaches Top 25 poll, ranking A-State No. 32 in the nation.
15 consecutive victories by A-State when scoring at least 30 points, including the last three games.
15 players named to the most recent Sun Belt Conference Commissioner's List (3.5 GPA or higher).
19 statistical categories in which A-State ranks among the top 50 teams in the nation.
20 Sun Belt Conference victories over its last 22 league games.
23 sacks by the A-State defense are four more than it had for all of the 2012 season.
23 receptions by Darion Griswold are the most by an A-State tight end since Trevor Gillott (24) in 2009.
23 All-Sun Belt Conference selections over the last two years combined.
26 A-State wins over its last 35 regular-season games dating back to 2011.
26.6 yards per kickoff return by ASU is ranked 4th in the nation, and 18.6 ypr KO coverage is ranked 21st.
27 victories over the last three seasons ranks tied for the 20th most in the nation.
27 players named to the most recent Sun Belt Conference Academic Honor Roll (3.0 GPA or higher).
28 votes in the final 2012 Associated Press Top 25 poll, ranking A-State No. 32 in the nation.
30 or more points scored by A-State in 24 of its last 34 games (71 percent).
32.4 kickoff return average by J.D. McKissic is the highest in the nation.
69.3 completion percentage by Adam Kennedy is ranked 6th in the nation.
85 tackles by Ryan Carrethers are the third most in the nation by a defensive lineman.
109 tackles by Qushaun Lee this year makes him the first ASU player since 2002-03 with 100 stops in consecutive seasons.
169 career receptions by J.D. McKissic, the most ever by an Arkansas State player.
300 yards or more of total offense recorded by ASU?in 43 of its last 49 games.
400 or more yards total offense by A-State in seven of its first 11 games.
419.4 yards total offense per game is the third highest in school history for a single season.
26.7 million-dollar football facility project in Liberty Bank Stadium's north end zone announced.
HEAD COACH BRYAN HARSIN: Bryan Harsin was named the Red Wolves' 29th head football coach on Dec. 12, 2012. Harsin is a 13-year coaching veteran at the NCAA?FBS?level who has coached in 10 bowl games as either an assistant or offensive coordinator. Harsin, a finalist for the 2009 Broyles Award recognizing the top assistant coach in the country, has been associated with two nationally-prominent programs during his rise to A-State's head coach. Working closely with Chris Petersen at Boise State and Mack Brown at Texas, two of the most well-respected coaches in the country, Harsin spent the last seven seasons as an offensive coordinator with the Broncos and Longhorns.
OUT OF THE GATE: With the Red Wolves victory over UAPB, Bryan Harsin became the Red Wolves first head coach to win his inaugural game at the school since Larry Lacewell in 1979. ASU's previous seven head coaches all suffered setbacks in their first game, including Al Kincaid, Ray Perkins, John Bobo, Joe Hollis, Steve Roberts, Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn.
A-STATE vs. THE SUN BELT: Arkansas State has won 20 of its last 22 league games to run its all-time record in the conference to 54-38. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against Louisiana-Monroe with 21 and have defeated every team in the SBC since the football league was formed in 2001. Along with Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette, A-State is one of three teams that have been a part of the conference since 2001.
THREE-YEAR WINS TOTAL: Including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2010 and 2011 and seven more this year, the Red Wolves have recorded 27 victories for their most over a three-year span since winning 29 from 1985-87 as an NCAA I-AA (now FCS) member. The Red Wolves 27 total wins over the last three seasons also ranks tied for the 20th most in the nation.
NCAA FBS WINS SINCE 2011
Team, 2011, 2012, 2013 (Total)
Alabama, 12, 13, 11 (36)
Northern Illinois, 11, 12, 11 (34)
Oregon, 12, 12, 9 (33)
Stanford, 11, 12, 9 (32)
Florida State, 9, 12, 11 (32)
LSU, 13, 10, 8 (31)
Clemson, 10, 11, 10 (31)
Boise State, 12, 11, 7 (30)
South Carolina, 11, 11, 9 (31)
Oklahoma State, 12, 8, 10 (30)
Oklahoma, 10, 10, 9 (29)
Cincinnati, 10, 10, 9 (29)
Ohio State, 6, 12, 11 (29
Georgia, 10, 12, 7 (29
Wisconsin, 11, 8, 9 (28)
Michigan State, 11, 7, 10 (28)
Kansas State, 10, 11, 6 (27)
Louisville, 7, 11, 10 (28)
Notre Dame, 8, 12, 8 (28)
Arkansas State, 10, 10, 6 (27)
Nebraska, 9, 10, 8 (27)
RED WOLVES NOVEMBER: Arkansas State is undefeated in November since the 2011 season with a 10-0 record over that span. All 10 victories have come against Sun Belt Conference opponents, including six by a double-figure margin.
