JONESBORO, AR (ASU) - Arkansas State returns to the road this week to face Troy on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in the last of three consecutive Sun Belt Conference games for the Red Wolves. Saturday's game will be televised by the Sun Belt Network, while every A-State game can be heard live on 107.9 FM in the Jonesboro area. The live radio broadcast can also be accessed through the Arkansas State athletic website (AStateRedWolves.com).
While Arkansas State is playing its third consecutive Sun Belt Conference game, Troy will be third straight team to open their conference slate with the Red Wolves. The Red Wolves picked up their first victory last week against ULM, while Troy has dropped its last two games after picking up a season-opening win over Bowling Green. The game features the Sun Belt Conference's top two ranked offenses early in the season with Troy averaging 470 yards per game and A-State 432.
THE ARKANSAS STATE-TROY SERIES: Arkansas State leads the all-time series with Troy 5-4. The Red Wolves and Trojans first met back in 1951 when ASU picked up a 39-0 road victory. The two teams split a pair of games in 1991 and 1992 in Jonesboro, but have played the last six games as Sun Belt Conference foes. The Red Wolves won the first three games as SBC opponents, but the Trojans have bounced back to win the last three meetings that includes a 30-27 road victory last season in both team's Sun Belt opener.
THE LAST TIME vs. THE TROJANS (Jonesboro, Ark. - Sept. 26, 2009): Troy wide receiver Cornelius Williams hauled in an 8-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Levi Brown with 7:53 to play for the go-ahead score, and the Trojans kept the ball away from Arkansas State over the final 5:52 to secure a 30-27 victory in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams at ASU Stadium.
Williams' score came on the heels of an Arkansas State fumble following a Troy punt, and the Red Wolves' miscue set the Trojans up with just 25 yards to go for what proved to be the winning touchdown.
The Troy touchdown wiped out an Arkansas State rally that saw the Red Wolves bounce back from a 23-10 second-half deficit to take a 27-23 advantage.
Following Williams' touchdown, the Troy defense held the ASU offense without a first down on the next Red Wolves possession, and when Arkansas State punted with 5:52 to play, the Trojans held the ball for the remainder of the game.
Brown completed 33-of-46 passes for 355 yards and two touchdowns, while ASU senior quarterback Corey Leonard connected on 12-of-24 attempts for 190 yards and a score.
Troy and Arkansas State went into the game as the 1-2 picks, respectively, in most SBC preseason polls.
Arkansas State put points on the board on its first two possessions to jump out to an early 10-0 lead. Troy, however, reeled off 20 unanswered points before halftime and took a 23-10 lead with 13:02 remaining in the third quarter.
Arkansas State countered with a 17-point outburst to take a 27-23 lead that held until Williams scored to put the Trojans back on top.
ARKANSAS STATE vs. THE SUN BELT CONFERENCE: Arkansas State is 60-60-1 all-time against current members of the Sun Belt Conference. Since the league's inaugural football season in 2001, the Red Wolves are 31-33 against all opponents that have been a member of the league. Against current members of the conference, ASU is 26-29 since 2001. The Red Wolves hold their most all-time victories against Louisiana-Lafayette with 17, while its most victories against a Sun Belt opponent since 2001 is Louisiana-Monroe with six. The Red Wolves have defeated every team in the Sun Belt Conference since the football league was formed in 2001.
APLIN EARNS SBC HONOR FOR SECOND STRAIGHT WEEK: Sophomore quarterback Ryan Aplin was named the Sun Belt Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, marking the second straight week he has earned the league's offensive honor. Aplin recorded 318 yards of total offense with a rushing and passing touchdown against ULM, while he threw for a school-record 438 yards and two touchdowns the week prior against Louisiana-Lafayette.
RIVALS.COM RECOGNIZES APLIN: Rivals.com recognized sophomore quarterback Ryan Aplin for his play against ULM last week, naming him its Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week.
