FACTS & STATS: Site: LT Smith Stadium (23,000) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: SunBelt Network. Home Record: ASU 3-2, WKU 0-5. Away Record: ASU 0-6, WKU 0-6. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, WKU 0-0. Conference Record: ASU 2-5, WKU 0-7. Series Record: Series tied, 1-1-1.
GAME NOTES: Currently stuck in the longest losing streak in the nation, the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers will get one final chance to grab a victory in 2009 when they host the Arkansas State Red Wolves this Thursday evening at LT Smith Stadium.
It has been a rough season for the Red Wolves as well. ASU has dropped eight of its 11 matchups on the year. However, the last time ASU was in action the team collected a 30-26 victory over North Texas, snapping a four-game losing skid. Unfortunately for Arkansas State however, the team is winless in six road matchups on the season.
The Hilltoppers' losing streak continues to mount as the team has now dropped 19 straight contests. The Hilltoppers, who have dropped all 11 of their contests this season, have not won since early in 2008 when they clobbered Murray State, 50-9. The most recent setback in this long skid was a 29-23 loss to Florida Atlantic on the road.
This will be the fourth meeting between the two schools on the football field, and the first since 1952. Both teams have grabbed a victory against each other in the previous three matchups, while the other contest finished in a tie.
The Red Wolves scored 27 points in the first half against North Texas in their last matchup and never looked back, as Arkansas State went on to win by a 30-26 margin. Quarterback Ryan Aplin was outstanding in the win, rushing for 122 yards and two touchdowns, while also throwing for 240 yards. However, the signal caller did toss three interceptions. Reggie Arnold added 111 yards and one touchdown on the ground, while Don Jones also scored once on just one carry. Aplin was under center for Corey Leonard, who was inconsistent on the season, completing just 54.0 percent of his throws for 1,416 yards. Aplin has thrown for 743 yards on the season, but has just two touchdowns against six interceptions. Aplin has contributed on the ground, rushing for 221 yards, but the main threat out of the backfield has been Arnold, who is leading the team with 676 yards and 12 scores.
The Red Wolves might have won in their latest matchup, but the defense almost gave the game away by allowing 12 points in the fourth quarter. Arkansas State only surrendered 268 total yards in the contest, but the unit definitely struggled against the run, allowing North Texas to churn out 140 yards and two touchdowns. It was a surprising turn of events for Arkansas State, which is usually solid against the run. The Red Wolves head into this matchup limiting the opposition to just 123.7 ypg on a 3.7 yards per carry. The real issue for this defense has been its play against the pass, as teams are torching ASU for 227.4 ypg through the air. Alex Carrington has been one of the few bright spots for this unit, as the defensive end has racked up 9.5 TFLs and 5.0 sacks. One of those sacks came against North Texas, but that was the only tackle for the senior in the contest.
The Hilltoppers gave it their best effort against Florida Atlantic this past Saturday, but the team fell just short once again, losing to the Owls by a six-point margin. The Hilltoppers actually put forth a solid effort offensively, as the team racked up 368 total yards, including 6.9 yards per rush attempt. Bobby Rainey did most of the work on the ground, rushing for 144 yards on 15 totes. Kawaun Jakes was also solid under center for WKU, as the quarterback threw for 146 yards and one touchdown, but was also intercepted once as well. Jakes however, has been inconsistent through out the season and comes into this game against ASU with just 1,395 yards and nine scores against eight interceptions. The only real bright spot for this team has been Rainey, who has rushed for 869 yards and five touchdowns.
Once again the defense for Western Kentucky had trouble, as the unit allowed 161 rushing yards in the loss to FAU, but the real damage against the Hilltoppers came through the air, as the Owls threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns in the contest. Stopping the run and pass has been a major issue throughout the year, as the team went into the game against Florida Atlantic surrendering 267.6 ypg on the ground, and another 238.9 ypg through the air. Thomas Majors racked up seven tackles in the loss to Florida Atlantic, and now has a team-best 95 stops on the year.
The Red Wolves are winless on the road this season, so that gives the Hilltoppers an excellent chance to finally break into the win column. It will not be easy, and most likely will not be pretty at times, but look for Western Kentucky to finally earn that elusive first victory of 2009.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 26, Arkansas State 23