STRONG IN THE SECOND: Five of Arkansas State's seven victories this season have come when it was either tied or trailing at halftime, including the last four in a row. The Red Wolves' five victories under those circumstances equals its total for the previous five seasons (2008-12) combined and are its most ever since returning to NCAA Division I-A (now FBS) status in 1992.
DAVIS NAMED LOU GROZA AWARD SEMIFINALIST: Senior kicker Brian Davis has been named one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award. Davis, also a semifinalist for the award in 2012, is 11-of-12 on field goal attempts this year with a career-long of 50 yards.
SUN BELT PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Junior defensive back Brock Barnhill, a former walk-on to the A-State program, was named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week on Monday, marking the fifth straight week an A-State player earned one of the conference's weekly honors. The Red Wolves have seen six different players earn one of the weekly honors from the league a combined seven times this year. In addition to Barnhill, the other A-State players recognized this season are senior kicker Brian Davis (Nov. 18), senior quarterback Adam Kennedy (Nov. 11, Oct. 14), senior safety Sterling Young (Nov. 4), senior DL Ryan Carrethers (Oct. 28) and sophomore WR J.D. McKissic (Oct. 14, Special Teams).
CFPA HONORS BLACKMON: Junior defensive lineman Dexter Blackmon was recognized by the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) after posting career bests numbers for tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and forced fumbles against Georgia State. Other A-State players recognized by the CFPA this season with a weekly award include so. running back Michael Gordon (three times), sr. kicker Brian Davis (three times), sr. DL Amos Draper, soph. TE Darion Griswold and sr. WR Allen Muse.
300-PLUS: Dating back to the 2010 season, Arkansas State has posted at least 300 yards of total offense in 43 of its last 49 games. The Red Wolves have posted at least 300 yards total offense in all but three games this season and have gone over 400 seven times.
LIGHTING UP THE SCOREBOARD: Including six games this season, A-State has posted at least 30 points in 24 of its last 34 regular-season games dating back to the 2011 season. The Red Wolves have won 15 consecutive games when scoring at least 30 points.
ROAD WARRIORS: Arkansas State has won 10 consecutive road conference games, its longest streak ever as a member of any league. The Red Wolves went 4-0 in conference road games in both 2011 and 2012 and is 2-0 in 2013. Its previous longest road conference winning streak was seven against Southland foes from 1973-75.
HOME SWEET HOME: With a 5-1 home mark this season, Arkansas State secured its ninth consecutive winning record at Liberty Bank Stadium dating back to 2005. ASU is now 41-9 at Liberty Bank Stadium since the 2005 season and has won 16 of its last 18 home games. The Red Wolves actual on-field record all-time at Liberty Bank Stadium is 133-72-1 since it opened in 1974. ASU's six home wins in 2011 were its most since 1985.
A WINNING EFFORT: With a 7-4 overall record, Arkansas State has secured a winning record for the third consecutive season. The last time A-State posted three straight winning seasons was 1985-87.
OFFENSIVE PACE: Arkansas State is producing offensive numbers that are on pace to rank among the best in school history in several categories. The Red Wolves are averaging 419.4 yards per game, 5.8 yards per play and 214.9 passing yards per game, which all rank among the top six in school history. The total offense average and yards per play are both the third highest and passing yards average is the sixth highest.
SPECIAL TEAMS TURNAROUND: Not only has Arkansas State's special teams shown significant improvement in several statistical categories, they are ranked among the top teams in the nation in many of them. A-State is one 30 teams in the nation yet to give up a blocked kick and is ranked fourth in the nation in kickoff returns, tied for ninth in field goal percentage, tied for 15th in blocked kicks and 21st in kickoff return defense.
CAREER GAME: Junior defensive lineman Dexter Blackmon had a career game in the Red Wolves' 35-33 win over Georgia State. He posted career-high numbers of seven tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks while also recording his first career forced fumble. His seven tackles were the second most on the team and topped his previous high of five set earlier this season against Idaho. Additionally, his three tackles for loss were the most by an A-State player this year and his 1.5 sacks tied the most.