JENNINGS AMONG CFPA WEEKLY WINNERS: Senior safety M.D. Jennings has been selected a national Honorable Mention Defensive Back of the Week by the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) for his outstanding play in the Red Wolves' 34-20 victory over Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday. Jennings recorded six tackles and a career-high two interceptions against ULM. Jennings' six tackles were the third most on the team and he returned his two interceptions a career-best 62 yards.
ANOTHER TV GAME: The Arkansas State Athletic Department announced Monday that ESPN has selected the Arkansas State-Louisville football game scheduled for 6:00 p.m., Oct. 2 at ASU Stadium to be televised exclusively on ESPN3.com. The addition of the Louisville game gives the Red Wolves an ASU record-tying eight televised games during the 2010 season and sets a new record for five consecutive games televised.
NCAA HIGH: Ryan Aplin's school-record 438 passing yards against Louisiana-Lafayette remains the most by any NCAA FBS player this season. T.J. Yates of North Carolina has the second highest total with 412 yards passing against LSU on Sept. 4. Aplin's 438 yards not only broke the ASU single-game record, but also tied UCF's Daunte Culpepper's total in 1998 for the most ever by an opponent at Cajun Field.
APLIN NOTABLES: Ryan Aplin is ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference in passing yards (319.7 ypg) and total offense (338.7 ypg). He is also ranked fourth in the nation in passing yards and fifth in total offense. Aplin has thrown for at least 243 yards in every game this season and has posted a completion total that that ranks among the top 10 in school history at both Auburn (28, tied for 3rd most) and ULL (25, tied for sixth most).
BIG BLOCK: Sophomore defensive end Tim Starson recorded a career-high three blocked kicks against ULM to tie the most in school history for a single game. Starson blocked two extra points and a field goal to tie Stacy Price's total against UT Arlington in 1981 and Clevon Johnson's total against UT Martin in 1980.
300-PLUS: Arkansas State posted at least 366 yards of total offense in each of its first three games, marking the first time since its last three games of the 2008 season that it posted over 300 yards in three straight games (during the same season). The last time A-State posted over 300 yards of total offense in four straight games was the last four games of the 2008 season as well. The Red Wolves recorded over 300 yards of offense in six games last season. ASU is currently ranked second in the SBC and 31st in the nation in total offense with 432 yards per game.
NICE CROWD: The crowd of 23,176 in attendance for ASU's home opener against ULM was the ninth largest ever at ASU Stadium. Out of the 17 crowds of over 20,000 all-time at ASU Stadium, 12 have been played within the last 10 years. The top three attendance averages at ASU Stadium for a single season have all been set over the last four seasons.
AMONG THE LEAGUE LEADERS: Senior safety M.D. Jennings is ranked among the top 20 players in the conference in six statistical categories, including interceptions (2nd), fumbles forced (T9th), fumbles recovered (T10th), sacks (T12th), tackles for loss (T13th) and tackles (T14th).
RUNNING WILD: ASU recorded a season-high 234 rushing yards and had four players (Aplin, Lawson, Butterfield, Frampton) post an individual season-best rushing total last week against ULM. A-State also posted 3 rushing TD's to surpass its season high of 2 originally set at Auburn.
BIG BOOT: While Dean Gericke has just four punts this season, he has made the most of his opportunities. Gericke is averaging 47.5 yards per punt, which is the second highest average in the Sun Belt Conference and seventh highest in the NCAA FBS. However, Gericke does not have the minimum number of punts to show up on the SBC and NCAA stats. Two of Gericke's four punts have traveled at least 52 yards with a long of 64 against ULL.
HOLMES POSTS CAREER-BEST NUMBERS: Sophomore defensive back Tausean Holmes recorded a season-high eight tackles last game against ULM, which tied linebacker Nathan Herrold for the team high as well. Holmes posted seven tackles in the season opener at Auburn. Despite not posting a single tackle against ULL, Holmes is still ranked among the top 35 players in the conference in tackles.
ZALUD STEPPING UP: True freshman kicker Bobby Zalud is ranked third in the Sun Belt Conference in scoring by kick despite not attempting a single extra point or field goal in the Red Wolves' season opener. However, Zalud is 7-of-7 on extra point attempts and 3-of-5 on field goal attempts over the last two games to give him 16 points. His average of 8 points over those two games would be the second highest in the conference for scoring by kick.
IN THE ZONE: The Arkansas State offense is almost perfect in the red zone, scoring on 12 of 13 opportunities for a 92.3 percentage. That percentage is ranked third in the SBC, but the two teams ahead of ASU have had no more than five scoring opportunities inside the red zone. ASU is ranked 25th in the nation in red zone offense.
IN THE ZONE (PART II): The Arkansas State defense is ranked first in the Sun Belt Conference and 12th in the nation in red zone defense, holding opponents to a 61.5 scoring percentage. A-State's three opponents this season have turned eight of their combined 13 red zone opportunities into points (6 TD, 2 FG).
RETURN THREAT: A-State newcomer Rod Hall led ASU in total kickoff returns and return yards in each of the Red Wolves' first three games and is ranked third in the Sun Belt Conference and 39th in the nation in kickoff return average at 24.9 yards per return. Hall posted 81 yards on three returns vs. Auburn with a long of 40, 98 yards on four returns with a long of 30 yards against ULL, and 70 yards on three returns with a long of 27 against ULM.
BIG PLAY: Arkansas State has ran 16 plays (5.3 per game) this season that have covered at least 20 yards, including five last week against ULM and a season-high nine against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Red Wolves have already ran four plays that covered at least 53 yards with a long play of 65 yards (Ryan Aplin pass to Taylor Stockemer) against ULL.
BIG DAY FOR MUSE: Allen Muse recorded five receptions for 133 yards, both career highs, against Louisiana-Lafayette. Muse's 133 receiving yards were the 21st most in school history for a single game. The last time an A-State player recorded more receiving yards was in 2000. The last time an ASU player recorded 100 or more receiving yards was Sept. 20, 2008 when Jarriel Norman posted 108 yards against Middle Tennessee. Muse had a 61-yard reception that tied his previous career long, originally set against Auburn the week prior.
EARLY START TO CONFERENCE PLAY: Prior to this season, the earliest A-State had ever played a Sun Belt Conference opponent was the third game of the season (Troy in 2009). A-State has not played three of its first four games against league foes since the 1995 season when it was a member of the Big West Conference. ASU's first three SBC games include outings against two of the top four teams in the conference's preseason coaches poll (UL Lafayette, 4th; Troy, 2nd).
NEW FACES: Twenty-three players competed in their first career game at A-State over the last two games, including four true freshmen, eight redshirt freshmen, two sophomores, seven junior-college transfers (all juniors) and two juniors . . . . . Additionally, 10 players started their first career game at ASU, including Dorvus Woods (DL), Justin Robertson (DE), Walter Moody (CB), Darron Edwards (CB), Tim Starson(DE), Greg McCall (DL), Najel Byrd (LB) and Tausean Holmes (DB) on defense and Anthony Robinson (WR) and Dwayne Frampton (WR) on offense.
96th SEASON UNDER WAY: Arkansas State kicked off its 96th season of football on Sept. 4 at nationally-ranked Auburn. ASU holds a 413-445-37 record since the inaugural 1911 season and has played in seven bowl games. A-State did not field a football team from 1942-44 due to World War II. ASU also didn't have a team in 1918 as World War I was ending.
HOME OPENERS: With a 34-20 win over ULM last week, Arkansas State improved to 8-1 in home openers at ASU Stadium under head coach Steve Roberts. A-State has now won its last six home openers. In addition to ULM, Roberts' teams have also won home openers over Mississippi Valley State (61-0 in 2009), Texas Southern (83-10 in 2008), SMU (45-28 in 2007), Tulsa (21-19 in 2002), Tennessee-Martin (63-6 in 2003 and 56-7 in 2005) and Army (14-6 in 2006).
STRESSING ACADEMICS: The Arkansas State football team won the Sun Belt Conference Team Academic Award for the 2009-10 academic year, marking the seventh time over the last eight years it has accomplished the feat.