IN THE CLUTCH: Junior safety Sterling Young came up with three clutch turnovers over the last four weeks, helping spark the Red Wolves to strong second-half showings. Young came up with an interception against both South Alabama and ULM and a fumble recovery vs. Georgia State. Much like his pick against South Alabama, his interception against ULM came at a critical junction of the game and sparked a solid second-half performance by the Red Wolves. His interception against ULM came with score tied 14-14 and at the ULM's 38-yard line, directly leading to a touchdown that started a 28-0 scoring outburst by A-State. His pick against South Alabama came with Red Wolves trailing 6-0 and in the back of A-State's end zone. It occurred on the Jaguars first drive of the second half, and the Red Wolves marched down the field for a touchdown and 7-6 lead on its ensuing drive. He returned a fumble 21 yards for a touchdown on Georgia State's first drive of the second half to cut A-State's deficit to just 17-14.
HITTING 1,000: Senior WR Julian Jones went over 1,000 career yards receiving during the South Alabama game, making him the third player on the Red Wolves roster to accomplish the feat. Sophomore WR?J.D. McKissic leads the way with 1,565 to his credit (8th most in school history), while senior WR Allen Muse has 1,193 and Jones 1,096.
ALL-TIME LEADING SCORER: Senior kicker Brian Davis became the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leading scorer during the Texas State game, finishing with eight points to push his career total to 303 at the time. He became the first player in league history to record 300 points in the process. Davis also owns the A-State career records for points by a kicker (308) and extra points made (152). He saw his streak of 13 consecutive made field goals, which was the second longest in school history, come to an end against Georgia State.
BIG BLOCKS: A-State blocked two kicks against ULM, making it one of just nine teams in the nation to block multiple kicks in a game this season. The Red Wolves also blocked a punt versus Georgia State to give them three total blocks over the last three games. Senior DL?Ryan Carrethers blocked a field goal attempt and redshirt freshman WR?Booker Mays was responsible for a blocked punt against ULM, while junior defensive back Brock Barnhill came up with the blocked punt versus Georgia State. The other teams to block multiple kicks in a game this season are Syracuse (3), UAB (3), Minnesota, Colorado State, Virginia Tech, Boise State, Akron, Oklahoma, North Texas and Texas A&M.
COVERING AT CORNERBACK: Sophomore corner Rocky Hayes has made a big impact in his first season on the defensive side of the ball, leading the team in both pass break-ups (10) and interceptions (3). He is ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference in passes defended with 13, which is four more than the most by an A-State player for all of last season (Chaz Scales, 7 PBU, 2 INT). Hayes is ranked 33rd in the nation in passes defended.
LEAVE NO STONE UNBLOCKED: Sophomore defensive end Chris Stone has made a habit of disrupting the opponent's backfield this season, recording a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss that ranks ninth in the Sun Belt Conference. Stone has recorded at least one tackle for loss in seven games this season and a career-high two in two different games. He had three tackles for loss last season as a redshirt freshman.
RECEIVING RECORDS: Just a sophomore, 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 (169). He is ranked eighth for career receiving yards with 1,565 to his credit and has nine receiving touchdowns that rank tied for ninth. He needs just four more receptions to become the first player in school history to have 70 or more in two different seasons.
MAKING A RETURN: Sophomore WR J.D. McKissic is ranked first in the nation in kickoff returns (32.4 ypr) and 35th in punt returns (8.4 ypg). He recorded a career-high 125 kickoff return yards against Idaho, including a 98-yard return for a touchdown in the contest. The return for a touchdown was the first by an A-State player since 2001. Additionally, McKissic has posted 10 kickoff returns of at least 25 yards, including a 64 yard return last week vs. Georgia State and a 50-yarder against ULM. His longest punt return covered 43 yards and was posted against Texas State.
ON THE RISE: Senior WR Julian Jones has recorded a career-high 49 receptions, which is only one shy of tying the 10th most in a season and is ranked sixth in the Sun Belt Conference (4.5 pg). Jones' 49 total receptions are 32 more than he had for his entire career entering the 2013 season.
100-YARD RUSHERS: Senior QB?Adam Kennedy rushed for a career-high 102 yards against ULM, making him the fifth A-State player to reach the 100-yard mark in a game this season. Senior RB David Oku, senior RB Sirgregory Thornton, sophomore RB Michael Gordon and sophomore QB Fredi Knighten have also rushed for 100 yards in at least one game this year.
TOTAL OFFENSE PRODUCER: Senior quarterback Adam Kennedy ranks third in the Sun Belt Conference in total offense with 253.7 yards per game, which also ranks 37th in the nation. Kennedy recorded 358 yards of total offense against Auburn, 334 versus Missouri, a career-high 397 against Idaho and 337 against ULM. He also just missed going over 300 versus Troy with 299 to his credit. His 397 yards versus Idaho were the fifth most in school history. He has recorded over 200 yards total offense in seven of the last 10 games.
MAKING A CONNECTION: Senior QB Adam Kennedy tied the school record for completions in a game with 37 against Missouri (tied Ryan Aplin, 2011 vs. Western Kentucky). Kennedy has already completed 208 passes, which ranks as the fourth most in school history for a single season. He is ranked 38th in the nation in completions (18.9 pg) and sixth in completion percentage (.693). His completion percentage currently stands as the highest in school history for a single season.
INSIDE FORCE: A member of the Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy Watch Lists, senior defensive lineman Ryan Carrethers is ranked second on the team and ninth in the Sun Belt in tackles with 85 through 11 games. He is averaging 7.7 tackles per game, 2.4 more than he averaged last season when he finished with 68 total for the most by an A-State interior defensive lineman since former NFL standout Jon Bradly in 2002. His 85 tackles this season are the third most in the nation by a defensive lineman. He posted a career-high 16 tackles against UL-Lafayette, which hare also the most in the nation this season by a defensive lineman for a single game.
ANOTHER 100: Senior linebacker Qushaun Lee has recorded a team-high 109 tackles, 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 is averaging 9.9 tackles per game, which is the 20th highest in the nation and second highest in the Sun Belt Conference. Lee recorded a career-high 16 tackles at South Alabama and has at least 10 tackles in four of the last six games, giving him eight career games with double-figure stops.
GRISWOLD VACATION TO THE END ZONE: Senior tight end Darion Griswold tied his career high with five receptions for a career-high 89 yards and his first two career touchdowns against Idaho, earning CFPA national Honorable Mention Tight End of the Week for his efforts. He has now caught 23 passes for 301 yards. His receptions total is the most in a season by an A-State tight end since Trevor Gillott recorded 24 in 2009, while his 301 receiving yard are the most by a player at the position since David Johnson had 356 in 2008.
ON A ROLL: A Freshman All-America selection last season, sophomore WR J.D. McKissic has caught at least one pass in all 24 games of his career at A-State. He had a school-record 15 against Missouri earlier this season. McKissic also finished the Missouri game with a season-high 117 receiving yards, marking the fifth time of his career he has posted 100 in a game.
A FLARE FOR THE DRAMATIC: Sophomore RB Michael Gordon is responsible for three of the four longest runs by A-State this year, including a 92-yard outburst against UAPB?that was the second longest in school history. Gordon posted a 64-yard touchdown run against Troy and had a 40-yard touchdown rush against Texas State as well. He is averaging 6.7 yards per attempt (87) that is just shy of 0.2 shy of the eighth highest in school history. Gordon has three 100-yard rushing games, including a 102-yard showing against UAPB, a 115-yard effort versus Troy and a career-high 184 yards against Texas State.
SENIOR DAY: The Red Wolves held their annual Senior Day last week, recognizing their senior class for their contributions to Arkansas State University and the football program. This year's 22 seniors are LaAngelo Albright, Phillip Butterfield, Jake Campbell, Ryan Carrethers, Brian Davis, Amos Draper, Darius Dunaway, R.J. Fleming, John Gandy, Steven Haunga, Julian Jones, Adam Kennedy, Carlos McCants, Cliff Mitchell, Allen Muse, David Oku, Cade Oliver, Eddie Porter, Patrick Ryan, Dexter Samuel, Sirgregory Thornton and Aaron Williams.
NFF RECOGNIZES DAVIS: Senior kicker Brian Davis was announced as a National Football Foundation (NFF) Scholar-Athlete Awards candidate and a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes the top scholar-athlete in the nation. Davis is among 170 national candidates, including 54 from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), for the NFF's Scholar-Athlete Awards. Candidates for the awards must be a senior or graduate student in their final year of eligibility, have a GPA of at least a 3.2, possess outstanding football ability as a first-team player or significant contributor, and have demonstrated strong leadership and citizenship.
FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: Arkansas State has 25 underclassmen (sophomores or freshmen) listed on its 2-deep. The list includes 13 sophomores, six redshirt freshmen and six true freshmen. Among the underclassmen, six are listed as starters on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. A-State's 25 underclassmen on its two-deep was tied for the 14th most in the nation with Colorado and Illinois according to the 2013 initial depth charts. Virginia listed 34 players on its opening-day two-deep for the most among all teams.