THE TOP 25: Auburn was the 12th ASU opponent ranked among the nation's top 25 teams at the time of a game with the Red Wolves under head coach Steve Roberts. Following is a list of ranked opponents that ASU has played under Roberts:
No. 2 Alabama (2008), L, 0-35
No. 4 Texas (2007) L, 13-21
No. 4 LSU (2004) L, 3-53
No. 6 Auburn (2006) L, 0-27
No. 13 Iowa (2009) L, 21-24
No. 16 Virginia Tech (2002) L, 7-63
No. 17 Missouri (2004) L, 20-52
No. 18 Nebraska (2009) L, 9-38
No. 22 Auburn (2010) L, 26-52
No. 25 Memphis (2004) L, 35-47
No. 25 Mississippi (2002) L, 17-52
SENIOR RECOGNITION: Every year at ASU's Football Media Day, head coach Steve Roberts gives his seniors a chance to address those in attendance at the press conference. This year's 21 seniors are: Jeff Blake, Tom Castilaw, Sifa Etu, Adam Gaston, Derious Glover, Bryan Hall, Lucious Henderson, Drew Hilton, Tyson Holligan, M.D. Jennings, Alex Kautai, Alfred Louis, Javon McKinnon, Walter Moody, Derek Newton, Dominic Padrta, Kiano Prater, Anthony Robinson, Isaiah Shepard, Jonathan White and Marquette Williams.
TEAM CAPTAINS: ASU's senior class will alternate throughout the year as team captains. The team will vote on permanent captains at the end of the year. Following is a list of captains for each game:
Auburn: Etu, Robinson, Gaston, Hall
ULL: Moody, Newton, Williams, Prater
ULM: Williams, White, Blake, Henderson
PRESEASON ALL-SBC ACCOLADES: Three Arkansas State football players were tabbed Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference, including Defensive Player of the Year Bryan Hall, offensive lineman Derek Newton and linebacker Demario Davis.
PRESEASON PREDICTIONS: The Red Wolves are predicted to finish third in the conference according to the league's 2009 preseason coaches poll, announced July 19 as part of the Sun Belt Conference Media Days. ASU received 53 points, while first-place Middle Tennessee won the vote with 75 points.
STRONG D: Arkansas State has ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the Sun Belt Conference and among the top 50 teams in the nation each of the last four years in total defense. Below is a break down of ASU's defensive statistical rankings for the last four years:
Year SBC Rank National Rank YPG
2009 1 41 340.5
2008 2 46 336.5
2007 1 43 362.3
2006 2 32 309.4
NATIONAL COVERAGE: Arkansas State will play at least two nationally televised games for the second consecutive year in 2010. The Red Wolves will catch Middle Tennessee at home on Nov. 2 in a game televised by ESPN2 and Navy on the road on Nov. 20 in a game televised by CBS College Sports. Prior to last season, the last time ASU had played a nationally televised game was in the 2005 New Orleans Bowl.
TELEVISION TIME: Arkansas State currently has eight televised games scheduled for the regular season, tying the most in school history. A-State played eight regular-season games on television last season as well. The Red Wolves have four league games (UL Lafayette, ULM, Troy, FAU) televised on the Sun Belt Network, while the Auburn game was carried by Fox Sports South. The Louisville game will be carried by ESPN3.com, while the Middle Tennessee game by ESPN2 and the Navy game by CBS College Sports.
TURF INSTALLATION COMPLETED: Installation of a new and state-of-the-art field turf surface inside ASU stadium was completed as scheduled after a final inspection of the project was conducted in late July. The field is in practice and playing condition for the beginning of the Red Wolves fall camp today. The new GeoSurfaces field turf is slightly thicker than the previous product, which was installed when ASU originally transitioned from a grass field to an artificial playing surface prior to the 2006 season. The field also has a sand base for the first time in addition to the "no fly-out" rubber installed. The field also has a new look with two new Red Wolves logos, white Sun Belt Conference logos and black trim around the outside of the playing field.